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[经济学人] [2009.12.10] Beyond the ether 不仅仅是以太网

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发表于 2010-4-29 04:33 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
Beyond the ether不仅仅是以太网

Dec 10th 2009
2009年12月10日


Bob Metcalfe has grabbed opportunity at every turn in his multiple careers—ever since he invented Ethernet at the age of 27
自从27岁的鲍比•梅特卡夫发明了以太网后,他抓住了其以后丰富的职业经历中的每一次转型机遇。


From jet lag and insomnia while staying at a friend’s house in Washington, DC, in 1972, Bob Metcalfe came across the proceedings of a conference held by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies. It certainly looked sleep-inducing, even for a young computer scientist. So Mr Metcalfe settled down and started reading. But rather than falling asleep, he became intrigued by an account of a wireless network in Hawaii, called ALOHAnet.

    1972年,正在经历由于时差而导致失眠的鲍比•梅特卡夫在华盛顿特区的一位朋友家里偶然看到了美国信息处理学会联合会的公报。即使对于一名年轻的计算机科学家而言,这种公报也使人昏昏欲睡。于是,罗伯特•梅特卡夫坐下,开始阅读起公报来。然而,他不但没有睡着,反被夏威夷的一种叫做ALOHAnet的无线网络激起了兴趣。

This nocturnal encounter was the spark that prompted Mr Metcalfe to create a new networking technology, now known as Ethernet, that would help him finish his PhD at Harvard, become a multi-millionaire and revolutionise computing. And it highlights an ability to observe, synthesise and improve things that would serve him time and again as he progressed through his multiple careers of academic, entrepreneur, pundit and venture capitalist. “Some call it luck,” says Vint Cerf, a founding father of the internet. “But Bob has an ability to detect and take opportunities. And he is willing to take risk.”

    这晚的偶遇启发梅特卡夫创立了一项、现在被称为“以太网”的新网络技术。后来,这项技术帮助他完成了在哈弗大学博士学位的学习、成为一名千万富翁也给信息处理技术带来了一场变革。这项技术也凸显了梅特卡夫观察、综合及改善事务的一种能力。在梅特卡夫从事学术工作、作为企业家、专家以及风险投资家的丰富职业生涯中,这种能力使他屡屡受益。互联网创始人之一的温顿•瑟夫说;“一些人将之称为幸运”,“但是鲍比有探知和抓住机遇的能力。而且他敢于冒险。”

Born in Brooklyn in 1946, Mr Metcalfe grew up on Long Island. He did well at high school, graduating second in his year, and went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His parents paid for his first year of studies, but thereafter the young Mr Metcalfe paid for his own tuition by working the night shift programming computers at Raytheon and other companies. He was also captain of the varsity tennis team and graduated in 1969 with two degrees, in electrical engineering and industrial management. “I don’t remember when I slept,” he says. He went on to Harvard, initially to study for a doctorate in business administration, and switched to applied mathematics instead, earning a master’s degree. But in 1972 his dissertation for a PhD in computer science was rejected. “It wasn’t theoretical enough,” he explains, still rankling over his antagonistic relationship with Harvard. “It was too much engineering.”

    梅特卡夫1946年生于布鲁克林,在长岛长大。梅特卡夫学习成绩优异,以年级第二名的成绩毕业,前往麻省理工深造。梅特卡夫的父母为他支付了第一年的学习费用,此后,年轻的梅特卡夫一直通过晚上在雷神及其它公司打工的方式自己支付学费。在校期间,梅特卡夫还是校网球队队长。1969年,梅特卡夫毕业,获得电气工程和工业管理双学位。“我几乎没有时间睡觉,”他说。最初去哈弗,他想攻读商业管理博士学位,后来转入应用数学专业并取得硕士学位。1972年,他攻读计算机科学博士学位的博士论文却没有通过。他解释说:“理论层面还有些欠缺,工程性内容太多”,神情中似乎对这件事情依然耿耿于怀。

This did not stop him from getting nine job offers, however. Mr Metcalfe ended up working at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC) in California, writing the networking software for a new computer called the Alto, the machine that later provided the inspiration for the Apple Macintosh. While at PARC he also taught at Stanford and, after his fateful encounter with ALOHAnet, finished his PhD by adding more “theory”—a chapter on ALOHAnet—to his dissertation. He then applied some of the principles from that network, which linked computers at the University of Hawaii, to his work at PARC.

