Internet Pioneer Bob Metcalfe Celebrates Ethernet’s 46th Anniversary

Bob Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, holds up a T-Shirt from the Computer History Museum imprinted with his original sketch for Ethernet from a May 22, 1973 memo he wrote

Ethernet’s 46th anniversary is Wednesday, May 22nd and on this occasion, Silicon Hills News has done a special edition Ideas to Invoices podcast with Bob Metcalfe, founder of Ethernet.

Metcalfe is also professor of Innovation at the University of Texas at Austin. On Tuesday morning, he spoke to Silicon Hills News on the outdoor deck of Mozart’s Coffee Roasters. An occasional bird can be heard in the background as we chatted under the giant oak trees overlooking Lake Austin.

Metcalfe, who came to Austin in 2010, is also taking a 15-month leave from his position at the University of Texas at Austin starting this summer. During his time off, he plans to work with two Austin startups, which he declined to name.

Metcalfe sketched out the diagram for how Ethernet would work and included it in a memo he typed up on an IBM Selectric Typewriter. (which he thinks might have been invented in Austin) He was working at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, known as PARC.

Metcalfe also formulated Metcalfe’s Law, “which states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system.” And that’s been one of the greatest achievements of the Internet and Ethernet is the ability to connect so many worldwide.

This year, Ethernet celebrates its 46th anniversary, the Internet celebrates its 50th anniversary, 3Com, the company Metcalfe went on to found, which is now part of HP, celebrates its 40th anniversary and the World Wide Web turns 30 years old.

It seemed like the perfect time to chat about Metcalfe’s accomplishments of the past, the killer app of the Internet and some of the ill effects of the Internet and social networks.

For example, Metcalfe quit Twitter in January of this year because the social network continually put him in a bad mood from reading various tweets. It also ate up a lot of his time. He now has reclaimed three and a half hours a day that he used to spend on Twitter, he said. He still does post information to Facebook, and he’s careful not to spend too much time on that platform.

Metcalfe also thinks the current problems the Internet faces will be solved. And there’s so much more he talks about so tune in and listen to the whole podcasat below or on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.