The CSIRO wireless local area network (WLAN) Prototype Test Bed is being recognised in the National Museum of Australia’s “A History of the World in 100 Objects”.

5 August 2016

Image of the wireless local area network (WLAN) Prototype Test Bed, 1990s computer hard drives with monitors and screens

Imagine how it would feel if you invented something that changed everything?

The team behind the invention of the of the CSIRO wireless local area network (WLAN) Prototype Test Bed are being recognised for their contribution to innovation by being included in the National Museum of Australia's A History of the World in 100 Objects. The WLAN is now known as the ubiquitous technology 'Wi-Fi'.

The exhibition draws on the collection of the British Museum, bringing together 100 objects to build a timeline of human history from 2-million-years BCE to today. The WLAN Prototype Test Bed has been included in the exhibit as the honorary 101st Australian exhibition piece.

Director of the National Museum of Australia, Dr Mathew Tricker said, 'the WLAN Test Bed was fundamental in the development of Wi-Fi, something that we take for granted today, but has transformed the way that we live not just in this country but right around the world.'

Members of the WLAN Test Bed development team – Graham Daniels, Terry Percival and John O’Sullivan

The WLAN Test Bed was developed by a team in the Radiophysics Division at the CSIRO in 1992. John O'Sullivan, Graham Daniels, Terrence Percival, Diethelm Ostry and John Dean developed the technology that is now in billions of devices around the world.

Team leader John O'Sullivan said that the team was originally challenged to make a difference, and to use their radio astronomy skills to develop commercially relevant projects. They set themselves the task of developing a wireless network that was as fast as the wired networks of the day. They did not want to copy what was already in existence, but to create something completely new.

'We started out thinking this had the potential to be big, but I am blown away today when I see everybody walking around with phones with Wi-Fi. The impact this has had.'

In the early 1990s the WLAN Prototype Test Bed was considered state of the art technology. Now it takes its place as a museum piece in recognition of the role it has played world history.

The A History of the World in 100 Objects opens at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra on 9 September 2016.