    但是,博士论文没有通过并没有影响他被九家单位录取。梅特卡夫最终选择在施乐帕克研究中心工作。在那,他为一种叫做Alto的新型电脑编写网络软件,这种电脑后来为苹果麦金塔电脑的出现提供了灵感。在施乐帕克研究中心工作的同时,梅特卡夫还执教于斯坦福大学。在与ALOHnet影响深远地偶遇后,梅特卡夫在博士论文中加入了更多“理论”,即一章有关ALOHAnet的内容,顺利完成了博士学位的学习。随后,他将一些原理应用于由夏威夷大学计算机与他工作的施乐帕克研究中心计算机相连的网络。

ALOHAnet’s nodes all transmitted data to a central hub on the same radio frequency, and received data on a second frequency. So if two nodes tried to send packets of data to the hub at the same time, the resulting “collision” would garble both their transmissions. ALOHAnet solved this problem by having the hub acknowledge every packet it received. If a node failed to receive an acknowledgment, it would wait a while and then try again. This was a cheap and simple way to allow many devices to communicate using a common transmission medium.

    ALOHAnet的所有节点将数据以相同射频传输至一个中央线路集成器,再以另一种射频接收这些数据。因此,如果两个节点在同一时间将数据包传至线路集成器,会导致“冲突”从而使彼此传输发生混乱。ALOHAnet则通过使集成器识别它所接收的每一个数据包解决了这个问题。如果一个节点暂时没有接收到识别信息,它会等会重新接收。这个办法使得共用一个普通传输媒介的很多装置共同交流,而且方便简单。

Dr Metcalfe, as he now was, adopted this approach for the system he was building to enable Alto computers to talk to each other, and to printers, on a network. He improved the rules that determined how nodes should handle the retransmission of failed packets (they were to continue to transmit for a while in the event of a collision, to ensure that all nodes realised that a collision had taken place, and were then to retransmit after a random interval). David Boggs, a Stanford graduate student who was working at PARC, helped Dr Metcalfe adapt his ideas to wired networks based on coaxial cables. Several names were suggested for this new local-area network technology, such as Bulletin Board, Parliamentary Procedure and Lazy Susan. But the name that stuck was Ethernet.

    现在已是博士的梅特卡夫在其正在建设的、旨在使处于同一网络中的Alto计算机能与其他计算机、打印机相互交流的系统中采用了这一方法。他改进了决定节点如何处理失败识别数据包的重新传输规则(在发生“冲突”时,节点将继续传输,以确保所有节点都“知晓”发生了“冲突”并随后继续重新传输数据)。在施乐帕克研究中心工作的斯坦福大学毕业生大卫•伯格帮助梅特卡夫博士将其想法应用于基于电缆的有线网络。这项局域网络技术曾被命名为“通告栏”、“议院法”和“懒苏珊”,但最终还是起名为“以太网”。

Nativity story
以太网的产生
Years later, as a marketing ploy, Dr Metcalfe thought it wise to pinpoint the birth of Ethernet. So he fixed on May 22nd 1973, the day he circulated a memo about his ideas to PARC colleagues. Now, over 36 years later, Ethernet is widely deployed in networks around the world. It has been improved in many ways, but the way in which the protocol breaks information into packets and then checks for errors in their transmission is still recognisable.

