Evolution of Ethernet

From 3Mbps over shared coax to 40/100Gbps over fiber?and beyond

Bridge to Terabit Ethernet

The IEEE is pushing Ethernet to unimaginable speeds, with the 40/100Gigabit Ethernet standard expected to be ratified in 2010 and Terabit Ethernet on the drawing board for 2015. Here's a timeline showing key milestones in the growth of Ethernet.

1973: Bob Metcalfe writes memo

Bob Metcalfe, working at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center, was told to come up with a way to link hundreds of computers to the company's new laser printers. Metcalfe's initial thoughts are captured on this diagram, which was part of his memo describing a design for Ethernet at 3Mbps over shared coaxial cable.

1976: First paper published

Metcalfe and David Boggs publish paper entitled: "Ethernet: Distributed Packet-Switching for Local Computer Networks." Paper describes multipoint data communication system with collision detection.

1979: Metcalfe founds 3Com

Metcalfe leaves Xerox and founds 3Com. The next year, he publishes standard for 10Mbps Ethernet, known as the DIX standard (for Ethernet backers Digital, Intel and Xerox).

1985: IEEE takes over as Ethernet standards body

The IEEE becomes the official standards body for Ethernet. Open standards help make Ethernet the dominant LAN technology. Anybody remember Token Ring ?

1986: Ethernet over garden hose

IEEE publishes standard for 10Base5 Ethernet, also known as thick Ethernet because it ran over yellow coax that resembled a garden hose. Imagine stringing that across your LAN.

1989: Kalpana ships first Ethernet switch

Start-up Kalpana introduces first Ethernet switch, which eventually replaces bridges and hubs. Where's Kalpana today? You guessed it: Cisco bought them.

1991: Twisted pair to the rescue

IEEE approves 10Base-T Ethernet over Cat-3 twisted pair cabling, which becomes the standard for LAN deployments.

1994: Ethernet over fibre

IEEE approves 10BaseF, Ethernet over fibre for use in data centers.

1995: Fast Ethernet

IEEE adopts standard for Ethernet at 100Mbps. It becomes known as Fast Ethernet.

1998: From Fast to Even Faster

Standard for 1000Base-T or Gigabit Ethernet is approved.

2002: 10Gig Ethernet

Pre-standard products start shipping in 2001, but formal standard for 10Gigabit Ethernet is approved in 2002.

The future: 40/100 and on to Terabit Ethernet

First pre-standard 40/100 Gigabit Ethernet products slated to ship later this year . Standard expected to be ratified in mid-2010. IEEE says it will then start working on terabit standard , with a goal of completion by 2015.