The ALOHAnet designed by him in the 70s in Hawaii, was a precursor to the technology used in today’s smartphones and home WiFi networks.
- Norman Abramson, father of wireless networks passed away at his residence in San Francisco at the age of 88.
- He was suffering from skin cancer.
- Abramson and his team developed ALOHAnet in 1971, the first system to transmit data between computers using radio waves.
Norman Abramson, one of the early pioneers behind wireless networks, has passed away at the age of 88 at his home in San Francisco, California. The cause of death was skin cancer that had metastasised to his lungs, his son, Mark, said.
An engineer and student of communications theory, a discipline that was at the time at the intersection of mathematics, information technology, and semiotics, Abramson studied at Harvard, and he received a master’s at University of California LA (UCLA) and a Ph.D. from Stanford.
Abramson moved to Hawaii and took a faculty position at the University of Hawaii (UH) Manoa’s College of Engineering partly due to his love for surfing.
Norman Abramson at Waikk Beach, Hawii in 1968. (Photo courtesy: Joan Abramson)
At UH Manoa, Abramson teamed up with fellow faculty member Franklin Kuo and with assistance from other faculty members and graduate students, to develop ALOHAnet, the basis of all wireless communications today including mobile, satellite, cellular, and WiFi. Debuted in 1971, ALOHAnet was the first system to transmit data between computers using radio waves. The novel approaches developed led to the development of Ethernet and wireless communication technologies used to this day.
Norman Abramson (left) and Franklin Kuo (right). (Photo courtesy: University of Hawaii News)
ALOHAnet pioneered the concept of wireless packet communication over a shared medium. It successfully demonstrated a novel approach for multiple devices to utilise a shared communication medium. Before ALOHAnet, a node on a network would talk directly to a node at the other end of the link. ALOHAnet nodes communicated on the same frequency by allowing each client to send its data when it was ready. The revolutionary ALOHA protocols devised by the ALOHAnet team provided for an acknowledgment/retransmission scheme to deal with collisions. This approach radically reduced the complexity of the protocol, and was the basis for the subsequent development of Ethernet and later WiFi.
Norman Abramson is survived by his wife, Joan, son Mark and three grandchildren.