Bob Metcalfe Gives Birth to the Ethernet

Today in 1973, twenty-seven-year-old Bob Metcalfe turned on his IBM Selectric, “pulled out a wad of Ko-Rec-Type, snapped on an Orator ball, and banged out the memo inventing Ethernet,” at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC).   As Metcalfe explained to Scott Kirsner years later in a Wired interview: “That is the first time ethernet appears as a word, as does 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.”

Today, Metcalfe is Professor of Innovation and Murchison Fellow of Free Enterprise at the University of Texas at Austin and hundreds of millions of Ethernet ports are shipped annually (counting WiFi). Also today, Professor Metcalfe is giving the commencement address at Boston University’s College of Engineering.

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