Metcalfe forks up $2 Mil for MIT to keep TimBL

Sally Khudairi (
Tue, 27 Apr 1999 13:42:07 -0400

After all these years, good ol' Dyke still calls it the 3 toilets -- WC3
-- and at times, it felt like one.

- S

With Berners-Lee, Bay State stays in the big leagues

> Net Gains - by Dyke Hendrickson Associate Editor
> The Hub needs Tim Berners-Lee. Some bright and well-heeled guys who
> recognize that fact recently ponied up $2 million to keep him.
> Berners-Lee, of course, is head of the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3)
> in Cambridge. This is the influential group that makes recommendations
> about the future direction of the Web.
> Moreover, Berners-Lee is recognized as inventor of the World Wide Web.
> Recently he was named the first recipient of a research chair affiliated with MIT's Laboratory
> for Computer Science. The awarding of the chair is as near as the high-tech crowd gets to
> emulating a professional sports team that signs an indispensable franchise player.
> Making this deal possible was Boston's Bob Metcalfe, an MIT fixture and a founder of 3Com
> Corp. Helping to seal the deal was Michael Dertouzos, the director of LCS.
> Metcalfe was the force behind raising $2 million from other former 3Com executives, and
> endowing the chair so that Berners-Lee would always have a place here to perch.
> Recruiting is not an infrequent event among the high-tech crowd in the Hub. Indeed,
> executives, engineers and programmers are frequently lured to one institution or another
> with the promise of fame and riches.
> But the "signing" of Berners-Lee, 43, to a semi-permanent post is a major development in
> the future of this market.
> It means that Boston-Cambridge will continue to host the W3C. And it signifies that we have
> the world's Number One Web guy - not Silicon Valley or Redmond, Wash.
> The biography of London-born Berners-Lee says that he graduated from Oxford University,
> England, in 1976.
> He spent two years with Plessey Telecommunications Ltd., a major U.K. telecom equipment
> manufacturer, working on distributed transaction systems, message relays, and bar code
> technology.
> In 1978 Tim left Plessey to join D.G Nash Ltd., where he wrote typesetting software for
> intelligent printers and a multitasking operating system.
> He spent 18 months as an independent consultant, including a six-month stint in 1980 as a
> consultant software engineer at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory in Geneva,
> Switzerland.
> While there, he wrote for his own private use his first program for storing information,
> including using random associations. Named "Enquire" and never published, this program
> formed the conceptual basis for the future development of the World Wide Web.
> From 1981 until 1984, Tim worked at John Poole's Image Computer Systems Ltd, with
> technical design responsibility. Work here included real-time control firmware, graphics and
> communications software, and a generic macro language. In 1984, he took up a fellowship
> at CERN, to work on real-time systems for scientific data acquisition and system control.
> In 1989, he proposed a global hypertext project, to be known as the World Wide Web.
> Based on the earlier "Enquire" work, it was designed to allow collaboration by combining
> knowledge in a web of hypertext documents.
> Supervisors did not see its value at first. Nevertheless, he wrote the first World Wide Web
> server, and the first client, "World Wide Web" - a "what you see is what you get" hypertext
> browser which ran in the NeXTStep environment.
> This work was started in October 1990. The program "World Wide Web" was first made
> available within CERN in December, and on the Internet in 1991.
> Through 1991 and 1993, he continued working on the design of the Web, coordinating
> feedback from users across the Internet. His initial specifications of URLs, HTTP and HTML
> were refined in larger circles as Web technology spread.
> In 1994, Tim joined the Laboratory for Computer Science at MIT to be director of the W3
> Consortium, with teams at MIT, at INRIA in France, and at Keio University in Japan. The
> consortium can be found at
> So that's where we stand.
> Berners-Lee was recruited to the Hub in the mid-1990s. His deal was "extended" in the late
> 1990s.
> Metcalfe, Dertouzos and the 3COM alumni showed they are visionary in personnel matters
> as well as science in their drive to retain this pioneering scientist.
> This "contract" is the nearest thing that our high-tech world has to the Red Sox last year
> pursuing the talented and charismatic Mo Vaughn.
> Of course, we know what happened in that half-hearted (and bungled) effort.