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40 years ago, Ethernet's fathers were the startup kids

Stephen Lawson | May 21, 2013
Bob Metcalfe, Dave Boggs and the rest of the scientists at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in 1973 were a lot like young developers at a Silicon Valley startup today.

Ethernet, which started out on coaxial cable and later moved to twisted-pair cable, has also been extended to other media and, depending on whom you asked, helped spawn other network technologies. If 1Tbps speed wasn't in its creators' minds, different forms of Ethernet were. In the May 22 memo, Metcalfe envisioned The Ether Network running over cable TV or phone lines, radio, and even powerlines.

Ethernet ultimately would come to all those other media, including wireless, where it formed part of the basis for Wi-Fi, according to Metcalfe. The technology has evolved into something far different from what he and Boggs built, and along the way it has had "hundreds of inventors," Metcalfe said. That's why he's looking forward to Wednesday's event.

"One of the things inventors do when they gather is they argue about who invented what, and who was first, and who the charlatans are, and you see all of this really ugly behavior," he said. "I'm just like those people.

"I'm also old enough to realize how ugly that can get. So I'd much rather stop arguing with them and just celebrate their contributions," Metcalfe said. "At our conference on May 22, I'm hoping to get all the unsung heroes of Ethernet to show up and tell their side of the story."



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