Highlights of IEEE Triple Milestone Event – May 20, 2024 at CHM

Three very significant IEEE Milestones were celebrated May 20th at the Computer History Museum (CHM) in Mt. View, CA.  They were as follows:

  1.  Google’s PageRank Algorithm and the Birth of Google. The PageRank Algorithm shaped our access to digital content and put Google on the map as an established web search company.
  2.  The 1974 IEEE Computer Society paper on TCP (“Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) Enables the Internet”) authored by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn.
  3.  The IEEE 802 LAN/MAN Standards Committee which generated and maintains the standards for IEEE 802.3 (Ethernet), 802.11 (Wi-Fi®), 802.15 (early Bluetooth), among others.

Among newer and important IEEE 802 projects:

  • IEEE 802.1 Time Sensitive Networks Task Group provides standards for deterministic connectivity through IEEE 802 networks (i.e., guaranteed packet transport with bounded latency, low packet delay variation, and low packet loss).  It’s being used at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator.
  • IEEE 802.19 Wireless Coexistence Working Group deals with coexistence between unlicensed wireless networks. Many of the IEEE 802 wireless standards use unlicensed spectrum and hence need to address the issue of coexistence when operating in the same unlicensed frequency band in the same location.

In addition, four other ground breaking IEEE milestones were briefly discussed:

  1. Development of the Commercial Laser Printer, 1971-1977 Ron Rider, VP of Digital Imaging (retired), Xerox PARC
  2. Xerox Alto Establishes Personal Networked Computing, 1972-1983 John Shoch, Office Systems Division President (retired), Xerox PARC
  3. Ethernet Local Area Network (LAN), 1973-1985.
  4. ALOHAnet Packet Radio Data Network, 1971 Bob Metcalfe, Co-Inventor of Ethernet at Xerox PARC and Frank Kuo, University of Hawaii.

Dedication of the above 4 Milestones:

The first three milestones were dedicated at SRI PARC on Friday, May 17th.  The fourth milestone ALOHAnet led directly to the development of Ethernet.


You can watch a replay of this four hour event here.



Of particular significance to IEEE Techblog readers:

  • Vint Cerf, who co-authored the TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) paper with Bob Kahn and is often called a “father of the Internet,” described the history of the Internet.  He said that Arpanet and ALOHAnet led the way to the Internet, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month with the IEEE Computer Society’s publication of the TCP paper.
  • In addition to new enabling technologies (e.g. hollow core fiber and LEO satellite connectivity) Vint said we need new policies for economic, social and legal frameworks to make the Internet safer and more secure. Also, to hold bad actors responsible for malicious behavior.  The Internet Society and others need to educate regulators to make these types of changes.
  • Past and present executives of the IEEE 802 LAN/MAN Standards Committee discussed the success of Ethernet (802.3), Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11),  Wireless Specialty Networks (IEEE 802.15), MAC Bridging (IEEE 802.1) which were developed by IEEE 802 LMSC.  The purpose and role of the Radio Regulatory Technical Advisory Group, which supports the work of various 802 wireless standards, was also explained.
  • Ethernet co-inventor Bob Metcalfe provided a genesis of Ethernet which he co-invented with David Boggs while at Xerox in 1973.  Working on Project MAC at MIT in 1970, Metcalfe used the Arpanet to connect dumb terminals to time shared computers. After he joined Xerox PARC, Bob read a paper about the ALOHAnet network at the University of Hawaii by Norm Abramson and was so intrigued that he visited there for one month to gain a deeper understanding of that innovative radio packet network.  It used randomized retransmissions after a collision.  The Ethernet MAC protocol (Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection) he developed used similar ALOHAnet concepts.  At 2.94 Mb/sec, the first Ethernet was 306.25 times faster than ALOHAnet (9.6 Kb/sec). That’s because it ran on 0.5 inch coaxial cable rather than radio airwaves.  The 2.94 Mb/sec rate (vs 3 Mb/sec) was chosen due to the size limitation of the Ethernet circuit card which could not include a 3 Mb/sec crystal oscillator. That first 1973 version of Ethernet was used at Xerox to enable Alto GUI workstations (predecessor to the PC) to share a networked laser printer and for Xerox PARC engineers to communicate via in house email.

