The History of Wireless Technology

Wireless technology may seem like a thing of the 21st century, but its history goes back well over 200 years. While we cannot pinpoint one person who invented wireless technology, there were a number of great inventors whose work brought wireless technology to where it is today.

Some would argue that the technology that brings us wireless devices first began with the famous story of Benjamin Franklin and his kite. While it is unlikely the that story occurred the exact way it has been documented, Franklin was able to propose an accurate model of electricity in 1747. It was at this point that it became clear that electricity could move through the air.

Fast forward to 1819, when Danish physicist Hans Christian Oersted realized that a compass needle moved in the presence of an electric field. This established electromagnetics, the relationship between magnetism and electricity.

In 1831, Michael Faraday built the first direct-current generator after demonstrating electromagnetic induction. While this was not useful for wireless communications, it created a way to generate electricity.

Later in the 1800s, Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell climbed the next rung of the ladder toward wireless technology. In 1865, he published “On a Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field”, and in 1873, he published “A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism”. These later became known as Maxwell’s Equations. Still used to this day, this series of difficult differential equations describes the movement of electromagnetic waves through space. Despite the fact that radios did not exist at the time and therefore Maxwell had no experience with radio waves, he was able to develop a theory that built the foundation for the next set of critical inventions.

Heinrich Hertz built upon Maxwell’s work in 1887, when he invented an alternating-current generator called the oscillator and created radio waves.

One thing that is still up for debate is who should get credit for the radio. It is often believed that Nikola Tesla was the first person to send information through the air. Others believe that Tesla did not communicate anything of value, but instead simply moved energy between two points without wire. People in this camp often believe the credit belongs to Guglielmo Marconi, who sent a radio telegraph transmission across the English Channel in 1895, and a transmission across the Atlantic in 1901. In 1907, public use of the radio began.

Ever since these incredible inventors laid the groundwork or wireless technology, a number of revolutionary contributions have been made to the field. To name a few, Edwin Armstrong invented the FM radio, Andrew Viterbi created digital decoding and CDMA, and Lee De Forest invented the electron tube.

Today, there are more people working in wireless communications than there were at any other time in history. This technology is rapidly growing and changing the way we communicate. And none of this would have happened without the curiosity, discoveries, and inventions of these brilliant innovators from the past.


Originally published at laurencezimmerman.com.