Co-inventor of Ethernet David Boggs dies aged 71

You couldn't read this article online without using his network tech


David Boggs, a computer networking pioneer best-known for co-inventing Ethernet, has died. He was 71.

Born in Washington DC on June 17, 1950, Boggs as a child liked to tinker with ham radios and was an amateur radio operator. He went on to study electrical engineering at Princeton University, and graduated in 1972. His big break came a year later, when he joined Xerox PARC, the legendary research lab that developed the basis of modern computing concepts, from laser printing and object-oriented programming to WYSIWYG editing and a graphical user interface that we would recognize today.

In among these technologies was Ethernet, which was created by Boggs and his colleague Robert Metcalfe.

The pair had decided to work together to solve a problem: designing a way to connect together PARC's Alto PCs and Xerox printers. Metcalfe later became known for his 'law' on network effects – specifically that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of its connected users.

"When David and I were building this thing at PARC, we planned to run a cable up and down every corridor to actually create an omnipresent, completely-passive medium for the propagation of electromagnetic waves. In this case, data packets," Metcalfe previously told The Register.

Eventually ten machines were connected using their early prototype. Initially, the protocol could manage 2.94 Mbps over a coaxial cable, and was upgraded by 1980 to 10Mbps. Today, you can put a few more zeroes in that speed, and the tech is used everywhere in one form or another to connect together devices and computers. Ethernet was certainly used at some point for you to read this article today.

The technology went mainstream in the late 1970s when Metcalfe left Xerox PARC and introduced the networking system to companies including Intel and the DEC through his private company 3Com. Meanwhile, Boggs completed his master's degree at Stanford University and wrote his dissertation on internet broadcasting, and left the lab to join DEC's Western Research Laboratory.

Eventually, Boggs co-founded LAN Media Corporation and sold a range of networking equipment to set up protocol routers and large network servers. The company was later acquired by SBE in 2000 for $8m; SBE was subsequently bought by Neonode in 2007.  Today the Ethernet switch market is valued over $7.4bn, according to recent estimates by IDC.

Metcalfe once described Boggs as "the perfect partner," adding: "I was more of a concept artist, and he was a build-the-hardware-in-the-back-room engineer."

Boggs died of heart failure on February 19 at Stanford Hospital in California, according to his wife Marcia Bush, the New York Times first reported this week. ®

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