Ethernet celebrates 40th anniversary

This week sees Ethernet celebrate its 40th anniversay after being invented on 22 May 1973.

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This week sees Ethernet celebrate its 40th anniversay after being invented on 22 May 1973.

The initial patented version of Ethernet was developed at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC) by 'Father of the Ethernet' Bob Metcalfe and his team.

On 22 May 1973 Metcalfe drew his diagram and sent a memo outlining the Ethernet concept for the very first time.

Metcalfe told this week's NetEvents Ethernet 40th anniversary event in Mountain View: "Dave Boggs and I were the principal inventors of Ethernet, but we had a lot of help."

Also named on the patent were Butler Lampson and Chuck Thacker. Tat Lam, a contractor at Xerox PARC, also helped develop the transceiver. 

Ethernet started as a 2.94mbps network running on thick co-ax cable to today's high-speed Ethernet running over fibre, copper or wireless.

Metcalfe said: "We wanted to move away from box centric working to network centric working with the network in the middle - now we have the cloud."

Metcalfe explains his team wanted to move away from "timeshare" computing and put a computer on everyone's desk.

"At PARC we put one on every desk then ran this co-ax down the middle of the corridor and everybody tapped into it from their PCs - so it then grew to fill the building."

Metcalfe went on to found 3Com, makers of the first commercial Ethernet cards. Over 20 years Ethernet saw off the competition from various other rival networking technologies - including Token Ring, DECNet, WangNet, AppleTalk and ARCNET - to dominate the local area network (LAN) space.

Over the last ten years Carrier Ethernet has been developed to enable these islands of data to be connected via Ethernet, rather than more expensive and less scalable wide area network (WAN) technologies like Frame Relay and ATM.

Last year saw, for the first time, Carrier Ethernet technology sales are said to have exceeded those of all other WAN technologies combined.

Nan Chen, president of the Metro Ethernet Forum - which promotes standards for Carrier Ethernet - said: "In the future there will be a single language linking business worldwide. It won't be English. It won't be Mandarin. It will be Ethernet."

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