Robert Melancton Metcalfe
Robert Metcalfe wearing the US National Medal of Technology (2003)
|Born||April 7, 1946|
Brooklyn, New York, United States
|Alma mater|| MIT - B.S. Electrical Engineering, B.S. Industrial Management, 1969 |
Harvard University - M.S. Applied Mathematics, 1970; Ph.D. Computer Science (Applied Mathematics), 1973
|Known for||Internet pioneer, Ethernet inventor, 3Com founder, Metcalfe's Law|
|Fields|| Computer networking |
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
|Institutions||MIT, Xerox PARC, 3Com, IDG/InfoWord, Polaris Venture Partners, The University of Texas at Austin.|
|Thesis||Packet Communication (1973)|
|Doctoral advisor||Jeffrey P. Buzen|
Robert Melancton Metcalfe (born April 7, 1946)is an engineer and entrepreneur from the United States who helped pioneer the Internet starting in 1970. He co-invented Ethernet, co-founded 3Com and formulated Metcalfe's law, which describes the effect of a telecommunications network. Since January 2011, he has been Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at The University of Texas at Austin. He is also the Murchison Fellow of Free Enterprise.
Metcalfe has received various awards, including the IEEE Medal of Honor and National Medal of Technology and Innovation for his work developing Ethernet technology.
In addition to his accomplishments, Metcalfe has made several predictions which failed to come to pass, separately forecasting the demise of the Internet, wireless networks, and open-source software during the 1990s.
Robert Metcalfe was born in 1946 in Brooklyn, New York. His father was a gyroscope test technician, who specialized in gyroscopes. His mother was a homemaker but later became the secretary at Bay Shore High School. In 1964, Metcalfe graduated from Bay Shore High School to join the MIT Class of 1968. He finally graduated from MIT in 1969 with two S.B. degrees, one in electrical engineering and the other in industrial management from the MIT Sloan School of Management. He then went to Harvard for graduate school, earning his M.S. in applied mathematics in 1970 and his PhD in computer science (applied mathematics) in 1973.
While pursuing a doctorate in computer science, Metcalfe took a job with MIT's Project MAC after Harvard refused to let him be responsible for connecting the school to the brand-new ARPAnet. At MAC, Metcalfe was responsible for building some of the hardware that would link MIT's minicomputers with the ARPAnet. ARPAnet was initially the topic of his doctoral dissertation, but the first version was not accepted.His inspiration for a new dissertation came while working at Xerox PARC, where he read a paper about the ALOHA network at the University of Hawaii. He identified and fixed some of the bugs in the AlohaNet model and made his analysis part of a revised thesis, which finally earned him his Harvard PhD in 1973.
Metcalfe was working at PARC in 1973 when he and David Boggs invented Ethernet, initially a standard for connecting computers over short distances. Metcalfe 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. "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," Metcalfe explained. Boggs identifies another date as the birth of Ethernet: November 11, 1973, the first day the system actually functioned.
In 1979, Metcalfe departed PARC and co-founded 3Com,a manufacturer of computer networking equipment, in his Palo Alto apartment. In 1980 he received the ACM Grace Hopper Award for his contributions to the development of local networks, specifically Ethernet. In 1990, in a boardroom skirmish, the 3Com board of directors chose Eric Benhamou to succeed Bill Krause as CEO of the networking company instead of Metcalfe. Metcalfe left 3Com and began a 10-year stint as a publisher and pundit, writing an Internet column for InfoWorld. He became a venture capitalist in 2001 and is now a general partner at Polaris Venture Partners. In 1997, he co-founded Pop!Tech, an executive technology conference.
In November 2010 Metcalfe was selected to lead innovation initiatives at The University of Texas at Austin's Cockrell School of Engineering. He began his appointment in January 2011.
Metcalfe was a keynote speaker at the 2016 Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders and in 2019 he presented the Bernard Price Memorial Lecture in South Africa.
In 1996, Metcalfe was awarded the IEEE Medal of Honor for "exemplary and sustained leadership in the development, standardization, and commercialization of Ethernet."
In 2003 he received the Marconi Award for "For inventing the Ethernet and promulgating his Law of network utility based on the square of the nodes"
On March 14, 2003, Metcalfe received the National Medal of Technology from President Bush in a White House ceremony "for leadership in the invention, standardization, and commercialization of Ethernet".
In May 2007, along with 17 others, Metcalfe, was inducted to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio, for his work with Ethernet technology.
In October 2008, Metcalfe received the Fellow Award from the Computer History Museum "for fundamental contributions to the invention, standardization, and commercialization of Ethernet."
Metcalfe predicted in 1995 that the Internet would suffer a "catastrophic collapse" the following year; he promised to eat his words if it did not. During his keynote speech at the sixth International World Wide Web Conference in 1997, he took a printed copy of his column that predicted the collapse, put it in a blender with some liquid and then consumed the pulpy mass.He had tried to eat his words printed on a very large cake, but the audience would not accept this form of "eating his words."
During an event where he talked about predictions at the eighth International World Wide Web Conference in 1999, a participant asked: what is the bet?. He stated that there was no bet as he was not ready to eat another column.
