Reunion to mark 40 years of Ethernet

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Ethernet, the networking technology's alumni will be heading back to where it all began.

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This year marks the 40th anniversary of the birth of Ethernet and modern networking.

It happened at the Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC), in Silicon Valley, on 22 May 1973, when Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe sent a sketch outlining the networking concept to his colleague and Ethernet co-inventor, David Boggs. The idea was born out of a request to create a networking system for PARC's computers, allowing all the computers to print to the world's first laser printer, which was being developed at PARC at the time.

"We didn't have Google, we didn't have the Internet. Today's innovators can find out in the twinkling of an eye almost all the previous work and people working in their field," says Metcalfe, adding that he and Boggs had a lot of help transforming his simple diagram into a reality. "In those days, our big innovation was putting a computer on every desk - I know that's hard to believe!"

According to Metcalfe, Silicon Valley in the 1970s could be described as a hotbed of innovation; an innovative culture that Steve Hoover, CEO of PARC, likens to the curiosity of a group of five-year-olds. "It's all the questioning - the why? Why? Why? - that leads to really good innovation, because people are getting to the fundamental ideas, they're questioning the status quo, they're willing to change it and break it. Fail on the way and then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on to the next."

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the computer networking technology, PARC, the Computer History Museum, and the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) are taking things back to where it all began. The trio have partnered to celebrate the occasion with three consecutive events based at the Computer History Museum, in Mountain View, California, from 22 to 24 May.

The conference will unpack the culture that created Ethernet and will include discussions, debates and industry briefings chaired by leaders in the Ethernet industry. Carrier Ethernet technology will be used to transmit the sessions across the globe, seeding new ideas, in the hope of inspiring young innovators of the future. A key element of the anniversary celebrations will be discussions around how best to foster and promote the spirit of innovation that brought about the Ethernet.

The conference will also explore the partnership between business and academia. As a director of innovation at the University of Austin, Texas, Metcalfe has a keen insight into what is driving inventors of the 21st century. According to Metcalfe, research institutions and places like PARC produce research and students as their products, adding that students are the best vehicles to take innovations into the market.

For full details on the events taking place during the conference in California, click here.

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