ACS Farewells a Key Member of the Team that Invented Wi-Fi

John Deane, a member of the CSIRO research team that developed the original Wi-Fi concepts, passed away this month, aged 71.

Earlier this year, John and three of his colleagues – John O’Sullivan, Graham Daniels and Diethelm Ostry – were awarded ACS Honorary Fellowships to recognise their contribution to Australia’s technology sector.

“We have lost one of the great contributors to Australia’s ICT sector,” said ACS President, Ian Oppermann. “Sadly, John was unable to join us earlier this year to receive his award and he was greatly missed.”

Graduating in 1972 from Macquarie University with a Bachelor of Arts (Maths), John first worked at Sydney’s Tooths Brewery as a computer programmer/analyst before joining the CSIRO Radiophysics division in 1974 to support what was then the division’s sole computer.

Ray Norris, CSIRO’s former Head of Astrophysics and Deputy Director of the Australia Telescope, recalled, “When I ran the computer group, I regarded John as the most knowledgeable person in the room and regularly relied on his advice.

“He was such a gentle person and an all-round good guy. The Australia Telescope National Facility, and the world in general, is so much richer for the contributions he made.”

In 1991, John took over software development of CSIRO’s wireless networking testbed and contributed to international conferences resulting in the IEEE inviting him to participate in their standardisation activities. This culminated in the IEEE 802.11 ‘WiFi’ local networking standard of 1999.

Diet Ostry recalled his years working with John on the Wi-Fi project, saying, “I found John to be a lovely man, a complete gentleman, a quiet high achiever, and a pleasure to work with.

“He was very concerned that Australia not lose its computing history and made efforts to retain and find a home for significant computer hardware.

“He was also a writer and cartoonist, and had a marvellous sense of humour, with an enthusiastic laugh which brought out his resemblance to the actor Brian Blessed.”

Later in his career, John worked with Macquarie University on a smart wireless network and provided computing and web support for a new ‘Smart Spaces’ group until 2003. He became President of the Australian Computer Museum Society in 2007.

He authored seven books, including: A Picture History of Radiophysics and CSIRAC, Australia’s First Computer, three astronomy papers, 10 networking papers and two patents: ‘Wireless LAN’ (Australia, Europe and USA) and ‘Wireless MAC’ (Australia).