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This is the big one. It started in 1991 with a wire­less pro­to­col cre­ated by the NCR Cor­po­ra­tion in the Nether­lands. With a slow data rate, it was in­tended for use with cashier sys­tems. Sci­en­tists around the world strug­gled to find a way to speed it up un­til 1992, when a team of sci­en­tists from the CSIRO stum­bled upon the an­swer.

Led by Dr John O’Sul­li­van, the team was us­ing in­ter­ga­lac­tic ra­dio waves in their study of black holes. In the process they had de­vel­oped a for­mula to tidy up the ra­dio waves and found that it could be used for re­duc­ing mul­ti­path in­ter­fer­ence of ra­dio sig­nals trans­mit­ted for com­puter net­work­ing. So, by split­ting ra­dio chan­nels apart O’Sul­li­van’s team were able to cre­ate a much faster net­work.

The CSIRO re­ceived an Aus­tralian patent for the tech­nol­ogy in 1992 and a US patent in 1996. Com­pa­nies such as Ap­ple, Mi­crosoft, In­tel and Toshiba all fought to have the patent in­val­i­dated, but an out of court set­tle­ment in 2009 re­sulted in an enor­mous pay­day for theCSIRO .

The same year, O’Sul­li­van was awarded the Prime Min­is­ter’s Prize for Sci­ence and a $300,000 cash prize. We sus­pect, how­ever, the real re­ward lies in know­ing that your ef­forts de­vel­oped a tech­nol­ogy that im­proves the lives of people around the world ev­ery sin­gle day.

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