Oral History of Robert M. "Bob" Metcalfe, Part 1

Interviewed by Len Shustek on 2006-11-29 in Boston Massachusetts, X3819.2007

Robert (Bob) Metcalfe led 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.

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