Ethernet inventor makes the Inventors Hall of Fame

Bob Metcalfe's LAN technology ranks up there with the air bag, LP record, weed killer.

Ethernet is right up there with magnetic resonance imaging, the LP record, air bags, and soft contact lenses. So says the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which included Bob Metcalfe, inventor of the ubiquitous LAN technology, in its latest round of inductees.

Metcalfe, along with David Boggs, created Ethernet technology while the two were researchers Xerox PARC in 1973. Originally, the technology transmitted data at 3Mbps over thick coaxial cable. Today Ethernet travels as fast as 10Gbps, and runs over mostly twisted pair copper and fiber optic cabling. Ethernet became an IEEE standard, known as 802.3, in 1983. Metcalfe took his invention to the market in 1979 when he founded networking company 3Com. He retired from 3Com in 1990 and is currently a partner at venture capital firm Polaris Venture Partners. Metcalfe is also known for formulating "Metcalfe's Law," which says that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of users of the system.

Metcalfe holds a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from MIT, and a B.S. degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management, which he received in 1969. He received an M.S. degree in applied mathematics from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in computer science from Harvard.

Other IT- and computer-related inventors in this years group of 18 inductees include Peter Goldmark, inventor of magnetic disk storage, as well as Paul Baran and Donald Davies (a posthumous inductee) both of whom invented digital packet switching. Other inductees include MRI inventor Paul C. Lauterbur, the late Peter C. Goldmark, creator of the long-playing record, John E. Franz, concoctor of the herbicide Roundup, the late Allen Breed, who invented the automotive air bag, and the late Otto Wichterle, creator of soft contact lenses.

Including the class of 2007, the Inventors Hall of Fame has 331 members, including Alexander Graham Bell, Orville and Wilbur Wright, and Guglielmo Marconi.

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