Ethernet co-inventor David Boggs dies at 71

David Reeves Boggs, a pioneer who contributed to the development of today’s Ethernet technology, has died of heart failure at the age of 71.

As reported by the New York Times, Boggs passed away on 19th February at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, California. His only direct survivors are his wife Marcia Bush and his brother Walter Boggs.

David Boggs was born in Washington, DC on 17th June, 1950. He spent parts of his early childhood in Kansas, Kentucky, and other states, as his father’s job in the US Army required the family to relocate every few years.

Boggs earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Princeton University in 1973, following which he enrolled at Stanford University for the master’s degree. He achieved both a master’s and his PhD, also in electrical engineering, at Stanford.

Around the time Boggs was pursuing his second degree he began his internship at Xerox PARC, a Silicon Valley lab that was creating a new type of PC. While there he met another new hire, Bob Metcalfe, who was tasked with exploring methods of transmitting data to and from the lab’s new computer, the Alto.

Boggs noticed that Metcalfe was attempting to send electrical pulses down a cable but failing, so he offered to assist.

Over the next two years, Boggs and Metcalfe created the first version of Ethernet, the networking technology that connects PCs to printers and other devices.

In comparison to the internet’s long-distance connection, Ethernet allows users to physically connect to nearby devices.

The invention became an industry standard in the 1990s, and many companies started using it to build networks in their offices.

The Alto project developed numerous key innovations over the next two decades, including the mouse, word processor, graphical user interface and laser printer.

“He was the perfect partner for me,” Metcalfe told the times

“I was more of a concept artist, and he was a build-the-hardware-in-the-back-room engineer.”

Metcalfe recalls the day when Boggs was discussing the future of networking at a California computing conference, at the San Jose Convention Center, in the early 1980s.

At that event, a rival technologist questioned the mathematical theory behind Ethernet, and claimed that Ethernet would never work with large numbers of machines.

Bogg’s response to the critic was unequivocal, according to Metcalfe.

He told the technologist that Ethernet may “not work in theory…only in practice”.


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