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How Ethernet Was Invented Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129837D
Original Publication Date: 1994-Dec-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 12 page(s) / 49K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

IEEE Computer Society: OWNER


Editor's note: In this article, Bob Metcalfe tells how he and David R. Boggs invented Ethernet at Xerox PARC.

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This record contains textual material that is copyright ©; 1994 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact the IEEE Computer Society (714-821-8380) for copies of the complete work that was the source of this textual material and for all use beyond that as a record from the SPI Database.

How Ethernet Was Invented

Editor's note: In this article, Bob Metcalfe tells how he and David R. Boggs invented Ethernet at Xerox PARC.

People often ask me whether I invented Ethernet, really? I would like to think that they ask because they admire Ethernet so much, but then maybe there is something about me that makes them doubt I could invent anything. In either case. yes. l really did invent Ethernet, but not just once, certainly not alone, and all this depends on what you mean by invent.

Roughly speaking, I invented Ethernet three times: the raw technology with David R. Boggs at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1973, the industry standard with Gordon Bell at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in 1979, and the breakthrough product with Ronald C. Crane at 3Com Corporation in 1982.

The 20th anniversary of Ethernet's first invention -- of the raw technology -- has passed. And now with Ethernet connecting 10 million computers worldwide, it has become the plumbing in what some are starting to call the infrastructure of the information age. So perhaps it is time to tell this story, of how Ethernet was invented the first time, with Dave Boggs at PARC.

Packet switching in ARPAnet.

My enthusiasm for computer networking began in 1969. Graduating (with bachelor's degrees in electrical engineering and management) after five years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I began work in computer networking as a PhD student in applied mathematics at Harvard University. I was actually still more of an MIT engineer than a Harvard mathematician, so, while continuing at Harvard, I found a full-time job working on the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) Computer Network (ARPAnet) at MIT's Multiple Access Computer Project (Project MAC). ARPAnet was a large-scale experiment in computer packet-switching technology. At various universities and research establishments around the United States, ARPA installed switching computers called Interface Message Processors (IMPs). I built ARPAnet interface hardware and operating system software for a DEC PDP-10, connecting it to the ARPAnet's sixth IMP, installed on the ninth floor of 545 Technology Square at MIT. I designed networking protocols and wrote experimental networking protocol software. I also became an ARPAnet "facilitator," a roving technical expert for new ARPA sites who wanted to join the network.

In 1972 I completed my PhD research on ARPAnet and was looking forward to joining the newly formed Computer Science Laboratory (CSL) in the Xerox Palo Alto Res...