Australians have invented some pretty impressive things, from the Hills Hoist to Vegemite, we're an innovative and inventive bunch but perhaps one of our greatest accomplishments was the invention of WiFi.
And it came from an unlikely sequence of events. John O’Sullivan an Aussie physicist and engineer, inspired by Stephen Hawking’s theory of evaporating black holes and subsequent radio waves, set out to find them. However, he found these particularly weak signals were hard to distinguish from the louder background radio noise of the universe.
The signals O'Sullivan was trying to study had travelled vast distances and were far too small and distorted by the gas and dust that they had passed through. Their waveform had been changed from a sharp spike to flattened curve.. Because of this O’Sullivan, and his research colleagues, invented a tool that would help them isolate these flattened signals.
Unfortunately, for the team, they never found what they were looking for but, lucky for us, they were able to re-purpose what they had built.
In 1992 when O’Sullivan was at the CSIRO, he was tasked to invent a way for computers to communicate without the use of wires. A wireless system of some sort. Remembering the tool he had used previously to detect radio signals, O’Sullivan reworked it. The black-hole mathematics of his previous device was used as a basis of Wi-Fi, ecting weak, fuzzy radio signals in the noisiest of environments.
His invention earned the CSIRO around 1 billion dollars in royalties, after he patented it in Australia in 1992 and 1996 in the US.