Interview with Gary Robinson
In 1980, when IEEE started Project 802 to standardize local area networks (LANs), Gary Robinson was part of the “DIX-group” which submitted the “Blue Book” carrier-sense multiple access with collision detection (CSMA/CD) specification as a candidate. “I would have liked to have one size fits all—and for it to be me,” he admits. Indeed, Robinson ended up being one of the catalysts in developing the flexibility of the IEEE 802 standards family and working group which has proven to be key to its long-term viability.
It was the idea of his wife, a psychotherapist. “My wife suggested a way of doing it. I implemented it. Other people followed,” Robinson says in an interview with Ethernet Alliance chair Peter Jones for The Voices of Ethernet oral history archive.
The “dot” structure to the IEEE 802 LAN group and standards (IEEE 802.1, 802.2, 802.3, etc.)—which Robinson advocated for in the early years of activity—was crucial in evolving to a fluid, productive activity in which disparate participants were freed to “go out and work to solve their needs,” he says. “Understanding what the needs of the people are—not the technology—is what made this standard work.”
“Ethernet standards achieved a great deal. Standards are the thing that allowed the market and individuals to be able to use Ethernet at a very competitive cost, and the fact is you plug it in and it works. It is very complicated to pass data from one point to another over Ethernet. Yet because it is a standard and so many people have implemented it and improved it, it just makes it work. It is ubiquitous everywhere. ”Gary Robinson