    几年后,作为一项营销策略,梅特卡夫博士认为应该将以太网的研发提上日程。1973年5月22日,他向施乐帕克实验中心的同事们传阅了写有自己想法的备忘录。36年后的现在,以太网已经被广泛应用于全球网络。尽管这项技术在很多方面已经有了改进,但协议将信息进行分割成数据包,并帧听传输过程中错误的方法却是公认的。

Dr Metcalfe did not make money from the actual invention of Ethernet. As he frequently points out to starry-eyed engineers dreaming of fame and fortune, it was the standardisation and commercialisation of Ethernet that lead to its runaway success and his own personal fortune. “Nothing happens until something gets sold,” he says. Dr Metcalfe persuaded Digital Equipment, Intel and Xerox (the so-called DIX consortium) to make Ethernet an open standard, available to other companies for a modest, one-time licensing fee of $1,000. Perhaps even more important, notes his friend and former PARC cohort David Liddle, Dr Metcalfe also got Microsoft and Sun on board.

    梅特卡夫博士并没有从以太网的实质发明中赚钱。他经常对那些异想天开、梦想出名和发财的工程师说,以太网的标准化和商业化才是真正的成功和他个人的财富。“东西没有卖出去之前,什么都没有,”他说。梅特卡夫博士说服迪吉多、英特尔施乐(所谓的DIX帧)制定以太网开放标准,其它公司只要一次性支付$1000就可获得此项技术。梅特卡夫博士的朋友、他在施乐帕克研究中心前同事大卫•雷多评论说,也许最为重要的是,梅特卡夫还使得手微软和太阳两公司也加入进来。

Dr Metcalfe predicted that the internet would collapse under the weight of traffic in 1996. It did not.As he built market momentum behind the technology, Dr Metcalfe recognised the business opportunity presented by the emerging market for Ethernet-compatible products. So he left Xerox and started a consulting company, 3Com, in June 1979. It soon moved into hardware: in September 1982 it started shipping “EtherLink” adaptor cards for IBM’s new personal computer. 3Com’s sales skyrocketed along with those of the IBM PC, and in March 1984 3Com went public and raised $10m.

    梅特卡夫博士预测,1996年互联网将由于堵塞而导致瘫痪。但是,他预言的事情没有发生。在为以太网技术造势的同时,梅特卡夫注意到正在崛起的以太网兼容产品市场所带来的商机。1979年6月,离开乐施后,他成立了一家名为3Com的咨询公司。公司不久转向硬件:1982年9月,公司开始为IBM的新型个人电脑推出“Ether Link”适配器卡。1984年3月,3Com成功上市,募集资金100,000,000美元。

When Dr Metcalfe started promoting Ethernet, one big problem was to convince people to adopt a networking technology that almost nobody else was using yet. Dr Metcalfe pointed out that each new user would increase the size of the market for Ethernet products, and that as more people adopted the standard, it would make more sense to be in the club—what is today called a “network effect”. On a slide, he quantified a network’s value as roughly proportional to the square of its number of users. But it wasn’t until a dozen years later that George Gilder, a technology pundit, called this Metcalfe’s law.

    梅特卡夫博士开始推广以太网遇到的一个大问题是,说服人们采用一种几乎还没有人使用过的网络技术。梅特卡夫指出,每一位新用户都将提高以太网产品的市场份额,越多的人采用此标准,更多的人就会认为加入是一件明智的事情,这也是现在所谓的“网络效应”。在展示的一张幻灯片中,他将网络价值的量化与使用者人数的平方简单做比。直到十几年后,技术大家吉尔得将之称为“梅特卡夫定律”。

This argument helped boost sales, but there were missed opportunities, too. Bill Krause, a former HP executive who worked at 3Com in its early days refers to a “$100 billion mistake” that he and Dr Metcalfe made in overlooking the gold mine of linking entire networks together, rather than just computers. “A little company called Cisco” saw that bit of the future and became the main supplier for “networks of networks”, Mr Krause observes ruefully. Indeed, by 1996, Cisco was selling more Ethernet equipment than 3Com, says Eve Griliches, an analyst at IDC, a market-research company. (In November 2009 HP said it planned to acquire 3Com for $2.7 billion.)

