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How Wi-Fi Works: A Simplified Answer

02 Jun, 16 | illumisoftadmin

How Wi-Fi Works: A Simplified Answer

As you casually upload your latest photos from your smartphone to your Facebook stream via Wi-Fi, have you ever stopped to wonder how it all works?

If you really think about it, Wi-Fi feels like pure magic. You press a button and your photo is hurled through the air to your wireless router and then it appears on your Facebook news feed instantly for the whole world to see. Wi-Fi is a big part of most people’s lives, but it’s something that I think most of us take for granted. So, let’s break the process down in the simplest way possible. Let’s start by taking a look at the word, Wi-Fi.

The term, Wi-Fi, was created by a brand-consulting firm named Interbrand Co. The Wi-Fi Alliance hired them to come up with a name that was cooler and catchier than “IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence.” Interbrand invented Wi-Fi as a play on the words wireless and hi-fi. 

So, now that you know where the word, Wi-Fi comes from, let’s unravel the mystery of what happens when you upload a photo to Facebook using Wi-Fi with your smartphone. The very first part of this puzzle is understanding that the Wi-Fi network and your smartphone both use radio frequencies to communicate with each other. Wi-Fi is only allowed to operate using certain radio frequencies. So, it’s useful to think of your smartphone and the Wi-Fi network as being like a 2-way radio. 

Here’s how it works:

After you choose a photo and then press the post to Facebook button, the wireless card inside your smartphone translates the 1’s and 0’s of the image into a radio frequency. Then this radio frequency is sent out and it travels through the air to your wireless router. The router picks up your signal from a tiny antenna inside it. The wireless card in the router then translates this radio frequency back into 1’s and 0’s and sends this photo info to the internet through a physical wire until it reaches its destination: Facebook. Facebook receives the 1’s and 0’s then translates this binary code back into your photo. Facebook then sends this image to your status update area.

The real magic is done by the wireless chips that are able to translate binary information into radio waves. This step is the one that leaves most people with their jaw hanging low on the ground. It’s really difficult to understand how one form of energy gets converted into another. These conversions are invisible to us and that’s why it feels like magic. For more reading on the topics of radio waves and Wi-Fi, go here.

When you think about everything in terms of energy, the idea of Wi-Fi starts to make a little more sense. Also, when you think about everything in our world in terms of energy conversion, it starts to really sink in. Our bodies are constantly converting food to energy and even our breathing consists of conversion processes. Wi-Fi is a system that is constantly receiving, transmitting and converting computer data into radio waves and back again. It’s unbelievable, isn’t it?

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