MENLO PARK, Calif. – Bob Metcalfe was holding court with a small group of tech journalists over lunch in the Xerox PARC cafeteria when he spotted a former colleague across the room, an artificial intelligence researcher who was in the next office when Metcalfe wrote the memo that marked the birth of Ethernet 40 years ago.
“See that man sitting in the corner--that’s Danny Bobrow, an AI guru and he looks exactly the same as I recall him,” said Metcalfe, who hadn’t been back to PARC since 1975. “My office with the Selectric typewriter on which I wrote the Ethernet memo in 1972 was right next to his office,” Metcalfe said, waiving Bobrow over to the table.
The two men embraced briefly, then talked animatedly for a few minutes. “You’re looking very fit. Still playing tennis?” asked Bobrow.
“Bob was very competitive--a very strong tennis and squash player--so it was fun when I could take a squash match from him, and get a ‘Wait till next time, Bobrow!’ Metcalfe recalled later in an email to an EE Times reporter.
Metcalfe talks with Dan Bobrow (left) while a journalist listens.
“He hasn't changed very much since I first knew him 40+ years ago,” said Bobrow, in an email exchange after the brief reunion. “He was a graduate student, and his shock of now beautiful white hair was dark, but he was feisty and sure of himself even then.
“I loved the way he would argue right back with Butler, Chuck and whoever, and he was right as at least as often as he was wrong,” he said. “I don't remember his use of my typewriter, but my office was always open, so it could certainly have happened,” he added.
“Danny was at BBN where they were developing the Internet a couple decades before Al Gore invented it,” quipped Metcalfe to reporters after Bobrow departed.
Should also point out that the triumvirate of Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC)--remember those guys, Intel, and Xerox also had a hand in creating the 10-Mbit Ethernet standard that prevailed over the IBM token ring network and others. Funny how much history gets lost in time.
IMHO, the token ring is a superior protocol! It is deterministic, one could allocate bandwidth and priority to a given node, and many other benefits. The problem was marketing ant the greediness and over protection of IBM.
And look at the current Ethernet! Just a point-to-point, switched network, with a single point of failure.