David Boggs, One of the Inventors of Ethernet, Dies at the Age of 71

After his parents divorced, David Boggs grew up in Washington with his mother, Jane (McCallum) Boggs, and older brother, Walter. The three lived at their grandmother’s home near American University, where her mother worked as an administrator and eventually oversaw admissions to the university’s law school.

After saving up for a radio operator license, David started setting up amateur radios and spent his nights chatting with other operators around the country. His brother remembered the two of them stretching antennas from their second-floor bedroom to the roof above the garage.

“At the time, these wires seemed very long,” said Walter Boggs, who still lives in the house. “Now it seems like a very short distance.”

David Boggs earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Princeton University before starting at Stanford, and eventually earned both a master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering, again. Early in his Stanford career, he saw a presentation by Alan Kay, one of PARC’s key thinkers. He introduced him to Mr. Kay, who took him to an internship in the lab and later to a full-time research position.

At PARC, Mr. Metcalfe and Mr. Boggs devise a blueprint for Ethernet technology by taking ideas from a wireless network at the University of Hawaii called ALOHAnet. This work aligns with one of Mr. Boggs’ earliest interests: radio.

Sending small packets of information between computers and other devices, including printers, Ethernet can potentially work both with and without cables. It became the standard protocol for wired PC networks in the 1980s. In the late ’90s, it served as the foundation for the Wi-Fi that would cover homes and offices for the next two decades.

No matter how it was used, the strength of Ethernet was that it assumed things would go wrong. Even if some packets were lost – as they would inevitably happen – the network could continue.

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