The 68th Bernard Price Memorial Lecture, given by Professor Robert (Bob) Metcalfe


Invitation to the 68th Bernard Price Memorial Lecture


You are cordially invited to the 68th Bernard Price Memorial Lecture on Connectivity given by the co-inventor of Ethernet and co-founder of the 3Com company Professor Robert (Bob) Metcalfe, and hosted by our partner organization SAIEE, at The Great Hall of the University of the Witwatersrand, on the 16 September 2019 at 18:30. 




The single most important new fact about the human condition is that we are all connected. In just 50 short years we have managed to connect half of the people on earth, some four billion individuals. Such connectivity has created numerous challenges which we are still grappling with as to how to handle, while on the horizon comes the augmented video mobile Gigabit Internet of Things which is going drive such connectivity into tens of billions in terms of numbers.

Broadband connectivity is the fundamental enabler for today’s digital world. Irrespective of the type of physical medium that is used to provide such connectivity, whether this be cable, fibre or wireless, Ethernet is the basic protocol that is used to deliver such connectivity and consequently has become the prime enabler of the Internet, which today is 50 years old having being conceived in 1969 as a network of university mainframe computers.

In simple terms Ethernet provides the rules that dictates how network devices or nodes format and transmit data packets between one another. Invented by the presenter on May 22nd 1973 in a memo that he wrote at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre, standardised by the IEEE in the early 1980’s and commercialised shortly thereafter, Ethernet has evolved over the past four decades from supporting local area networks at an enterprise level to providing the carrier grade wide area connectivity and performance quality needed for metropolitan, regional, national and international telecommunication networks. The use of Ethernet for wide area networks is called Carrier Ethernet and is an extension to enable telecommunication network providers to deliver Ethernet services to their customer by utilising Ethernet technology within their networks.

Ethernet has become the fundamental building block for Digital Transformation. This lecture will provide insight into the history behind the development and evolution of Ethernet to where it stands today, as well as discuss how Ethernet will support the future connectivity requirements needed to drive emerging technologies such as those emanating from the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).


Professor Robert (Bob) Metcalfe


Bob Metcalfe is an engineer and entrepreneur who co-invented Ethernet in 1973 while employed by Xerox. Following his departure from Xerox in 1979 he co-founded the 3Com company, a manufacturer of computer networking equipment. 3Com was acquired by Hewlett Packard in 2010. In 1990 Bob left 3Com and began a 10-year stint as a publisher and pundit, writing for InfoWorld.


Since January 2011 Bob has been Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Texas in Austin USA. He is also the Murchison Fellow of Free Enterprise at the University.

Besides inventing Ethernet Bob is also credited for having formulated Metcalfe’s Law which states that the effect of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected nodes or users.

Bob has two BSc degrees which he obtained from MIT in 1969, one in electrical engineering and the other in industrial management. He obtained an MSc degree in applied mathematics from Harvard in 1970 and a PhD in computer science from the same university in 1973.

During his long and illustrious career Bob has received numerous awards including:

  • The IEEE Medal of Honour in 1996 for the exemplary and sustained leadership in the development, standardisation and commercialisation of Ethernet.
  • The Marconi Award in 2003 for inventing Ethernet and promulgating his law of network utility based on the square of the nodes.
  • The National Medal of Technology from President Bush in 2003 for leadership in the invention, standardisation and commercialisation of Ethernet.
  • In 2007 Bob Metcalfe was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his work with Ethernet technology.
  • In 2008 he received the Fellow Award from the Computer History Museum for fundamental contributions to the invention, standardisation and commercialisation of Ethernet.
  • VenueCoCT, Electrical Services, Bloemhof Road, Bloemhof, Belville, Cape Town
    Date & Time: 19/09/2019 @ 18h00
    Event Contact: SAIEE Western Cape Centre - Heinrich Rudman (e)


Best regards

IEEE South Africa ExCom



Thursday, September 19, 2019 - 16:00 to 18:05

Speaker Name: 

Professor Robert (Bob) Metcalfe


Cape Town



Address 1: 

CoCT, Electrical Services,

Address 2: 

Bloemhof Road, Bloemhof, Belville, Cape Town