Ethernet Marks 40 Years Linking People, Computers in a Wired World

1 - Ethernet Marks 40 Years Linking People, Computers in a Wired World
2 - Ethernet Celebrates a Big Milestone
3 - The Saffo and Metcalfe Show
4 - First Computer With a Mouse and Keyboard
5 - Ethernet Cables Were All Yellow at First
6 - Ethernet Once Had to Compete for Network Dominance
7 - Early Cisco Systems Router
8 - Ethernet Circuit Board for Alto Computer
9 - Ethernet Cable With Transceiver
10 - Texas Instruments Silent 700 Computer
11 - Ethernet Co-Inventors Bob Metcalfe and Dave Boggs
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Ethernet Marks 40 Years Linking People, Computers in a Wired World

by Chris Preimesberger

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Ethernet Celebrates a Big Milestone

On May 22, 1973, Bob Metcalfe of the Palo Alto Research Center (now Xerox PARC) wrote a memo he circulated that was entitled "Alto Ethernet." The memo contained a rough schematic of how it would work. Ethernet now runs on about 90 percent of all the world's connected devices. The event, held May 22 and 23 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, drew a capacity audience.

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The Saffo and Metcalfe Show

Event emcee and Stanford University professor/author/futurist Paul Saffo (right) jokes with Bob Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet, at the Ethernet Innovation Summit at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Metcalfe founded 3Com, and as of January 2006, he is a general partner of Polaris Venture Partners. He is also a professor of electrical engineering and director of innovation at the University of Texas at Austin.

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First Computer With a Mouse and Keyboard

The Xerox Parc Alto PC was the first computer to use the desktop metaphor and mouse-driven graphical user interface (GUI). It used a portrait screen orientation and was the granddaddy of many PCs to follow, including the Apple II, the IBM PC, the Macintosh and dozens of others. This one is on display at the Computer History Museum.

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Ethernet Cables Were All Yellow at First

Now you can find Ethernet cables in many colors—blue, red and black are common—but when the networking software and hardware first came out in the 1980s, all the cables were yellow.

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Ethernet Once Had to Compete for Network Dominance

At first Apple was not into networking at all, but it was obvious in the early 1980s that it was going to have to have its own internal connectivity. Thus was born AppleTalk in 1983 (cables at left), which was used with all Apple PCs. AppleTalk, Ethernet and IBM's Token Ring networking system competed for users in those early days. Over time, Ethernet eclipsed all the competing systems.

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Early Cisco Systems Router

Back in 1986, this network router was cutting-edge. Of course it looks clunky now, but state-of-the-art changes very quickly. This Advanced Gateway Server router was the first to be able to map one network protocol into another. Ethernet worked hand-in-glove with this device.

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Ethernet Circuit Board for Alto Computer

This board went inside an Alto computer and provided the circuitry for connecting it to an Ethernet network. PCs added similar boards two years later. This dates back to 1973—two full decades before the Internet began to go mainstream.

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Ethernet Cable With Transceiver

This 1980s-era thick yellow cable was the same kind used for some early cable television systems. It was "shared ether" over which Ethernet packets were transmitted. Each computer connected to a transceiver (transmitter-receiver) box attached directly to the cable.

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Texas Instruments Silent 700 Computer

The Silent 700 was a line of portable computer terminals manufactured by TI in the 1970s and 1980s. Silent 700s printed with a dot-matrix heating element onto a roll of heat-sensitive paper. Some models were equipped with an integrated acoustic coupler and modem that could receive data at 30 characters per second.

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Ethernet Co-Inventors Bob Metcalfe and Dave Boggs

As a student in his 20s at MIT, Metcalfe connected computers to Arpanet, the government/military predecessor to the Internet. Later, he teamed up with radio expert David Boggs (right) to implement Ethernet, and later to collaborate on internetworking. Both Metcalfe and Boggs were on hand May 22 and 23 for the Ethernet Innovation Summit in Mountain View.

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