Ethernet filters out porn, plus  9 other facts (?) we learned from Bob Metcalfe’s Reddit Q&A

Ethernet inventor  weighs in on SDN, color of Ethernet and more during Reddit AMA to mark network technology’s 40th anniversary

Bob Metcalfe, who 40 years ago invented Ethernet along with David Boggs, spent two hours this week regaling Reddit users with his thoughts on everything from  software-defined networking to Internet porn.

Bob Metcalfe

Bob Metcalfe

[HISTORY: 20 milestones in Ethernet’s first 40 years]

Reddit users taking part in Metcalfe’s Tuesday Ask Me Anything (AMA) session lobbed a mix of technical, business and off-the-wall questions at the current University of Texas at Austin professor, who launched the Q&A this way: “You’re probably connecting to reddit through a technology I invented. I’m Bob Metcalfe and I invented Ethernet.” Metcalfe even bonded with one AMA participant over their shared hatred of one-time Ethernet rival Token Ring.

Here are 10 things we learned from plowing through the AMA:

1. Asked whether he made a lot of money off the invention of Ethernet, Metcalfe responded that he didn’t make any money on patent royalties, but “by SELLING Ethernet for a decade to people who didn’t know they needed it [as a 3Com co-founder].

2. Questioned about his preferred color of Ethernet cable, Metcalfe definitively responded that “Yellow is the official Ethernet cable color, in my mind. I wonder if IEEE has a spec on that.”

3. Regarding SDN, the latest rage in networking as seen at the recent Interop conference, Metcalfe is bullish: “SDN is one of the next big things in the Gigafication of the Internet. Control is moving into the network, but I would not say it is being centralized.”

4. Asked about his relative lack of name recognition, Metcalfe countered that he’s quite famous among “networking nerds,” though he did ask: Who is Katy Perry? [Note: Metcalfe is one of the network industry's most decorated pioneers in terms of awards, honors and prizes.]

5. Asked to share his thoughts on the most positive impact of the Internet on society, Metcalfe said the ‘Net “reduces market frictions and expands freedom of choice.” And oh yeah:  “I give the Internet credit for everything good that has happened since 1969.”

6. Metcalfe called Bill Gates a “great man,” adding that “It would be very hard to find someone else better at being the richest man on Earth. Bill may not like me for going after Microsoft for its anti-competitive practices during the 1990s, but I meant no harm.”

7. Metcalfe is enthusiastic about Google Fiber coming to his town: “Google Fiber is great news for everyone, especially as a spur to AT&T and Comcast and Time Warner et al. Competition!”

8. Metcalfe says that because Ethernet is everywhere it’s hard to say what the craziest application is, but when pressed, he mentioned the F-16.

9. One deep question was: How do I send data into the future. To which Metcalfe replied: “Just leave data lying around, and it will get to the future automatically.”

10. Finally, you knew we weren’t going to get through a Reddit discussion without a question about porn. Metcalfe was asked about whether he thought porn would be such a big deal on the Internet at the outset. Metcalfe quipped: “What?! Porn on the Internet? Ethernet filters out porn.”

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