April 20, 2010 — Norman Abramson, professor emeritus of electrical engineering at the University of Hawaii, delivered a Bradley Distinguished Lecture on March 26, discussing ALOHA channels and their impact on wireless networks, WiFi, and satellite data networks.
Abramson led the team that developed ALOHA channels and in 1971 first achieved transmission of wireless data packets from a user to a computer network. The packets were transmitted in an effort to create a low-cost wireless network that connected the University of Hawaii campuses on different islands.
ALOHA channels were used in a limited way in the first generation of mobile phones for signaling and control purposes in the 1980s. The use of ALOHA was expanded during the 1990s with the introduction of SMS texting in 2G mobile networks, then again in 3G networks using General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). As smart phones and wireless IP-based web traffic increases with 4G networks, ALOHA channels are expected to gain even more use.
Abramson joined the University of Hawaii faculty in 1967, combining his passions for surfing and electrical engineering. Prior to Hawaii, he served as an associate professor of EE at Stanford. Abramson received an A.B. in physics from Harvard College in 1953, an M.A. in physics from UCLA in 1955, and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford in 1958.
Abramson has held visiting appointments at the University of California at Berkeley, Harvard and MIT (1965, 1966, 1980). He is the recipient of a number of awards for his work in wireless data networks and ALOHA protocols, including the Koji Kobayashi Computers and Communications Award, the Eduard Rhein Foundation Technology Award, and the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal.