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History of chipsets and devices

WaveLAN was a brand name for a family of wireless networking technology sold by NCR, AT&T, and Lucent, as well as being sold by other companies under OEM agreements. The WaveLAN name debuted on the market in 1988 and was in use into the mid-1990s, when Lucent renamed their products to ORiNOCO. WaveLAN laid the important foundation for the formation of IEEE 802.11 working group and the resultant creation of Wi-Fi.

Wireless network any network at least partly not connected by physical cables of any kind

A wireless network is a computer network that uses wireless data connections between network nodes.

NCR Corporation Company

The NCR Corporation is an American company that makes self-service kiosks, point-of-sale terminals, automated teller machines, check processing systems, barcode scanners, and business consumables. They also provide IT maintenance support services. NCR had been based in Dayton, Ohio, starting in 1884, but in June 2009 the company sold most of the Dayton properties and moved its headquarters to the Atlanta metropolitan area in unincorporated Gwinnett County, Georgia, near Duluth. In early January 2018, the new NCR Global Headquarters opened in Midtown Atlanta near Technology Square.

AT&T American multinational conglomerate holding company

AT&T Inc. is an American multinational conglomerate holding company headquartered at Whitacre Tower in Downtown Dallas, Texas. It is the world's largest telecommunications company, the second largest provider of mobile telephone services, and the largest provider of fixed telephone services in the United States through AT&T Communications. Since June 14, 2018, it is also the parent company of mass media conglomerate WarnerMedia, making it the world's largest media and entertainment company in terms of revenue. As of 2018, AT&T is ranked #9 on the Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.


WaveLAN has been used on two different families of wireless technology:

IEEE 802.11 set of media access control (MAC) and physical layer (PHY) specifications

IEEE 802.11 is part of the IEEE 802 set of LAN protocols, and specifies the set of media access control (MAC) and physical layer (PHY) protocols for implementing wireless local area network (WLAN) Wi-Fi computer communication in various frequencies, including but not limited to 2.4, 5, and 60 GHz frequency bands.


WaveLAN was originally designed by COMTEN, a subsidiary of NCR Corporation, (later the Network Products Division of NCR) in 1986-7, and introduced to the market in 1988 as a wireless alternative to Ethernet and Token-Ring. [1] The next year NCR contributed the WaveLAN design to the IEEE 802 LAN/MAN Standards Committee. [2] This led to the founding of the 802.11 Wireless LAN Working Committee which produced the original IEEE 802.11 standard, which eventually became known popularly as Wi-Fi . When NCR was acquired by AT&T in 1991, becoming the AT&T GIS (Global Information Solutions) business unit, the product name was retained, as happened two years later when the product was transferred to the AT&T GBCS (Global Business Communications Systems) business unit, and again when AT&T spun off their GBCS business unit as Lucent in 1995. The technology was also sold as WaveLAN under an OEM agreement by Epson, Hitachi,and NEC, and as the RoamAbout DS by DEC. [3] It competed directly with Aironet's non-802.11 ARLAN lineup, which offered similar speeds, frequency ranges and hardware.

Ethernet computer networking technology

Ethernet is a family of computer networking technologies commonly used in local area networks (LAN), metropolitan area networks (MAN) and wide area networks (WAN). It was commercially introduced in 1980 and first standardized in 1983 as IEEE 802.3, and has since retained a good deal of backward compatibility and been refined to support higher bit rates and longer link distances. Over time, Ethernet has largely replaced competing wired LAN technologies such as Token Ring, FDDI and ARCNET.

Wi-Fi wireless local area network technology based on IEEEs 802.11 standards

Wi-Fi is a family of radio technologies that is commonly used for the wireless local area networking (WLAN) of devices which is based around the IEEE 802.11 family of standards. Wi‑Fi is a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance, which restricts the use of the term Wi-Fi Certified to products that successfully complete interoperability certification testing. Wi-Fi uses multiple parts of the IEEE 802 protocol family and is designed to seamlessly interwork with its wired sister protocol Ethernet.

