6. Internet everywhere - Broadband, WiFi and mobile devices

The Internet seems to be everywhere. But how did it happen? And how has it affected the way people work? I’m going to look at a few key moments in the spread of the Internet – but remember, there are loads more and new things are happening all the time.

These days, everyone seems to have broadband, but not so long ago, people had to use ‘dial-up’ access over a modem, which sounded like this: (modem sound plays) THAT is really annoying.

Dial-up modems were really slow when it came to downloading things, because they could only handle a limited amount of information. The big move from dial-up Internet access to broadband started in the year 2000 in the UK. The speed that broadband can send and receive information means people can now access much bigger files – like music and video – which were impossible before.

You probably already know that most mobile phones these days can connect to the Internet, using technology like ‘WAP’ or via a ‘Bluetooth’ connection to a computer. WAP stands for ‘Wireless Application Protocol’ and rather than being the name of one specific thing, WAP actually refers to a whole range of technologies which were developed from the mid 1990s. WAP browsers provide the basic services that computer web browsers offer, so my mobile phone lets me access the Internet.

Bluetooth was also developed in the mid 1990s, not as a specific product, but as a standard way for computers and devices with a Bluetooth chip (such as mobile phones, keyboards and digital cameras) to communicate with each other by radio instead of through cables. Thousands of companies now use Bluetooth in their products and the technology is regularly updated.

Another important development to consider is Wi-Fi, which lets you use broadband without the wires. According to Wikipedia, the first wireless products were developed in the Netherlands in the early 1990s and were sold under the name ‘WaveLAN’.

Wi-Fi technology itself started being developed in 1997. It’s now found in PCs, games consoles, mobile phones, MP3 Players and handheld computers. To access the Internet using these gadgets, you must be within range of a wireless network that is connected to the Internet. This is often called a Hotspot.

BT Openzone is a network of Wi-Fi Hotspots found in lots of cafés, hotels, stations and airports. It is particularly popular with people who have to travel for work, as it lets them access important information while out and about.

As well as making it easier for people on the move to do their jobs, things like broadband and Wi-Fi have made it much more convenient for people to work from home. Broadband, unlike dial-up, means that you can make and receive phone calls while you’re on the Internet and special packages allow several computers to use broadband at the same time, from anywhere in the house.

New technology is being developed all the time to make the Internet even more useful and accessible.

Why not do search for ‘future technology’ on the Internet, or look at http://www.btplc.com/innovation.