    梅特卡夫的论断刺激了销售,但也错失了一些机会。曾经在3Com工作的惠普前任总裁比尔•克鲁斯谈到一个“一千亿美元的错误”,是指他和梅特卡夫博士只想着将计算机连在一起而忽视了连接整个网络的金矿。“一个叫思科的小公司”看到了网络连接的发展前景而成为“网络的网络”主要供应商,克鲁斯后悔地说道。确实,IDC市场研究公司的分析师伊伍•格林里彻说,截止1996年,思科以太网设备销售量要比3Com更高。(2009年11月,惠普称计划以20.7亿美金的价格收购3Com。)

Dr Metcalfe left 3Com in 1990, and his communications prowess then found a new outlet: he became the publisher at InfoWorld, a weekly computer magazine based in San Mateo, California, and started writing a column called “From the Ether”. Soon he was widely known for his hyperbolic, often caustic critiques (he once called the FBI to report death threats provoked by his column)—and for his incorrect predictions.

    1990,梅特卡夫博士离开了3Com公司,凭借他在通讯领域的惊人造诣找到了一条新出路:他成为位于加利福尼亚州圣奥特里市一家计算机周刊《信息世界》的出版商,并开始为该杂志的“从以太开始”专栏撰文。不久,他就以其夸张、尖锐的批判文风和不带准确的语言为人们所熟知(他曾经打电话给联邦调查局报告由于他专栏文章所引发的死亡威胁事件)。

Dr Metcalfe says he learned from Stewart Alsop, InfoWorld’s editor, that it was more important to be interesting than to be right. “I wasn’t as wrong as people like to claim,” he says. “But on several occasions I was famously wrong.” But he even managed to turn those mistakes to his advantage, using them to raise his own profile. Most famously, he was challenged at an industry conference over a column, published in December 1995, in which Dr Metcalfe predicted that the internet would collapse under the weight of traffic in 1996. Would he eat his own words, Dr Metcalfe was asked, if he turned out to be wrong? Dr Metcalfe said he would.

    梅特卡夫博士说,《信息世界》主编斯图尔特•奥尔索普告诉他,文章的趣味性比正确性更为重要。“我并没有错到人们所说的那种程度,”他说。“但是,有几件事我是出名地做错了。”然而,梅特卡夫还是想方设法将这些错误转变成自己的优势,提高自己的形象。最有名的是,在一次行业会议上,有人就他在1995年12月专栏中预言互联网因无法承受超载压力将于1996年崩溃。有人问他,如果事实证明他错了,他是否会收回自己所说的话?他说他会的。

He was wrong. The internet did not collapse. Two years later, he made good on his promise to eat his words—but not without great fanfare involving blenders, investigation into the ingredients of newspaper ink, cakes meant to look like newspapers and lots of audience-baiting. “He has a flair for the dramatic,” says Dr Cerf, who was in the audience that day.

    他错了,互联网并没有崩溃。两年后,他很好地兑现了自己所做的承诺,收回了自己所说的话,但是并没有大张旗鼓亦或是调查报纸油墨的配方、利润等或是来吸引观众。“他有戏剧天份。”当天观众之一的瑟夫博士说。

“That was my greatest publicity stunt of all time,” beams Dr Metcalfe, whose intermittent vainglory obscures an underlying charm. “I am probably more famous for the collapse prediction, and the eating of that column, than I am for inventing Ethernet,” he says. But he is now reluctant to be drawn into predictions about the internet’s future. When asked about the “exaflood”—the latest incarnation of the idea that the internet is in danger of being overloaded with data—he concedes that he has not been following the debate closely. “I don’t really know the facts,” he says. Likewise for network neutrality: “I think I’m supposed to be in favour of neutrality,” he says, “but I refuse to take that position because I just haven’t been focused on the issue.”