Lucent Technologies, Inc., was an American multinational telecommunications equipment company headquartered in Murray Hill, New Jersey, in the United States. It was established on September 30, 1996, through the divestiture of the former AT&T Technologies business unit of AT&T Corporation, which included Western Electric and Bell Labs.

Several companies also marketed wireless bridges and routers based on the WaveLAN ISA and PC cards, like the C-Spec OverLAN, KarlNet KarlBridge, Persoft Intersect Remote Bridge, and Solectek AIRLAN/Bridge Plus. Lucent's WavePoint II access point could accommodate both the classic WaveLAN PC cards as well as the WaveLAN IEEE cards. [4] [5] Also, there were a number of compatible third-party products available to address niche markets such as: Digital Ocean's Grouper, Manta, and Starfish offerings for the Apple Newton and Macintosh; Solectek's 915 MHz WaveLAN parallel port adapter; Microplex's M204 WaveLAN-compatible wireless print server; NEC's Japanese-market only C&C-Net 2.4 GHz adapter for the NEC-bus; Toshiba's Japanese-market only WaveCOM 2.4 GHz adapter for the Toshiba-Bus; and Teklogix's WaveLAN-compatible Pen-based and Notebook terminals. [6]

Industry Standard Architecture 16-bit internal bus of IBM PC/AT

Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) is the 16-bit internal bus of IBM PC/AT and similar computers based on the Intel 80286 and its immediate successors during the 1980s. The bus was (largely) backward compatible with the 8-bit bus of the 8088-based IBM PC, including the IBM PC/XT as well as IBM PC compatibles.

Apple Newton PDA platform by Apple

The Newton is a series of personal digital assistants (PDA) developed and marketed by Apple Computer, Inc. An early device in the PDA category – the Newton originated the term "personal digital assistant" – it was the first to feature handwriting recognition. Apple started developing the platform in 1987 and shipped the first devices in 1993. Production officially ended on February 27, 1998. Newton devices run on a proprietary operating system, Newton OS; examples include Apple's MessagePad series and the eMate 300, and other companies also released devices running on Newton OS. Most Newton devices were based on the ARM 610 RISC processor and all featured handwriting-based input.

Teklogix International Inc., or Teklogix, was a tech company created in 1967 by Lawrence Cragg together with a small group of engineers.The company focused on mini computer applications. It designed and built complete systems based upon DEC's PDP-8 computer, DEC's logic modules and purpose built logic. Many of the company's projects involved control of material handling systems and this led to the development of radio linked terminals for installation on fork lift trucks complete with multiplexers to interface to a variety of main frame computer systems.

During this time frame, networking professionals also realized that since NetWare 3.x and 4.x supported the WaveLAN cards and came with a Multi Protocol Router module that supported the IP/IPX RIP and OSPF routing protocols, one could construct a wireless routed network using NetWare servers and WaveLAN cards for a fraction of the cost of building a wireless bridged network using WaveLAN access points. [7] Many NetWare classes and textbooks of the time included a NetWare OS CD with a 2-person license, so potentially the only cost incurred came from hardware. [8]

NetWare is a discontinued computer network operating system developed by Novell, Inc. It initially used cooperative multitasking to run various services on a personal computer, using the IPX network protocol.

The Routing Information Protocol ('RIP') is one of the oldest distance-vector routing protocols which employ the hop count as a routing metric. RIP prevents routing loops by implementing a limit on the number of hops allowed in a path from source to destination. The largest number of hops allowed for RIP is 15, which limits the size of networks that RIP can support.

In the seven-layer OSI model of computer networking, the network layer is layer 3. The network layer is responsible for packet forwarding including routing through intermediate routers.

