Bob Metcalfe has just won the most prestigious award for computer experts – the 2022 Turing Award! He earned it by coming up with the Ethernet network, which now connects billions of devices like laptops and smartphones to the internet. Back in 1973, he wrote a memo about this idea to his bosses at Xerox PARC, a very famous research center that invented many cool things. 50 years later, here we are!
The Turning Award is given by the Association for Computing Machinery and rewards the winner with $1 million. It’s sometimes called the Nobel Prize of computing since it honors amazing inventors like Alan Turing from World War II. People who have won this award are responsible for designing chips, encryption, programming, the web, the internet, and AI technology.
Bob Metcalfe is a very busy person! He co-founded 3Com, a company that made lots of money due to the introduction of Ethernet. Bob also writes columns, teaches and invests in different businesses. In fact, he even claims that this is his sixth career already! Right now, he’s writing computer programs to show how geothermal energy plants and other real-life systems work. The goal of this project isn’t to make things better – it’s to help us learn more about these systems.
Metcalfe’s Law Proven True
Metcalfe is famous for his idea called Metcalfe’s Law. It says that the usefulness of a network increases as more people join it. To prove his idea, Metcalfe looked at Facebook’s members and revenue over 10 years – and noticed that they grew together!
6 Terabits Per Second
Back in the day, Wired Ethernet first started with a data speed of 2.94 megabits per second. But now, it’s way faster and has reached 800 gigabits per second (which is about 272,000 times faster). Amazingly enough, it can reach even higher speeds soon and doubles its current speed to 1.6 terabits per second!
Even though we don’t have wired Ethernet ports on laptops and phones anymore, it still got adapted by Wi-Fi standards which made using the internet much easier and more accessible for everyone. Actually, there’s even another name for this technology – Wireless Ethernet!
Bob Metcalfe’s 50 Year Grudge Against Token Ring
Ethernet is a popular technology used in almost all digital devices today. However, when it first came out, it faced competition from IBM’s Token Ring. Bob Metcalfe was frustrated that Token Ring lasted for 20 years and it had to be stopped eventually. He even joked about how annoying the situation was.
Metcalfe said, “I’m only human and I haven’t been able to forgive those people after 50 years. Even though it’s been a long time, the Token Ring people aren’t allowed to come to my dinners.”