The Association for Computing Machinery announced yesterday that this year’s A.M. Turing Award, a prize often referred to as the “Nobel Prize of computing,” is being awarded to network pioneer Bob Metcalfe.

Bob Metcalfe

Metcalfe is perhaps best known for developing Ethernet, the standard protocol that governs how computers connect in wired networks. Metcalfe began working on the Ethernet protocol as early as 1973, and ten years later it was introduced as the IEEE 802.3 standard.

Metcalfe’s Ethernet design incorporated insights from his experience with ALOHAnet, a pioneering computer networking system developed at the University of Hawaii. Metcalfe recruited David Boggs (d. 2022), a co-inventor of Ethernet, to help build a 100-node PARC Ethernet. That first Ethernet was then replicated within Xerox to proliferate a corporate internet.

In their classic 1976 Communications of the ACM article, “ Ethernet: Distributed Packet Switching for Local Computer Networks  ,” Metcalfe and Boggs described the design of Ethernet. Metcalfe then led a team that developed the 10Mbps Ethernet to form the basis of subsequent standards.

Later in life, Metcalfe also founded the company 3Com, and today he is a professor emeritus at the University of Texas, among other things. The prize money for the Turing Award is currently $1 million, thanks to Google’s funding of the prize since 2014.

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