Monday, March 20, 2017

Wi-Fi Revisited

One of the customers recently asked the meaning of the phrase “Wi-Fi.” You see it advertised everywhere—hotels, bars, coffee shops, airports, airplanes—sometimes free and sometimes for a hefty fee.

What Wi-Fi means is the technology enabling electronic devices such as computers and phones to connect to the Internet without wired connections.  It is in fact a set of controls (officially designated “The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 802.11 Direct Sequence Standards”) allowing access to certain radio frequencies on which computer communication can be established.

The Wi in Wi-Fi obviously means “wireless.” But what about the Fi? I've covered this before in a blog, but apparently people forget.  Wi-Fi is a trademarked name that was coined around 1999 by Interbrand, a firm of brand consultants. According to the founder of the Wi-Fi Alliance, Wi-Fi was created as a pun on Hi-Fi, which is short for “High Fidelity,” a phrase used by the audio industry to refer to exceptionally high quality sound reproduction. The Fi in Wi-Fi, then, really doesn’t stand for anything.  It just has a nice ring to it.

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou doesn’t stand for anything either. But that’s fine with him, since his readers can’t stand his verses.

                        A high-tech young man uses Wi-Fi,
                        Reads Sci-Fi, and listens to Hi-Fi.
                                    And to prove his modernity,
                                    He joined a fraternity—
                        And now he’s a brother at Pi Fi.

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