The Top Three Networking Innovations of the Last 25 Years: Miniaturization

We’ve seen phenomenal changes in the technological world over the 25 years that D-Link has been in business, and networking is no exception. But what networking innovations have fundamentally shaped our lives? In this countdown of innovation, I’ve already touched on the Number 3: domain names. Here comes second place!

Innovation #2: Miniaturization

Miniaturization, particularly in the wireless world, has wrought amazing transformations both conceptually and physically. Mobile devices have gone from bulky, portable telephones to sleek, pocket devices that miraculously house core networking technologies — the same technologies that grant you Internet access at home.

If you were using a home computer 25 years ago, your networking options were few and far between. A decade hence, your desktop was connected to the Internet. But did you think you’d ever be free of the wires that tethered your PC? That a phone would be capable of accessing the Internet’s repository of information? That this tiny device would practically replace your bulky PC? Today’s smartphones deliver the full experience of interacting with the Internet and our own data, from automatically synchronized email and files, to streaming movies and music, to games and apps for amusement and productivity.

And these amazing devices are changing the way we use desktops and laptops. I find it especially interesting to watch smartphones and mobile apps pave the way for the future of software deployment. We’re all familiar with downloading apps. But Apple’s iTunes App Store has become the primary — and only — way to receive updates of the company’s OS X operating system.

And that’s just the software. What about miniaturized hardware? Smartphones offer instant access to a universal network connection that can stream high-def 1080p video right to the palm of your hand — even though their displays don’t deliver resolution anywhere near that. They can also function as tiny, miniaturized access points, providing an Internet connection to nearby devices that otherwise might not have one. And if you’re old-school, you can tether your phone’s built-in Wireless-N connection — Wireless-N! In a handheld form factor! — to a laptop or tablet PC to gain access to a cellular network.

By the same token, home networking gear is getting smaller, sleeker, packing more powerful functionality into an even more compact package. Today’s routers, switches, and adapters are high-design wonders of form and function. No doubt we can look forward to home networking that’s ever smaller, more powerful, and seamlessly integrated into the household.

We tend to take tiny devices for granted, living in an era where being denied access to a smartphone for more than a few minutes can practically trigger a psychiatric emergency. But if you think about the growth of networking, the Internet, and the associated hardware, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more life-changing object than the device you’re holding in your hand. A smartphone gives you the power of a global network at your fingertips — and the power to distribute that network to other network devices. Your phone is a router; your phone is a modem; your phone is your golden ticket to a global community.

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