Wi-Fi is one of those technologies that feels like it’s just always been there. It runs so much of what we do and how we connect to the internet that it’s hard to imagine life without it now. But it wasn’t always that way.

Wi-Fi technology was an evolution of various radio communications technologies that date back to before the Second World War, but it wasn’t until 1999 that we started to get some official standards in place.

Since then, Wi-Fi coverage has expanded dramatically and now over half the world’s population uses mobile internet and over 94% of the world has access to mobile internet.

That’s pretty impressive.

Let’s keep the love going with some interesting facts about our beloved Wi-Fi.    

Wi-Fi technology exists thanks to a Hollywood starlet

During World War II, Hollywood silver screen actress, Hedy Lamarr, invented frequency-hopping radio communications technology. This technology was instrumental in the development of Wi-Fi.

Australia invented* Wi-Fi technology

In 1992, researchers at CSIRO’s Radiophysics Division developed a prototype wireless local area network test bed. At the time it was “about the size of a mini-fridge” but it became the precursor to the Wi-Fi we use today.

Read more about Australia’s involvement in developing Wi-Fi.

*Sorta. There’s some controversy about this which I won’t get into. But if Russell Crowe, Phar Lap, and pavlova are ours, then so is Wi-Fi.

“Wi-Fi” doesn’t mean anything

Well, kinda.

The “Wi” comes from “wireless” but the “Fi” is actually meant to be a call-back to “hi-fi” as like a kind of nerd pun that just happened to catch on.

The Wi-Fi Alliance (a non-profit organisation that owns and controls the “Wi-Fi Certified” trademarks and logo) briefly used “The Standard of Wireless Fidelity” as an advertising slogan in the early 2000s but technically it’s not what it stands for.

When connecting to Wi-Fi, whichever device is the weakest is the one that dominates your connection. So, if you’ve got a super-slick Wi-Fi router but a sad, old brick laptop, the laptop’s capabilities win out. If you’ve got the latest iPhone but a crusty old router, the router’s capabilities win.

(Not sure if you need a new router? Here are 7 signs you’re overdue for an upgrade)

Wi-Fi’s kryptonite is water

Among other things.

Basically, the radio waves that Wi-Fi emits are easily absorbed in water. That means you shouldn’t put your Wi-Fi router near fish tanks and aquariums because the interference stops your Wi-Fi from spreading around your home.

Wi-Fi runs on the same frequency as your microwave

Or at least, it can. But it’s not about to cook you alive!

Wi-Fi generally runs on either a 2.4 GHz or 5GHz frequency band (and soon potentially also 6GHz) and your microwave similarly runs on a 2.45 GHz band.

Your Wi-Fi won’t cook you because your microwave concentrates those waves to a small area and uses a LOT of power to do so. Your Wi-Fi router sends the waves out like an omnidirectional mist and uses up much, much less energy in the process.

But, although it won’t cook you, it’s a bad idea to have your router near your microwave as it will interfere with your Wi-Fi signal.

(Here’s how to boost your Wi-Fi signal at home in 5 easy hacks)

World’s longest Wi-Fi signal was in Venezuela

According to the Guinness World Records, the longest Wi-Fi signal was shot 382 km between a couple of mountains in the Andes. The receiver of the signal managed to get a whopping 3Mbps of data.

You can get free Wi-Fi almost everywhere* in Seoul, South Korea

*Except semi-basement apartments, according to Parasite.

South Korea’s top telcos got together in 2011 and invested $44 million to help provide free city-wide Wi-Fi. The use of Wi-Fi in cafes and restaurants in Seoul was already fairly ubiquitous, but the project expanded the reach to 10,000 locations including major streets, outdoor spaces, densely populated residential areas, as well as on public transport.

In 2022, the city is planning to expand the coverage to 100% of Seoul (except for the mountains -- maybe they should talk to the Venezuelan guy?).

I can share from personal experience that the Wi-Fi there is exceptional and really is pretty much everywhere.

The average Aussie household has 18.7 internet-connected devices

This number is probably a bit higher now, but in 2019 (the last year I could find any reasonably reliable data on the topic), the average Australian household had 18.7 devices that connected to the internet. These kinds of numbers are only possible in part because of Wi-Fi’s ability to spray signal at us constantly (which sounds a bit gross, sorry about that).

How many do you have?

What to read next:

7 signs your crusty old Wi-Fi router desperately needs an upgrade
Boost your Wi-Fi signal at home in 5 easy hacks
How mesh networking ensures the whole family stays connected (and off your back)