These days most homes are equipped with high speed Internet connections and wireless routers, making the World Wide Web a more enjoyable place to hang out and do business. Like me, chances are you remember the good old days of dial-up Internet when you often found yourself groaning and hitting the back button every time you happened upon a web page that contained lots of photos. And of course accidentally clicking a link that led to a video was absolutely horrifying!
Well, thankfully times have changed. The current state of high speed Internet technology and connectivity has us constantly seeking out an ever richer multi-media online experience. My friend in Pennsylvania uses San Diego broadband, where most of us Aussies use Telstra Bigpond. But it doesn’t matter who you use for your internet connection, a router plays a big part in a good connection.
The Introduction of Routers into the World of Computing
The first routers to appear on the scene weren’t designed for home use. Instead, they were used as Internet “gateways” at various strategic places around the world for routing Internet traffic between the military, large businesses and local Internet Service Providers (ISPs). A home computer network or a high speed Internet connection in a homes was unheard of. If you wanted to surf the web or send email, you bought a dial-up modem and developed a tolerance for boredom as even long text-based pages often took forever to load in your browser.
The arrival of cable and DSL connections for home users changed the world of computing forever. Gone were the days when we would try our best to limit our web browsing to short, image free pages. Literally overnight, our attitude morphed into “bring on the media”! But even then, home routers were still a rarity because most homes still had only a single computer that the family shared amongst themselves. And if you only had one computer, there was no need for a router.
But then something interesting happened in the home computer market. The prices of computers went into free-fall, and before we knew it most homes had at least two computers – and some had a different computer for each family member. Thus a new problem was born: How to connect multiple computers to the Internet via a single high-speed modem. The answer: A home router!
How Routers Have Progressed Through the Years
The upload and download speeds of the first home routers were limited to 100 Mbs, the maximum through-put allowed by the Ethernet technology of the day. Of course 100 Mbs seemed infinitely faster than the snail’s pace of the fastest dial-up connections, and believe me it was indeed a massive improvement. But before long it would become apparent that an even newer and more capable technology was needed.
Faster Speeds and WiFi Burst onto the Scene
As with every other aspect of computer technology, as Internet speeds increased so did the bandwidth requirements of most web pages and associated Internet software platforms and technologies. Many of the most popular websites began loading their pages to the max with photos, music and videos, and before long that once-speedy 100 Mbs per second didn’t seem all that fast anymore. At the same time another phenomenon was taking place: Laptop and notebook computers began replacing desktop PCs in a big way, and as anyone with a portable computer can tell you, it’s no fun being tethered to the nearest router by an Ethernet cable!
See our router networking terms if you are not sure about the terms used in this article.
The first “wireless” routers to see wide-spread usage in homes were based on a standard known as IEEE 802.11b. These routers became known simply as “Wireless B” and they provided a maximum data transfer rate of 11 Mbs, a far cry from the 100Mbs available via a wired connection, but hey – it was wireless! Now, thanks to “WiFi” we could use our laptops anywhere in the house.
The next major WiFi capable routers to come along were “Wireless G” models which provided roughly half of the speed of a wired connection. Still not great, but a lot better than the 11Mbs that Wireless B offered. Then came a major improvement with the release of the first Wireless N routers. After a few fits and starts, Wireless N speeds gradually increased to speeds of 150 and even 300 Mbs per second, finally making wireless connections faster than wired Ethernet.
And now we get to the reason you probably need to replace your old Wireless B, G or N router with a new, state-of-the-art model. The fastest home routers available today transmit on dual bands simultaneously at up to 450 Mbs on both channels. (See our router buying guide.) This is a tremendous improvement over even the fastest single channel Wireless N models, and light years ahead of Wireless G. Better still, some of these new dual channel routers feature wired connections that transmit and receive at up to 1 Gbs, which makes a wired connection the resident speed demon once again.
While high speed Internet connections changed the way we use the web forever, the newest, fastest and most advanced home routers make it easy and convenient to enjoy the rich multimedia based websites and Internet services that we have learned to love in recent years.