Why Bob Metcalfe Turned Down a Job at Apple in 1979

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Answers by Bob Metcalfe, Ethernet inventor, 3Com founder, UTAustin Prof, MIT Visiting Innovation Fellow, on Quora.

A: In June 1979 I got a call late one night at my other apartment, on Beaver Place in Boston. Guy named Steve, company named Apple. Steve invited me to Cupertino to be recruited as networking guru. I had never heard of Steve, Apple, or Cupertino. But I had just founded 3Com (June 4, 1979). So I pitched Steve on buying an Ethernet-based Apple II network called "Orchard" from 3Com. He passed, but then didn't get mad, started helping me grow 3Com. His first helpful act was to introduce me to his PR and advertising guru, Regis McKenna, who adopted me.
Steve then recruited Bob Belleville from my former group at Xerox and and him chief engineer on the Macintosh. Bob's team came up with AppleTalk, a non-standard slow version of Ethernet that was adequate and cheap.
Several years later we got a million-dollar order for Ethernet from Apple. Ethernet was too fast and too expensive for Apple IIs (8-bit 6502s, as I recall).
Steve sent a limo to my house to take me to the red-carpet debut of Pixar's Toy Story at DeAnza College. He thanked me for Ethernet carrying all the movie's many bits.
Steve is on my eternal heroes list.


A: I had just founded 3Com and wanted to follow through.
Apple wasn't Apple yet in 1979, and the founder hadn't even graduated from college.
Steve got that right away, and helped me grow 3Com.

Q: What are unknown facts about ethernet?
A: One Ethernet principle is, Build it and they will come.
The first Ethernet ran at 2.94Mbps, ~10,000 times faster than the day before, not because anyone write that they required 2.94Mbps, but because we needed to clock our packets and had no room on the board and so used the system clock on the backplane, which happened to tick every 170 nanoseconds, which using Manchester encoding, 2 transitions per bit, is 2.94Mbps. We now have 100Gbps Ethernet, heading toward 1Tbps.


A: Computational genetics.
Solar power.

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