Even if you're not plugging an Ethernet cable into the wall, somewhere along the chain you're still relying on that technology to get online. You've got Bob Metcalfe and the late David Boggs to thank for that. Together at Xerox's renowned Palo Alto Research Institute (better known as Xerox PARC), the pair developed Ethernet and set the stage for a networking revolution. Yesterday, Metcalfe received the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) A.M. Turing Award, which is often pegged the "Nobel Prize of computing."
Thanks to funding from Google, that prize is now worth $1 million, and it's yet another highlight for Metcalfe's storied career. After leaving Xerox PARC, he founded 3com, a networking equipment company that brought Ethernet to the mainstream. “It is dangerous to accept an award for developing Ethernet, which turns 50 on May 22, 2023,” Metcalfe told the University of Texas, where he now serves as a professor emeritus. “Over Ethernet’s 50 years, hundreds of people have earned some claim of inventorship. Join me in saying to these folks, ‘Thank you.’”
Despite its notoriety as a cable technology, Metcalfe told the New York Times that he originally envisioned it to be more like the Wi-Fi we know today. “We wanted to make it wireless,” he said. “But we couldn’t have zero wires. It would have been too slow and too expensive.”