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Listen to Professor Crystal

Wi-fi. W-I-F-I. Sometimes written with a hyphen, sometimes not. Wireless fidelity. Technically, it's a standard ensuring that equipment works on a wireless network. It's on analogy with 'hi-fi', for high fidelity, that used to be common for recording some years ago.

It's an interesting usage because it shows the return of a word that everybody thought had gone completely out of date - 'wireless'. I mean, 'wireless' was around when wireless was invented, but it was quickly replaced by 'radio'. And everybody talks about 'radio broadcasting' not 'wireless broadcasting' and then, suddenly it came back in again with this internet connection.

It's used now for all sorts of applications. TV remotes can be talked about as wireless, if you control your garage door, it's a wireless control, mobile phones are sometimes referred to as wireless, and GPS, you know, satellite things in your car - wireless.

Has a lot of associated terminology, of course, wi-fi is just one word of many that has come into usage in the last few years, talking about the way in which we cope with the internet.

'Hot spot' is another one, for instance, that's a location which offers a wireless connection to the internet - you sometimes see people outside houses with their laptops, where there's a hot spot, there is a connection to the internet from nearby.

Incidentally, the opposite of 'wireless' is 'wired' - that is, using wires to carry the signal, as in, say, cable television, and that's led also to an extended use - 'wired'. 'He's wired' - that means he's alert, he's capable, he's ready. And people who are 'wired up' are like that too! I'm wired up at the moment!


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