Robert Melancton Metcalfe

Robert M. Metcalfe

Robert Metcalfe has worn many hats throughout his career. Student, pundit, engineer, venture capitalist; but he's probably best known for being an inventor. The co-inventor of ethernet [1]. The invention of ethernet has transformed the world in a relatively short amount of time. Click here to see his education background.

In the early 70's, token ring was the technology of choice for connecting computers. It was relatively fast and had a deterministic nature. However, as with all things, it too had it's disadvantages. Token ring networks were difficult to install and troubleshoot and were very expensive.

After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with two bachelors degrees in 1969 and Harvard with a masters in 1970 and a PhD in 1973, Robert went to California to work for Xerox in their Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). It was here that he and fellow Xerox PERC employee, David Boggs, invented ethernet. The two collaborated, with Metcalfe having the ideas and Boggs the knowledge to build the components, for nearly a year before having a functioning ethernet network. November 11, 1973 is known as the birth of ethernet, the first time the network funtioned proplery. The first ethernet was named 10Base5 and transmitted at 10Mbps and up to 500 meters. However, unlike today's ethernet, 10Base5 used coax rather than twisted pair. Click here to see some details on the different types of ethernet cabling.

Since it's inception, ethernet has grown in speed and popularity. Ethernet has become the standard in networking connectivity for LAN's that many motherboard manufacturers are including an ethernet port builtin to their products. From it's original 10Mbps speed on coax cable to a seemingly blazing 100Gbps over fiber cables.

With all of his success and recognition, he has had a few gaffes. The most memorable is his prediction of a catastrophic failure of the internet in 1996. He vowed to eat his words if this didn't come to pass; which he did by taking his paper and putting it in a blender, adding some water and drinking it. Mr. Metcalfe now serves as a professor of Electrical Engineering and the Director of Innovation at The University of Texas at Austin.

1 - Robert M. Metcalfe on Wikipedia.Opens a new window

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