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Paving the Airwaves for Wi-Fi

Way before the public caught wind of high-speed wireless networks, Vic Hayes was developing standards that allowed the revolution to occur

Vic Hayes is often regarded as the "father of Wi-Fi." And like the instigators of most tech breakthroughs, he earned his stripes thanks to both luck and good timing. After gaining an electrical-engineering degree in his native Netherlands, Hayes was supposed to start a mandatory 24 months of military service as a Dutch Air Force private. But at his psychological examination, he so impressed his interviewers that at the last moment, they decided he was officer material. This allowed Hayes to get special training in radar and radio technology, subjects that have stuck with him with ever since.

Hayes has made his name not by inventing new technologies but by standardizing them. He started such work in 1974 when he joined NCR Corp., now part of semiconductor components maker Agere Systems (AGRA ). He was asked to help develop industrywide standards so NCR's terminals for stockbrokers could connect seamlessly via telecommunications lines with similar machines made by other suppliers.