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Monday, 28 January 2013 09:25

Hear Bob Metcalfe, ethernet inventor


Bob Metcalfe, the co-inventor of ethernet, will make a rare public appearance tomorrow, 29 January at the Metro Ethernet Forum's quarterly meeting in San Diego. The event will be webcast.

Metcalfe will be joined by MEF president Nan Chen and Iometrix president Bob Mandeville who will brief international press and analysts on the announcement of the first companies to be certified to MEF CE 2.0 (carrier ethernet 2.0). The event will be held from 7:30 am - 8:15 am PST on 29 Jan (2:30 am - 3:15 am 30 Jan AEDT). Register here.

Metcalfe was working at Xerox PARC in 1973 when he and David Boggs invented ethernet. According to Wikipedia, he identifies the day ethernet was born as May 22, 1973, the day he circulated a memo titled 'Alto Ethernet' which contained a rough schematic of how it would work. Boggs identifies another date as the birth of Ethernet: November 11, 1973, the first day the system actually functioned.

According to Metcalfe, the memo contained the first mention of the word ethernet and "the idea of using coax as ether, where the participating stations, like in AlohaNet or ARPAnet, would inject their packets of data, they'd travel around at megabits per second, there would be collisions, and retransmissions, and back-off."

In 1979, Metcalfe left PARC to found 3Com and "began a 10 year stint as a publisher and pundit, writing an Internet column for InfoWorld," according to Wikipedia. He became a venture capitalist in 2001 and is now a general partner at Polaris Venture Partners.

Ethernet, meanwhile was first commercialised in 1980 and standardised by the IEEE as 802.3 in 1985. It quickly saw off competing technologies, token ring and token bus.

According to Wikipedia, "because ethernet was able to adapt to market realities and shift to inexpensive and ubiquitous twisted pair wiring, these proprietary protocols soon found themselves competing in a market inundated by ethernet products and by the end of the 1980s, Ethernet was clearly the dominant network technology."

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