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Steve Perlman's Wireless Fix

Steve Perlman, Silicon Valley’s self-styled Thomas Edison, has found a way to increase wireless capacity by a factor of 1,000

Lunchtime, Lytton Ave., Palo Alto, Calif.: It’s a bright, mild July afternoon, and khaki’d professionals meander past the boutiques and coffee shops, heading back to their digital workstations. One of the slower pedestrians, who gets more than a few curious glances from passersby, is a middle-aged guy in jeans and a green T-shirt, carefully rolling a utility cart down the sidewalk. The cart is one of those black, plastic, double-decker jobs you find at a home-improvement store. It’s laden with electronics and has white vinyl plumbing pipes that stick into the air from two corners. “It’s a very small group of people that actually turn the wheels around Silicon Valley,” says Stephen G. Perlman, the Silicon Valley inventor and entrepreneur who once sold a company to Microsoft for half a billion dollars, as he hunches over to keep the gear from jostling.

“What’s that?” asks an onlooker, a scruffy guy with gray hair and a beard to match. He looks like he’s been to a few too many Grateful Dead concerts.