Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 7/10/2002No high fives for the Wi-Fis. While I bow to no man in my appreciation of the sterling work done by the IEEE in making the standards that make the wireless networks, the wireless industry's grasp of nomenclature is woeful.

Monday 7/10/2002
No high fives for the Wi-Fis. While I bow to no man in my appreciation of the sterling work done by the IEEE in making the standards that make the wireless networks, the wireless industry's grasp of nomenclature is woeful. In the beginning was the 802.11 standard -- OK, so it sounds like the sort of thing a trainspotter would say when discussing bogie configurations, but that was in the days when only engineers cared. Then the rot set in. Real people got interested, and a new and faster standard came along. Now, you or I would take the opportunity to invest in a sensible name at this point, something like I Can't Believe It's Not Cabled, thus leaving the way forward for future excitement such as I Can't Believe It's Not Cabled Turbo, Extra, Economy, Super Secure, Video Grade or Cheapskate. But no, the IEEE decided to call it 802.11b. There's a last desperate twitch of logic there, but only if you don't realise that virtually every other letter of the alphabet had also been stapled to the end of the hapless 802.11 moniker. When an even faster version of the network came along, it had to be called not 802.11c but 802.11a. So a is faster than b is faster than the unadorned version. And g is as fast as a but compatible with b, which a is not. But that's not confusing enough, thought the 802.11 alliance. They had come up with a name for 802.11b -- that's the second version, remember, and the first to find favour with the masses - of Wi-Fi. Why Wi-Fi, we shall never know. Likewise, why the non-compatible but much faster 802.11a was called Wi-Fi5 is a mystery, but at least it was less confusing than doing what they've just decided to do -- call it just Wi-Fi again. It beats me. At least the consortium behind the Philips-led very low power low speed wireless network is having none of it, and is calling their effort Zigbee. They don't even pretend to have any reason why: ask them, and they say that they'll tell us just as soon as they've thought up a plausible story. Now that's marketing.

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