TMCnet Feature
September 15, 2011

Metcalfe Shares His Musings at StartupCamp4

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines

Bob Metcalfe’s keynote last night at StartupCamp4, collocated with ITEXPO West 2011 taking place now at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, TX, was not so much a presentation as it was an experience.

The Ethernet creator and 3Com Corp. founder talked about everything from his relationship with Steve Jobs (News - Alert) to his expectations about the future of communications.

Now professor of innovation in the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas-Austin, and a Polaris Venture partner, Metcalfe mused that he was sitting alone at an IBM Selectric typewriter in 1970 at his apartment in Boston when he first came in contact with Apple’s (News - Alert) founder. Jobs called to introduce himself and talk about a new company called Apple. Metcalfe said Jobs asked for advice about networks, and Metcalfe said he cleverly suggested Apple call its networking capability Orchard.

Their relationship evolved when Jobs helped plug Metcalfe into the advertising and public relations community, and introduced him to angel investor Bob Noyce, to assist the fledgling 3Com (News - Alert).

Jobs (who as you probably already know, recently stepped down as the head of Apple due to health reasons) was also in attendance at Metcalfe’s wedding and shared with Metcalfe his “killer app” vision for a spreadsheet application for the Apple II.

“I got the vision thing from Steve, and it had a lot to do with the success of 3Com,” Metcalfe said.

As for Metcalfe’s vision for comms/the Internet, the father of Ethernet said he believes video, mobile and embedded traffic will intersect with and disrupt the education, energy, and health care spaces.

“Pretty soon we’re not going to need school buildings anymore as education becomes more online, more mobile, more embedded,” said Metcalfe.

Metcalfe was an Internet pioneer in 1970 at MIT and Harvard, receiving a PhD in Computer Science. He invented Ethernet in 1973 at the Xerox Palo Alto (News - Alert) Research Center. In 1979, he founded 3Com. He was for 10 years a general partner of Polaris and serves on boards of five startups.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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