Bob Metcalfe

2008 Fellow

For fundamental contributions to the invention, standardization, and commercialization of Ethernet

"The value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users."

— Bob Metcalfe

Bob Metcalfe received CHM’s Fellow Award in 2008 for leading invention, standardization, and commercialization of the Ethernet local-area networking system for personal computers (PCs).

Metcalfe was born on April 7, 1946 in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1969 with bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and industrial management. At Harvard University in 1970, he earned his master’s degree in applied mathematics. His 1973 Harvard PhD dissertation, Packet Communication, came out of research on Arpanet at MIT Project MAC and on Alohanet at the University of Hawaii.

In 1972, Metcalfe joined the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). He worked in the Computer Science Laboratory led by Jerry Elkind, Bob Taylor, Butler Lampson, and Chuck Thacker, who were developing early PCs. Metcalfe, in collaboration with David Boggs, invented and developed the Ethernet local-area network (LAN) and its system of packet protocols, which have proliferated and evolved to become today's Internet plumbing.

In 1979, Metcalfe founded 3Com Corporation to promote "computer communication compatibility." 3Com initially developed PC LAN products based on emerging UNIX, TCP/IP, and Ethernet standards, went public in 1984, and grew into a billion-dollar networking company.

Metcalfe served as the "marriage broker" who convinced DEC, Intel, and Xerox (DIX) to work together to promote Ethernet as an open standard.

In September 1980, DIX published its "Blue Book" specification for Ethernet and submitted it for standardization by the newly formed IEEE Project 802. Ethernet's hard fought standardization resulted in a tidal wave of interoperable products from hundreds of manufacturers. In 2008, according to IDC, 350 million new Ethernet switch ports will be shipped, not including Wi-Fi products.

From 1990-2000, Metcalfe wrote weekly Internet columns in InfoWorld, collected in his book, “Internet Collapses”. In 2001, Metcalfe joined Polaris Venture Partners. Metcalfe's Internet pioneering earned him many honors including the ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award; the IEEE Medal of Honor; the National Medal of Technology; and induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.


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