Ethernet Invention Revealed the Origins of Innovation
NEWS ANALYSIS: Ethernet's invention 40 years ago showed that innovation can happen when smart people are given time to think and to work together.PALO ALTO, Calif.—There in front of me were the first boxy Ethernet transceivers that Dave Boggs built by hand 40 years ago when he and Bob Metcalfe invented Ethernet. One of them was attached to a length of RG-8 coaxial cable using a vampire tap, a type of connector that pierced the insulation on the side of the cable. This was the original Ethernet, displayed in front of an enlarged drawing of Bob Metcalfe's original drawing of this ground-breaking innovation. But there in a small room with many other objects invented at the Palo Alto Research Center was what many of the attendees at the Ethernet Innovation Summit referred to as a shrine to Ethernet, perhaps one of the most significant advances in communications in history. In the same room were the Alto computer, which had the first mouse, the first graphical display and the first GUI. From PARC came inventions as diverse as the laser printer and a water-filtration system with no moving parts.
But earlier in the day I found the real insight into innovation when I enjoyed lunch and a long conversation with Radia Perlman, who made internetworking possible when she invented Spanning Tree, and later in a long conversation with Metcalfe and Boggs that ranged from ham radio to the future of networking. Finally Glenn Ricart, founder and CTO of US Ignite, sat down at my table to talk about how his organization fosters innovation.