Metcalfe has harshly criticized open source software, and Linux in particular, predicting that the latter would be obliterated after Microsoft released Windows 2000:
He later recanted to some extent, saying in a column two weeks later:
He predicted that wireless networking would die out in the mid 1990s.:
He predicted in 2006 that Windows and Linux would not be able to handle video:
Ethernet is a family of computer networking technologies commonly used in local area networks (LAN), metropolitan area networks (MAN) and wide area networks (WAN). It was commercially introduced in 1980 and first standardized in 1983 as IEEE 802.3. Ethernet has since been refined to support higher bit rates, a greater number of nodes, and longer link distances, but retains much backward compatibility. Over time, Ethernet has largely replaced competing wired LAN technologies such as Token Ring, FDDI and ARCNET.
3Com Corporation was a digital electronics manufacturer best known for its computer network products. The company was co-founded in 1979 by Robert Metcalfe, Howard Charney and others. Metcalfe explained the name 3Com was a contraction of "Computer Communication Compatibility", with its focus on Ethernet technology that he had co-invented, which enabled the networking of computers.
ALOHAnet, also known as the ALOHA System, or simply ALOHA, was a pioneering computer networking system developed at the University of Hawaii. ALOHAnet became operational in June, 1971, providing the first public demonstration of a wireless packet data network. ALOHA originally stood for Additive Links On-line Hawaii Area.
BBN Technologies is an American research and development company, based next to Fresh Pond in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was the first wide-area packet-switching network with distributed control and one of the first networks to implement the TCP/IP protocol suite. Both technologies became the technical foundation of the Internet. The ARPANET was established by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the United States Department of Defense.
Andrew James Viterbi is an American electrical engineer and businessman who co-founded Qualcomm Inc. and invented the Viterbi algorithm. He is currently Presidential Chair Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Southern California's Viterbi School of Engineering, which was named in his honor in 2004 in recognition of his $52 million gift.
Robert Elliot Kahn is an American electrical engineer, who, along with Vint Cerf, first proposed the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), the fundamental communication protocols at the heart of the Internet.
Donald Watts Davies, was a Welsh computer scientist who was employed at the UK National Physical Laboratory (NPL).
Raymond Samuel Tomlinson was a pioneering American computer programmer who implemented the first email program on the ARPANET system, the precursor to the Internet, in 1971; he is internationally known and credited as the inventor of email. It was the first system able to send mail between users on different hosts connected to ARPANET. Previously, mail could be sent only to others who used the same computer. To achieve this, he used the @ sign to separate the user name from the name of their machine, a scheme which has been used in email addresses ever since. The Internet Hall of Fame in its account of his work commented "Tomlinson's email program brought about a complete revolution, fundamentally changing the way people communicate".
Paul Baran was a Polish-American engineer who was a pioneer in the development of computer networks. He was one of the two independent inventors of packet switching, which is today the dominant basis for data communications in computer networks worldwide, and went on to start several companies and develop other technologies that are an essential part of modern digital communication.
Tom Knight is an American synthetic biologist and computer engineer, who was formerly a senior research scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, a part of the MIT School of Engineering. He now works at the synthetic biology company Ginkgo Bioworks, which he cofounded in 2008.
The CYCLADES computer network was a French research network created in the early 1970s. It was one of the pioneering networks experimenting with the concept of packet switching and, unlike the ARPANET, was explicitly designed to facilitate internetworking.
Lawrence Gilman Roberts was an American engineer who received the Draper Prize in 2001 "for the development of the Internet", and the Principe de Asturias Award in 2002.
A computer network is a group of computers that use a set of common communication protocols over digital interconnections for the purpose of sharing resources located on or provided by the network nodes. The interconnections between nodes are formed from a broad spectrum of telecommunication network technologies, based on physically wired, optical, and wireless radio-frequency methods that may be arranged in a variety of network topologies.
Edholm's law, proposed by and named after Phil Edholm, refers to the observation that the three categories of telecommunication, namely wireless (mobile), nomadic and wired networks (fixed), are in lockstep and gradually converging. Edholm's law also holds that data rates for these telecommunications categories increase on similar exponential curves, with the slower rates trailing the faster ones by a predictable time lag. Edholm's law predicts that the bandwidth and data rates double every 18 months, which has proven to be true since the 1970s. The trend is evident in the cases of Internet, cellular (mobile), wireless LAN and wireless personal area networks.
David Reeves Boggs is an electrical and radio engineer from the United States who developed early prototypes of Internet protocols, file servers, gateways, network interface cards and, along with Robert Metcalfe and others, co-invented Ethernet, the most popular family of technologies for local area computer networks.
The NPL Network or NPL Data Communications Network was a local area computer network operated by a team from the National Physical Laboratory in London that pioneered the concept of packet switching.
Ronald "Ron" C. Crane was an American electrical engineer recognized for designing the EtherLink, the first network interface controller for the IBM PC. He has been credited as the co-founder of 3Com and the co-inventor of the Ethernet.
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|Awards and achievements|
Joel S. Engel, Richard H. Frenkiel and William C. Jakes, Jr.
| IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal |
Gerald R. Ash and Billy B. Oliver
| ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award |
Daniel S. Bricklin