When the 802.11 protocol was ratified, Lucent began producing chipsets to support this new standard under the name of WaveLAN IEEE, which it later renamed to ORiNOCO. Shortly thereafter, Lucent spun off the division that produced these chipsets as Agere Systems, which was later acquired by Proxim. Proxim later renamed its entire 802.11 wireless networking lineup to ORiNOCO, including products based on Atheros chipsets. [9]

Agere Systems American integrated circuit components company

Agere Systems Inc. was an integrated circuit components company based in Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA. Spun out of Lucent Technologies in 2002, Agere was merged into LSI Corporation in 2007. LSI was in turn acquired by Avago Technologies in 2014.


Proxim is a Canadian group of pharmacists located in Quebec and to a lesser extent in Ontario and the Maritimes provinces. Proxim competes with Jean Coutu, Pharmaprix/Shoppers Drug Mart, Uniprix/Unipharm, Brunet and Familiprix. The average Proxim drug store is 4,000 square feet (370 m2), similar to typical size of a Brunet or Unipharm location.

Nowadays, tiny Wi-Fi chipsets are found in many devices, such as the smart phone.


Classic WaveLAN operates in the 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz ISM bands. Being a proprietary pre-802.11 protocol, it is completely incompatible with the 802.11 standard.


The ISA and MCA cards were based on the Intel 82586 Ethernet PHY controller, which was a commonly used controller in its time and was found in many ISA and MCA Ethernet cards, such as the Intel EtherExpress 16 and the 3COM 3C523. [10] The PCMCIA cards used the Intel 82593 PHY controller. The radio modem section was hidden from the OS, thus making the WaveLAN card appear to be a typical Ethernet card, with the radio-specific features taken care of behind the scenes. [11]

While the 900 MHz models and the early 2.4 GHz models operated on one fixed frequency, the later 2.4 GHz cards as well as some 2.4 GHz WavePoint access points had the hardware capacity to operate over ten channels, ranging from 2.412 GHz to 2.484 GHz, with the channels available being determined by the region-specific firmware. [12]


For security, WaveLAN used a 16-bit NWID (NetWork ID) field, which yielded 65,536 potential combinations; the radio portion of the device could receive radio traffic tagged with another NWID, but the controller would discard the traffic. DES encryption (56-bit) was an option in some of the ISA and MCA cards and all of the WavePoint access points. The full-length ISA and MCA cards had a socket for an encryption chip, the half-length 915 MHz ISA cards had solder pads for a socket which was never added, and the 2.4 GHz half-length ISA cards had the chip soldered directly to the board.

There are two large holes in the WaveLAN security strategy, though:

Official specifications

RealmTypeNumber of frequenciesFrequency Modulation techniqueOutput powerMaximum data rate Media Access Control Security
Worldwide900 MHz1915 MHz DSSS/DQPSK 250 mW 2 Mbit/s CSMA/CA 16-bit network ID and optional DES encryption
US and Canada2.4 GHz62.412 GHz, 2.422 GHz, 2.432 GHz, 2.442 GHz, 2.452 GHz, 2.462 GHzDSSS/DQPSK32 mW2 Mbit/sCSMA/CA16-bit network ID and optional DES encryption
Europe (except France)2.4 GHz82.422 GHz, 2.425 GHz, 2.4305 GHz, 2.432 GHz, 2.442 GHz, 2.452 GHz, 2.460 GHz, 2.462 GHzDSSS/DQPSK32 mW2 Mbit/sCSMA/CA16-bit network ID and optional DES encryption
France2.4 GHz22.460 GHz and 2.462 GHzDSSS/DQPSK32 mW2 Mbit/sCSMA/CA16-bit network ID and optional DES encryption
Australia2.4 GHz42.422 GHz, 2.425 GHz, 2.432 GHz, 2.442 GHzDSSS/DQPSK32 mW2 Mbit/sCSMA/CA16-bit network ID and optional DES encryption
Japan2.4 GHz12.484 GHzDSSS/DQPSK32 mW2 Mbit/sCSMA/CA16-bit network ID and optional DES encryption


