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The Herculean task of developing an IEEE standard around wireless technology was, at its heart, a diplomatic mission for Vic Hayes, the father of Wi-Fi.
“They’re competitors, and they all have millions invested in it,” Hayes said of the Wireless LAN working group, which at one time had 130 members. “You need to make them a team nevertheless and come to an agreement.”
Something of a standards specialist, Hayes established the IEEE’s WLAN working group in 1990. The Netherlands native had already helped develop a bevy of standards as part of his work for NCR, which he joined in 1974. NCR is now part of semiconductor maker Agere Systems. Hayes chaired the WLAN working group for 10 years, overseeing the birth of the 802.11 specification now deployed in wireless implementations around the globe. He retired from Agere last year.
Even in its early stages, the value Wi-Fi would bring was apparent, Hayes said, recalling how the working group deployed its own technology to share documents and speed communications across the vast membership.
Wi-Fi standards have been critical to the success wireless technology now enjoys, said Jeff Roback, vice president of engineering at Praxis Computing, a solution provider in Los Angeles. “If it wasn’t interoperable to the level it is today, it would have been a dead technology,” he said.