    “这是我最轰动的公众事件”,梅特卡夫眉开眼笑地说道,他那种时而浮现的自负神情下有种潜在的魅力。“毫无疑问,我的‘瘫痪’预言和收回自己所说的话使我比发明了以太网更为出名”,他说。现在,他不愿意再去预测互联网的未来。当被问及有关“过剩流”—近期有关互联网正处于数据超载危机的说法,梅特卡夫承认说自己并没有过度关注此种讨论。“我并不是很了解这件事情”,他说。就像对网络中立的表态:“我认为我会支持网络中立,”他说,“但我拒绝采取这种态度,因为我并没有关注这件事情。”

A communications specialist
传媒专家
Instead, he has moved onto his latest career: since 2001 he has been a venture capitalist at Polaris Ventures in Waltham, Massachusetts, where he is trying to apply lessons from the computer industry to clean-energy start-ups. This has required him to deploy his communications skills in a new way. “Most of these VCs don’t really give you advice or get back to you right away or introduce you to important people,” says Chris Stone, the former chief executive of SiCortex, one of the firms in Dr Metcalfe’s portfolio. “But Bob is always there to tell you the truth. He is extremely and brutally honest.” So much so, in fact, that SiCortex was one of two companies Dr Metcalfe dropped from his portfolio earlier this year.

    相反,他已经开始了自己的又一新职业:自2001年,梅特卡夫在马萨诸塞州沃尔瑟姆的Polaris投资公司从事风险投资。在那儿,他正尽力将计算机行业的经验应用于清洁能源企业的建立。这要求他采用一种新方法运用自己的传媒技巧。SiCortex,梅特卡夫博士曾供职的投资公司之一的前任总裁克里斯•斯通说:“很多风险投资家并不会真正给你建议,或者立即给你答复,亦或是将你介绍给重要的人物”。“但是,鲍比总是告诉你真相。他有些近乎极端地、残忍地诚实。”实际上,他如此诚实以致,SiCortex是梅特卡夫博士今年年初离职的两家投资公司之一。

In whatever profession he has taken up, there is nothing Dr Metcalfe enjoys as much as a good argument. But his vigorous defence of his views, whatever they may be, does not stop him from seeing the other point of view. During heated board meetings at GreenFuel, the other portfolio company that Dr Metcalfe dropped this year, “he could very clearly synthesise everyone’s perspective in a brief statement,” including the views with which he strongly disagreed, says Simon Upfill-Brown, the energy start-up’s former boss.

    无论从事什么职业,梅特卡夫最喜欢辩论。不管辩论的主题是什么,他充满活力的辩论并不会阻止他看到事情的另一面。在GreenFuel,梅特卡夫今年离职的另一家投资公司激烈的董事会上,“他能非常清楚地将每个人的观点综合成简单陈述,”包括他强烈反对的观点,该能源公司前任老板西蒙•阿普菲勒•布朗说道。

Dr Metcalfe delights in a paper published in 2005 by two academics, Andrew Odlyzko and Benjamin Tilly, that presents a detailed refutation of his law. The authors argue that if the law were true, network operators would be merging left and right to achieve rapid growth in value. But such mergers do not in fact seem to create as much value as the law suggests.

    梅特卡夫博士很高兴安德鲁•奥德雷兹科和本杰明•太雷两位学者在2005年出版的一篇文章中对“梅特卡夫定律”的驳斥。两位作者指出,如果定律是真的,网络运营商将互相兼并以求实现价值的迅速增长。然而,此种兼并实际上看起来并没有产生定律所显示的如此巨大的价值。

“The law is not any amazing math,” Dr Metcalfe responds. “It’s a vision thing. It’s vague. I said the value is approximately the square of the number of users.” And with Metcalfe’s law, as with so much else, the technology community is willing to cut him a bit of slack. “Only geeks care about this stuff,” says Dr Cerf. The basic idea was right: bigger networks are more valuable. As Mr Alsop puts it, neatly characterising Dr Metcalfe’s career, “Bob’s so smart and so confident that he gets away with it.”

    梅特卡夫回应说:“定律不是神奇的数学。”“它是一种远见,很模糊。我说过价值大约是用户数量的平方。”而且,技术领域对于梅特卡夫定律就像对待其它众多的定律一样,宁愿不予苛求。“只有土包子才会介意这些。”瑟夫博士说。基本原理是正确的:规模更大的网络,价值越高。奥尔索普先生所说的恰好地总结了梅特卡夫博士的职业特点,“鲍比的聪明和自信使他足以应付每一件事。”
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发表于 2010-4-29 04:38 | 显示全部楼层
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