Organization of IEEE 802.11 archive documents


It is helpful to know a little of IEEE 802.11 history to understand the organization of these archive documents.

IEEE 802.11 started operation September 1990. At meetings of the 802.11 working group, submissions were presented by members.  These submissions were intended to be public documents.

Submissions were prepared in early versions of Microsoft Word for DOS, for Windows or for MAC, WordPerfect, and some other editing applications, none operable by the other applications. Although the submission source files were gathered, they were not distributed. The means of distribution was through hardcopy. At meetings, people were required to carry at least 100 copies of their submissions for distribution to attendees. Documents prepared at meetings were copied at locally contracted copy centres with 3 times a day pick-up and delivery. Paper was the official means of document handling until March 1998. From that meeting on, official document handling was through file transfers via an 802.11 network, flash cards and diskettes. Transfer through diskette was terminated in March 1999. Informal document distribution was done by diskette earlier, but has not been documented.

After meetings, all (paper) documents were copied and sent to the 802.11 mailing list with 100 addresses growing to 260, including members, observers, people from the press and from regulatory agencies. From May 1994 till May 1997, documents were mailed mainly as files on a number of diskettes. Only a few persons received papers. With the IEEE document server and the Internet offering a reliable service, May 1998 all snail mail distribution was terminated. Cost of copying and distribution was carried by the company of the chair. The total number of pages sent was nearly 2 million. The total number of diskettes sent was over 7000. See Figure 1.

Figure 1. Document distribution developed before Internet

At a plenary, documents from the last plenary and any interims were packaged for sending to a copy service in Phoenix, Arizona, and to the IEEE both fulfilling the Document Order Service for the general public. See Figure 1. The document order form was sent to the address list of the Local and Metropolitan Area Networks Standards Committee (LMSC). ANNEX 1 shows the 802.11 part of the document order form after the first year, ANNEX 2 shows the document order form after the third year. ANNEX 3 shows the list after the sixth year. ANNEX 4 is the document lists of nearly all packages and ANNEX 5 is the last document order form found in the archive. This way LMSC complied with the requirement of an OPEN standards organization. Because the availability of the documents were delayed up to 6 months, the IEEE 802.11 chair managed to get approval to package the documents himself, make a special 802.11 order form and send the packages directly to Phoenix from the March 1993 meeting on. Also, people could subscribe to an automatic delivery of the packages as soon as they were available and their balance on hand at the copy service was sufficient in the Document subscription service. Both services were terminated March 2000.

In early years, there was no uniform handling of graphics. So graphics in submissions (e.g., maps and diagrams) were sometimes not present in the source files but only physically pasted on the pages. Some submissions included physical attachments, such as printed papers that were received from some other source like overhead sheets. These attachments were not present in the source files either.

The length of the filenames was limited to eight characters and naming of files developed as time went by. In 1995, the naming convention was documented in 11-95/169. Not all files on the server follow the convention exactly, e.g., where the same number was used by accident for two files. In 1998 the operating system was capable of carrying more than 8 characters and immediately applied by 802.11.


From 1997 to 2000, documents were circulated as both the source file and a portable document format (PDF) file

Figure 2. The application of Internet for communication and document distribution

Figure 2 depicts the application of Internet. At the July 1993 Apple Computer offered the use of an anonymous ftp server for the IEEE 802.11 documents. The same meeting, DEC offered the use of a distribution list or reflector for communication amongst members. Some e-mail providers, for a short period, blocked traffic from the Internet (i.e., from the DEC server) that originated from a competing service. Another issue with the young Internet was the low speed of many links. People in the  Middle-East had trouble getting files from the Apple Computer server in Cupertino because of the high transfer times resulting in time-outs. At the November 1993 meeting, students from the University of Twente, the Netherlands, offered a mirror image, with a script running after midnight, keeping the two sites mirrored. September 1995 IEEE started a website for IEEE 802.11 documents. The Apple Computer server was taken down November 1997. A few days later the 802.11 Chair received a call querying the availability of files at the University of Twente Server. Because the script did not receive responses to whether files were available at the main server,  the latter server was emptied. A call to the, now ex-, student and a call to the admin at the University was sufficient to restore the server from their back-up within one hour! The University of Twente Server was decommissioned mid-2000.

Note that Draft standards were provided via the Document Order Services (against a fee) but were only available to members via the webservers.

From 2000 to 2003, a web-based document server was used (802world).  Files were kept on this server in source format.  The previous system of distribution was run in parallel for 2000,  with source files also being made available as individual .zip files.

From 2003 to the present (2015), a web-server provided by the IEEE-SA (called mentor) has been used.  The 2000-2003 documents were transferred to the new server.

In 2014, a project (the "early documentation project") was initiated to 1) scan paper copies of the early (1990-1996) documents held by the first 802.11 chair (Vic Hayes) and 2) upload scanned PDF files to the 802.11 public web server.  The reasons that brought this project about were:

The project completed in 2015.

Pile of archive 802.11 documents


On the 802.11 web server,  relative to the location of this page,  there is a directory per year.  This directory is named from the year plus "_docs", e.g. "1990_docs".

Each directory has all the submissions for that year in it.  More strictly,  it generally has submissions relating to document numbers obtained in that year in it.   A submission might be delivered in January based on a number obtained in the previous year.  This submission might go into the previous year or the new year directory.

Within directories there are the original source and/or PDF files,  per submission.  Where an original PDF file is missing, and the submission was located in the paper archive,  a scanned PDF is provided.   The scanned PDF has been processed through OCR to make it searchable. The pile of boxes representing the archive that was scanned is shown on the right.

A directory might hold one or more zip files.  For years 1990-1994, there is a single zip file holding the content.  Apparently most of the files in the directory were copied in 2001, and the zip file was created then.  For years 1995-1997,  the original zip files are present.

IEEE 802.11 Drafts

The drafts of 802.11 were also circulated using password-protected .zip files up to 1996.  These zip files, where available, have been retained in the year directories.  Note that the IEEE-SA does not make drafts of historic projects available to the public.


The help and assistance of the following individuals is gratefully acknowledged:

Adrian P Stephens, February 2015
Chair, IEEE 802.11 working group