AirPort is a wireless networking protocol from Apple Computer designed for their Macintosh computers. It is based on the IEEE 802.11b (also known as Wi-Fi) standard and has been certified to be compatible with other 802.11b devices. According to Apple, AirPort is capable of speeds up to 11 Megabits per second and distances of 150 feet from the base station. The current version support encryption up to 128 bits.
On January 7th, 2003, Apple Computer introduced AirPort Extreme, based on the 802.11g specification. AirPort Extreme allows data transfer of up to 54 Mbit/s, and is fully backwards-compatible with the thousands of existing 802.11b (AirPort) base stations in coffee shops, retail stores, offices and homes. Because of this, Apple has begun shipping Airport Extreme capabilities into their newest PowerBooks. AirPort Extreme cards unfortunately do not work in an older Macintosh--the Airport bus cannot support the new faster transfer rate. However, an Airport Extreme base station can communicate both with newer 802.11g-based devices and the older 802.11b AirPort cards.
AirPort also describes several products including the AirPort base station and AirPort card. AirPort Extreme features bridging, which allows a single Base Station to link with another AirPort Extreme Base Station in order to increase the signal strength (previously, each base station had to be connected to a hard internet line). A software base station for AirPort and AirPort Extreme also exists, meaning that one can turn a computer with a hard internet connection into a wireless network server as long as it has an AirPort card.
AirPort can be used as a fully-featured LAN and/or to connect to the Internet. There is a modem and Ethernet port on the base station. AirPort Extreme base stations also feature a USB port to connect a printer, meaning that that printer can then be seamlessly used as a network device.
The current version of AirPort (original edition) is 2.1.1.
AirPort is most often used in portable computers such as the iBook and PowerBook, though some people use this technology on stationary computers because they find it easier than running wires throughout their house.