7 highlights from Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe's Reddit AMA

Professor Metcalfe tackles SDN, NSA and automotive networks during interactive Reddit session

Bob Metcalfe

Bob Metcalfe

Father of Ethernet Bob Metcalfe bravely dove back into the Reddit Ask Me Anything pool on Wednesday, deftly fielding questions from the masses about everything from techie topics like SDN to news topics like the NSA to random topics like bar fighting.

Metcalfe, who along with David Boggs came up with the all-powerful Ethernet concept while at Xerox PARC in 1973, also did a Reddit AMA last year to celebrate Ethernet’s 40th anniversary. Metcalfe has been honored many times over for his contributions to the network industry. 

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Here are seven highlights from today’s Reddit AMA, which comes on a week when others doing the online Q&As include The Office’s B.J. Novak, musician Moby and film director Kevin Smith. Metcalfe’s AMA elicited more than 200 comments at the time of this writing:

1. Asked about the next big interface/protocol, Metcalfe replied: “Automotive. Cars will have three networks. (1) Within the car. (2) From the car up to the Internet. And (3) among cars. IEEE 802 is ramping up for these standards now, I hope.” One Reddittor apparently knowledgeable about networking quipped: “Brings a whole new meaning to the concept of ‘collisions’.”

2. Queried about his feelings on the NSA collecting anything not nailed down, Metcalfe backed the government entity: “America needs an NSA, because we have dangerous enemies. Perhaps they've been over-doing it lately. I am worried that the current administration will destroy NSA in the current scandal.”

3. Metcalfe was asked what he thought about how today’s current big companies do in terms of investing in new technologies vs. how Xerox did it back in the day. His response: “The only companies that can afford research are monopolies, which I do not think are worth it, and they are the least motivated to take their innovations into the markets they dominate. So, I favor doing America's research at our 100+ research universities. Google is very cool R&D, like Parc was, only way bigger. Apple seems to do only D, but they do it so well and innovate ‘openly.’”

4. One poster asked, excepting Ethernet and asteroid mining, what technology he most looks forward to. As an educator himself these days, Metcalfe replied:  “I am eagerly awaiting the Internet's coming disruption of education -- MOOCs and their descendants. Also, healthcare, more personal and preventative, thanks to networking.”

5. Where does Metcalfe come down on the big Net Neutrality debate? “Am neutral on net neutrality. Way too complicated. Busy elsewhere.”

6.  On the topic of software-defined networking, Metcalfe said it’s promising:  “SDN will change names several more times, but something akin to it, say network virtualization, is a coming thing, like for processors and storage.”

7. As for the stranger questions, Metcalfe was asked if he could take The Office’s B.J. Novak in a bar fight, to which the University of Texas at Austin professor replied: “Be careful, bar fighting is one of my hobbies.” He was asked about his thoughts on Oscar-winning actor Jennifer Lawrence, but said he didn’t know who she was.

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