The Voices of Ethernet: Preserving the Past as we Look to the Future, Part I
Technology regularly comes and goes, but Ethernet has a longevity that is worth exploring. Celebrating 50 years of innovation this year, Ethernet’s history is a rich tale of brilliant vision brought to life by the tireless efforts of those who saw its game-changing potential.
The Ethernet Alliance is dedicated to preserving Ethernet’s past through its Voices of Ethernet oral history archive. Featuring many of the key figures behind the technology’s major milestones and pivotal events, the series captures personal recollections and anecdotes spanning Ethernet’s half-century of existence.
The Voices of Ethernet delves into a broad array of topics ranging from Ethernet’s origins to its bright future, as well as its profound impact on the diverse industries that it continues to serve. Moderated by Ethernet Alliance Chairman, Peter Jones of Cisco, each video interview offers unparalleled insights from these visionary leaders.
In Part 1 of this journey through the Voices of Ethernet archive, we meet Ethernet’s co-founder Bob Metcalfe, cable modem pioneer Dr. Rouzbeh Yassini-Fard, and “the Frank Lloyd Wright of computers”, Gordon Bell.
Dr. Robert (Bob) Metcalfe and the Napkin Sketch That Changed the World
In 1973, Ethernet co-inventor Robert (Bob) Metcalfe quickly sketched a diagram for connecting multiple computers in a local area network onto a napkin, labeling the drawing with a single word: “ETHER!”. And the rest, as they say, is our history.
In this interview. Bob shares his reflections on Ethernet’s origin and its early days, and addresses its transformative impact on networking. He emphasizes the importance of innovation, collaboration, and standards in shaping the future, noting, “Ethernet has had an enormous positive impact on the world. The promise of Ethernet is a promise of abundant bandwidth, serendipitous applications, open standards, backward compatibility and fierce competition.” Watch the full interview here.
Father of the Cable Modem, Dr. Rouzbeh Yassini-Fard
Rouzbeh Yassini-Fard, Ph.D. is many things – inventor, serial entrepreneur, philanthropist, the Father of the Cable Modem. But if there is any one thing that defines him, it is passion. Dedicated to creating innovative, new technologies capable of lifting up humanity as a whole, his passion led him to help create the world’s first cable modem. He followed that up by establishing the groundbreaking Data over Cable Service Interface Specifications, better known as DOCSIS.
In his Voices of Ethernet interview, Dr. Yassini-Fard discusses how lessons learned from Ethernet’s evolution impacted his work with the cable modem, open standards, and more. He notes, “Ethernet has done a fantastic job of connecting people. But the next thing is, would Ethernet be able to connect the real-time data of the air that we breathe and the water that we drink, to be able to provide valuable health information to improve our quality of life?” Watch the full interview here.
The “Frank Lloyd Wright of Computing”, Gordon Bell
From his start in a small farming town nestled in the heart of Northeast Missouri, to introducing the world to the minicomputer, Gordon Bell has led a remarkable life. From MIT and Carnegie-Mellon University, to Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and the National Science Foundation, to becoming known as the “Frank Lloyd Wright of Computing”, he is a pioneering computer designer, architect, and researcher who saw Ethernet not as simply a clever idea, but a necessary step forward.
In this interview, Gordon explains how Ethernet solved a key problem of connecting the devices across DEC’s Virtual Address eXtension (VAX) computers: “We had two or three different networks that were in place within our research group but none that was exactly like Ethernet.” Watch the full interview here.
Preserving the Past as We Work on the Future
The Ethernet Alliance is committed to collecting the stories behind Ethernet. Remembering and learning about its storied past will help us all stay better informed as we work on shaping its future. Explore the Voices of Ethernet or nominate other individuals whose recollections should be captured for this important oral history archive.