this is how the Linksys WRT54G became the most legendary router ever

Many of you have probably read about it, and perhaps some of you will use it or even continue to do so. El Linksys WRT54G does not have a particularly easy to remember model name, but this blue and black box has become on an icon in the routers segment.

In fact in many ways this wireless router was the one that unleashed (almost by chance) the rest of the world’s routers, and taught us what these devices were capable of. ¿El truco? Su firmware Open Source.

A story that begins in the 90s

In 1988 Janie and Victor Tsao founded Linksys. Shortly after they discovered a barely exploited market niche: that of the routers that allowed us to connect to data networks of all kinds, and that they were hardly present in the domestic world.

The internet explosion was beginning to show itself, and during those early years Linksys products depended on the drivers that this manufacturer offered to run your hardware. The arrival of Windows 95 changed that, because it integrated the support of network connections and put the business of this company in danger.

Salvation came in the domestic market, which needed a way to connect several computers to the same telephone line. Linksys managed to offer a solution perfect for that market with his Etherfast, a router that cost $ 199 And that only had one drawback: it still did not have support for wireless connections.

That would come with families like the one in question. The Linksys WRT54G that supported 802.11g networks (a 2003 standard) became overwhelmingly successful products in their own right, but the real reason they have remained relevant for so long is something more surprising.

A few months after Linksys launched the first iteration of this router, a singular event occurred: the company was bought by Cisco for 500 million dollars.

Oops, my firmware is Linux-based

Cisco couldn’t know it, but the WRT54G hid a very special feature of the firmware, the key element in the operation of any router. That firmware was based on Linux.

Linksys Ifixit IFixit took care of gutting one of the variants of the Linksys WRT54G in 2016.

The irony here is not that Cisco did not know it: it is that Linksys were not very clear either: the manufacturer bought the chips that ran those routers from Broadcom, which in turn delegated the development of the firmware to a different firm.

The chain was therefore difficult to control, but the conclusion was important: those routers, like revealed a user on the Linux kernel mailing list, they had an Open Source firmware, and, like everything in Open Source, that firmware is capable of being edited, improved and, of course, shared.

In June 2003, an article on Slashdot in which many users realized the potential of that discovery. At Linksys they did their part, and they published the code according to what the GPL license dictates.

From there it was proven how the Linksys WRT54G was a true diamond in the rough: A device that cost $ 60 could be modified to do things that They made $ 600 routers.

A legendary router almost two decades later

The projects to modify and improve the firmware were happening, being among the most famous OpenWRT, Tomato and of course DD-WRT. With these firmwares, which in turn led to dozens of projects parallels (from OpenWRT would be born the Fonera of the mythical Fon, for example) these routers became much more.

Dd Wrt

Thus, these modifications allowed the WRT54G to be used as a repeater or a bridge device, to create WDS systems or mesh networks, function as VPN or VoIP servers, manage bandwidth in a thousand ways or support IPv6, among other options.

Linksys still kept their official firmware with standard options, and it was the users who chose if they wanted to use that software or take advantage of any of the parallel firmwares.

What did Cisco do? Fit the WRT54G. They released a version that was worse than its predecessor in almost every way: they removed the Linux firmware, cut RAM and storage, and put up various barriers to prevent users from continuing those efforts. That generated protests from users, which led the manufacturer to launch a modified version, the WRT54GL, which recovered the improvements.

How do they explain en Tedium, that model can still be find in online stores today, and Linksys continues to support it —As do the rest of “free” firmwares -.

Although it is an old model in terms of WiFi standards support, remains an absolute legend that years ago followed generating juicy income at Linksys and that in fact sparked one last, singular move.

It is about creating a familia the routers with those same black and blue colors (and more expensive, yes) that denote that key feature of Open Source firmwares support and that have adapted to the new times.

Source: Xataka by

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