Officially released drivers

Volunteer-developed drivers

Linux has included support for ISA Classic WaveLAN cards since the 2.0.37 kernel, while full support for the PC card Classic WaveLAN cards came later. Status of support for MCA Classic Wavelan cards is unknown. [17] [18]

FreeBSD version 2.2.1-up [19] and the Mach4 kernel [20] have had native support for the ISA Classic WaveLAN cards for several years. OpenBSD [21] and NetBSD [22] do not natively support any of the Classic WaveLAN cards.

Several open-source projects, such as NdisWrapper and Project Evil, currently exist that allow the use of NDIS drivers via a "wrapper". This allows non-Windows OS' to utilize the near-universal nature of drivers written for the Windows platform to the benefit of other operating systems, such as Linux, FreeBSD, and ZETA.


Full-size NCR ISA WaveLAN 915MHz card Wavelan Full ISA 915.jpg
Full-size NCR ISA WaveLAN 915MHz card
Half-size AT&T WaveLAN 915MHz card Wavelan Half ISA 915.jpg
Half-size AT&T WaveLAN 915MHz card

Classic WaveLAN technology was available for the MCA, ISA/EISA, and PCMCIA interfaces:

915 MHz

Half-size AT&T WaveLAN 2.4 GHz card Wavelan Half ISA 2.4 GHz.jpg
Half-size AT&T WaveLAN 2.4 GHz card

2.4 GHz



  1. "NCR Timeline" . Retrieved 2012-04-27.
  2. Holt, Alan (2010). 802.11 Wireless Networks: Security and Analysis. Springer. pp. 3–4. ISBN   184996274X.
  3. Network World February 1999 article on WaveLAN . Retrieved 2011-08-19.
  4. "History of Wavelan by person currently maintaining Linux WaveLAN drivers" . Retrieved 2006-11-29.
  5. "History of Wavelan". Archived from the original on 2007-08-25. Retrieved 2006-11-29.
  6. Molta, Dave. "The High Wireless Act". Network Computing Magazine. NWC. Retrieved 2012-05-24.
  7. "Google Books archive of Network World's 9/12/94 article "Routers: Poised to Make the Transition, page 93". Archived from the original on 2013-01-07. Retrieved 2013-01-07.
  8. "Amazon listing of Official Netware instruction book with CD" . Retrieved 2007-06-01.
  9. "History of WaveLAN IEEE" . Retrieved 2006-11-29.
  10. "Intel's datasheet for the Etherexpress 16" . Retrieved 2011-01-25.
  11. "Tech notes on the WL4 WaveLAN driver" . Retrieved 2006-11-29.
  12. "Compressed version of Wavepoint manual in PS format" . Retrieved 2007-05-08.
  13. "Microsoft Windows Knowledgebase article" . Retrieved 2008-01-03.
  14. "Official Microsoft Windows 98 HCL" . Retrieved 2007-06-13.
  15. "Microsoft Windows Knowledgebase article" . Retrieved 2008-01-03.
  16. "NCR's notes on the Version 1.06 MC card drivers" . Retrieved 2007-05-08.
  17. "Home page of person currently maintaining Linux drivers for WaveLAN ISA" . Retrieved 2006-11-29.
  18. "Home page of person currently maintaining Linux drivers for WaveLAN PC card" . Retrieved 2006-11-29.
  19. "Hardware compatibility list of FreeBSD" . Retrieved 2006-11-29.
  20. "Hardware compatibility list for the Mach 4 kernel" . Retrieved 2006-11-29.
  21. "Hardware compatibility list for OpenBSD" . Retrieved 2006-11-29.
  22. "Hardware compatibility list for NetBSD" . Retrieved 2006-11-29.
  23. "Comprehensive list of MCA id codes" . Retrieved 2008-04-11.

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