It was on this day eleven years ago, that history was in the making, with the launch of the first 802.11g router – the Linksys Wireless-G Router – known more popularly today as the WRT54G; or in some circles the “Linky”. It was at COMDEX in 2002 where the WRT54G was shown for the first time, along with a Wireless-G PC card for the computer and a Wireless-G access point; the WAP54G. Products were to ship first week of December just in time for the holidays.
The Linksys WRT54G has a very unique story behind how it came to market. Linksys as you all know was the first to ship a consumer-grade router to the consumer market. They did this with the Linksys BEFSR41 in Dec. of 1999. Since that time Linksys had shot off like a rocket. Everyone wanted their hands on this “internet hub” that will enable users to share an IP address with multiple computers. At the time service providers charged for each IP address or each device you had connected to the internet. With a router it would enable users to get one IP address from their service provider and split it (up to 5 times when we first came out with the router) and share it amongst 5 devices. The BEFSR41 was selling like hot cakes and in the first year we had sold nearly 100,000 routers.
The company was growing fast and expanding internationally. Linksys had found the product that would really launch the brand. But while the company was dealing with all the pleasures of growth and success it was not able to lead in next generation technology – Wireless Routers. It is not a widely known fact that Linksys was actually last to enter the market with a wireless-b (802.11b) router – -actually 5 months late. However when Linksys did launch the BEFW11S4 – Wireless-B router – it shot out of the gate and won many awards.
However when the wireless-b router was launch – Linksys was already thinking ahead how not to lose ground again – so at the same time wireless-b –was in development, Linksys was strategizing about what it could do with the next 802.11g specification.
There was a night in June of 2002 that Janie Tsao (one of the founders) and I were in her car going to an awards event at the Disneyland hotel in Anaheim. Janie was on the phone with her husband Victor Tsao the other founding member and the CEO. Victor and Janie were discussing the risk and possibility of buying out all the 802.11g chip sets before they were even available to the market. They were in talks with Broadcom at the time. They felt that if they bought them all – it would enable us to have a 5-6 month lead time in the market.
Well we all know how that conversation turned out. Linksys was first to announce a wireless-G product line up and first to ship units on Nov. 18, 2002.
The WRT54G was born and everyone who had an internet connection was buying a Linksys WRT54G. And competition was month later before their first Wireless-G product would hit the market. The prosumers , gamers and more savvy users were in love with this little router that was announced for a price of $149. The Linux OS gave users the ability to create their own admin capabilities and write code to enable their routers to do more than just route. The DD-WRT and Tomato software was born.
According to Wikipedia, “The WRT part of the name comes from the history of the firmware from the original hardware model number used which was the Linksys WRT54G. Other distributions also use this nomenclature such as OpenWRT. The actual meaning of WRT in the model number is not known, though it is likely shorthand for “Wireless RouTer”. (This is true WRT stands for Wireless RouTer)
“DD-WRT includes such features as support for the Kai network, daemon-based services, IPv6, Wireless Distribution System, RADIUS, advanced quality of service, radio output power control, overclocking capability, and software support for a Secure Digital card hardware modification.”
This firmware gave Linksys a “fan” base—even before Facebook was even created! The loyal Linksys fans created features, shared with other fans and started a movement in routers – that Linksys couldn’t have ever dreamed of.
Then in 2003 – Cisco bought Linksys. Linksys was able to hold onto the Linux platform for a short while, but Cisco insisted we move to a VMX Works solution that would replace the Linux Samba kernel. The market was so upset with our decision that we launched the WRT54 router again – but under the sku WRT54L – which the (L) stood for Linux.
Today the WRT54GL is still sold on our site and thru many online providers. Today the WRT54G/WRT54GL is the best -selling wireless router of all time – selling tens of millions over the past 11 years .