The AirPort Express Base Station was part of Apple’s AirPort line of wireless products. Although its design was more compact and it had fewer features than the AirPort Extreme Base Station available at the time, the AirPort Express Base Station included the ability to receive streamed audio from a wirelessly connected computer that was running iTunes. The AirPort Express Base Station could play the streamed audio through speakers connected to its analog/digital audio output jack, a feature the AirPort Extreme lacked.
The original AirPort Express offered 802.11g wireless, contained an analog–optical audio mini-jack output, a USB port for remote printing, and one Ethernet port. The AirPort Express could only stream audio to a powered speaker or stereo system via iTunes—it could not stream video.
The AirPort Extreme was a wireless base station that combined the functions of a router, network switch, wireless access point, Network-Attached Storage (NAS), and other functions. The AirPort Extreme Base Station Generation 2 was released in 2007 with a white, rounded-rectangle design that was similar to the look of the first-generation Mac mini and original Apple TV.
The The AirPort Extreme Base Station measured 6.5 inches square, 1.3 inches tall, and weighed 1.66 pounds. It supported 802.11a/b/g and Draft 802.11n2 wireless network protocols. Ports included one Gigabit Ethernet WAN port (for connecting a DSL or cable modem), three Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports (for connecting computers or network devices), and one USB port (for connecting a USB printer or USB external hard drive).
The original AirPort card was a modified PCMCIA card manufactured by Lucent. Lucent’s model was called the WaveLAN/Orinoco Gold PC card. Apple’s AirPort card had no integrated antenna and included a small antenna port along the top edge.
The AirPort card was designed to be installed by a user. It slid into a slot that was easily accessed, and a small cable was plugged into its antenna port. The antenna cable was integrated into the design of the Mac laptop or desktop. In some installations an adapter was required.
The original AirPort card was released along with the original iBook (blueberry and tangerine) and the original AirPort Base Station (graphite). Apple was among the first companies to release a complete wireless system that was accessible to consumers, providing computers designed to easily install wireless cards, the wireless card, a wireless base station, and software that was relatively easy to configure and set up.
According to Apple’s guide, About Your Airport Card:
AirPort Card Specifications Wireless Data Rate: Up to 11 megabits per second (Mbps) Range: Up to 150 feet (45 meters) in typical indoor use (varies with building) m Frequency Band: 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) Radio Output Power: 15 dbm (nominal) Standards: Compliant with 802.11 Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) 1 and 2 Mbps standard and 802.11HR DSSS 11 Mbps draft standard
The AirPort Extreme was a wireless networking base station that combined the functions of a network router and wireless access point. When the Extreme model of this device was released, the “extreme” modifier denoted its increased Wi-Fi speed from 802.11a/b to the faster 802.11g Wi-Fi standard, a major speed difference at the time.
The AirPort Extreme base station model retained the form factor as the original AirPort base station in shape, but the AirPort Extreme was cast in opaque white plastic, used a mirrored Apple logo, and moved the ports to the bottom of the device. The shape was sometimes referred to as the “flying saucer.” Not only was it shaped like a flying saucer, a 1999 TV commercial that introduced the original AirPort showed it behaving like a UFO.
The original AirPort Extreme Base Station could provide wireless access to up to 50 Macs or PCs simultaneously, although performance was noticeably affected as connections exceeded about 12 connected devices. This version was also notable to include a 56K dial-up modem that allowed homes without broadband Internet to have wireless Internet.