Addendum: Metcalfe did not mention that the hardware for the 10M b/sec version of Ethernet, which in 1985 became the IEEE 802.3 10Base5 CSMA/CD standard, was designed at Xerox by Robert Garner and Ron Crane, RIP.

In April 2022, IEEE SV Tech History committee (founded and initially chaired by this author 2013-2015), presented an event on the history of Ethernet at Xerox.  The event description is here and the video is here.  Unsung Hero of Ethernet Geoff Thompson moderated this superb panel session.  It was originated by this author to provide well deserved recognition for another Unsung Hero- the late and great Ron Crane who (with Robert Garner) co-designed Xerox’s 10 Mb/sec Ethernet circuit card for the Xerox Star workstation as well as 3COMs breakout product –  Etherlink circuit card (product # 3C100) for the IBM PC, which shipped in September 1982.


IEEE Triple Milestone Event – 50th Anniversary of TCP/IP




VOE-Geoff Thompson



5 thoughts on “Highlights of IEEE Triple Milestone Event – May 20, 2024 at CHM

  1. Another Ron Crane story:

    Working on a 10 Mb/sec adapter card for the IBM PC at 3Com (shortly after he joined the company in 1981), Crane was getting distracted by such non-EtherLink matters as testing the sound-dampening ability of the ceiling tiles above his cubicle. “He wasn’t actually working on the EtherLink as our cash was dwindling towards zero,” Metcalfe said. After being assured that all the ceiling tiles in the entire 3Com building would be replaced, Crane went back to work – but he still didn’t get the EtherLink specs to manufacturing. “My principal contribution to 3Com Corporation was to keep the company from firing Ron Crane,” Metcalfe said.

    “Ron wanted to have lightning protection,” Metcalfe said, “and Ron gets what he wants. So he delayed release to manufacturing even more, and everyone was pulling their hair out as 3Com was headed for bankruptcy. Finally, Crane finished adding the unrequested lightning-strike protection to the EtherLink’s manufacturing spec, 3Com manufactured the card and it was a huge success – 3Com’s break-out product!


    1. 1. During a visit to my house in the Spring of 1992, Crane told my son and I that excessive noise from 3Com’s nearby printer was due to out of spec acoustic reflectivity of the ceiling tiles and the resulting noise was impairing his ability to do design work. So he stopped working on the Etherlink card to measure the building’s ceiling tile acoustic reflectivity properties and filed a case with the Code Enforcement Division of the Mt. View Attorney’s Office submitting his measurement statistics as documentation. Once that case was settled and the ceiling tiles ordered to be changed, Ron resumed work on the Etherlink card which was 3Com’s breakout product, without which the firm would’ve gone bankrupt!

      2. In 1993, Ron asked me to go to an open field in South San Jose, CA where we flew a kite with EMI sensors to measure radiated emissions from nearby AM & FM radio stations. Ron was concerned that such emissions might corrupt transmitted signals from his “100 M b/sec Ethernet (half duplex) over unshielded voice grade twisted pair (UTP-3)” PHY proposal for which he invented the 8B6T PAM-3 line code. At LAN Media, Ron designed a prototype and drove the IEEE 802.3 100BASE-T4 standard which operated over UTP-3). It was taken to market by 3Com and was included in the IEEE 802.3u-1995 standard, but was later surpassed by the 100 Base T standard which ran full duplex over data grade twisted pair (UTP-5). The PMD for that standard was taken from ANSI X3T9.5 FDDI over Twisted Pair Working Group, which Ron and I participated in.

  2. Ethernet did not choose radio as the medium after seeing how big the ALOHANet radio modems were. The semiconductors needed to make radio LANs practical (e.g. IEEE 802.11 WiFi) took another 25 years.

    For the Xerox PARC 2.94 Mb/sec Ethernet, we chose Jerrold coax taps, Manchester encoding, and ALOHANet randomized retransmissions. Then we added carrier sense, collision detection, and exponential backoff before retransmission attempts.

    Enemies of Ethernet would not consider our additions in their models, which is why, as Ethernet co-inventor David Boggs, RIP famously said, “Ethernet seems not to work in theory, only in practice.”

  3. The Xerox 2.94M b/sec Ethernet initially just provided access to the EARS shared printing and remote login to MAXC (the PARC homebuilt Tenex machine and ARPAnet portal). Later, other applications started to appear.

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