Remembering when gadgets weren’t wireless

This week’s Throwback Thursday Tech item bridges the gap between Ethernet and 802.11b

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It’s another Thursday where I’m working at home, so I ventured forth into my home office area (good news, I’m actually cleaning up the area!) to dig up this week’s Throwback Thursday Tech item. Stepping into the virtual Wayback Machine (nod to “Mr. Peabody and Sherman”), we discovered the Linksys Wireless Ethernet Bridge (model WET11), which provided 802.11b wireless access to existing Ethernet devices (such as a computer or even early consumer electronics devices).

The WET11 came out in 2002, when Linksys was still just Linksys (pre-Cisco and pre-Belkin purchases). The bridge had a screw-in antenna to provide additional range access for your devices, and a toggle switch let you switch the bridge from “infrastructure mode” to “ad hoc” mode, for those crazy people who wanted to attempt to connect two devices to each other without going through a wireless router. Consumer devices that had Ethernet ports (those were still limited in scope) could gain wireless functionality (802.11b was taking off at the time) through this bridge. Eventually, most devices just included built-in wireless functionality (both LAN - Wi-Fi - and WAN - 3G, 4G, etc.).

But wireless bridges still exist within the home networking space - we usually see them whenever a new protocol comes out (for example, we saw this when the tech jumped from 802.11n to 802.11ac), but for the most part, I think people just utilize their existing devices’ built-in wireless, and move to the faster technology when they upgrade their client (game console, notebook, smartphone, etc.).

My original review of the WET11 mentions that this would be a great device to connect to the “Xbox gaming console” (first-generation!) or the Sony Playstation 2 with its “new network adapter.” Interestingly, the device worked with these blasts-from-the-past devices: The Turtle Beach Audiotron, the Philips MC i200 Streamium audio player and the Sonicblue replayTV 4500 personal video recorder (ah, the days when DVRs were not integrated into the cable set-top box!).

OK, I’m getting a little teary-eyed now.

We don't have a video about the WET11 specifically, but I did find this video from TigerDirect that introduced a similar bridge (an 802.11g gaming adapter that came out a few years later). Enjoy!

Keith Shaw also rounds up the best in geek video in his ITworld.tv blog. Follow Keith on Twitter at @shawkeith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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