Bob Metcalfe, professor of innovation at the University of Texas at Austin, celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Ethernet today at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.
“On May 22, 1973 with David R. Boggs, I used my IBM Selectric with its Orator ball to type up a memo to my bosses at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), outlining our idea for this little invention called “Ethernet”, which we later patented,” Metcalfe wrote in a post to Reddit.
In addition to attending a celebration at the Computer History Museum, Metcalfe participated in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” two hour long session.
Metcalfe kicked off the session with this post: “You’re probably connecting to reddit through a technology I invented. I’m Bob Metcalfe and I invented Ethernet – AMA”
During the AMA, Metcalfe answered a wide range of questions including whether he made a lot of money off his invention, to which he answered he didn’t make a lot on patent royalties from Ethernet “but by SELLING Ethernet for a decade to people who didn’t know they needed it.”
Metcalfe has given several talks and written articles about the importance of sales for entrepreneurs. In his 1999 article “Invention is a Flower, Innovation is a Weed” he explains why sales matter.
Metcalfe also reported that the official Ethernet cable color is yellow. (I thought it was blue)
One of my favorite answers from Metcalfe is to the question “Do you think someone else could have done it at the time?”
Metcalfe responded “Yes, but they didn’t. I was lucky to be born to my parents, to accidentally get accepted to MIT, to sneak into Xerox Parc, and lucky to get the completely new problem of having a building full of personal computers, one on every desk, if you can image.”
Another thing Metcalfe often says is that he doesn’t know why he succeeded.
“Most successful entrepreneurs I’ve met have no idea about the reasons for their success. They were thrown-like rocks. I had the good fortune to be thrown into Silicon Valley. My trajectory was a mystery to me then, and only a little less so now,” according to that 1999 article.
And the best advice someone gave Metcalfe on how to deal with challenging people or situations?
“God (or Darwin) gave us one mouth and two ears. Take the hint. Best to listen first. Summarize back with the language you’ve heard. Then, act!”
Someone should really give Metcalfe his own talk show. He dispenses good advice as easily as Oprah. And although I’ve been lucky enough to hear Metcalfe speak several times since he landed in Austin two years ago, he is always inspiring and insightful. I learn from him every time.
Metcalfe also answered a few questions about the Internet’s impact on society.
“The Internet reduces market frictions and expands freedom of choice. I give the Internet credit for everything good that has happened since 1969.”
He also said that he thought Google’s Fiber rollout in Austin would spur even more competition to provide even faster Internet speeds throughout the region.
In response to a question about his opinion of Google, he said he wished he had thought of it.
“As a professor of innovation, I like Google especially because of its “pivot” from fast search to auctioned targeted advertising. Google unseated Microsoft which unseated IBM. Who will unseat Google? Cannot wait to see how that plays out.”
You can read the full post here.
You can also find more about the 40th anniversary of the Internet on its Facebook page.