SANTA CLARA, Calif - The networking pioneer turned computer industry
columnist who predicted the Internet would collapse last year, kept to his
promise last week by literally eating his words.
Bob Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet technology and founder of 3Com, had
pledged he would eat the words from a December 1995 InfoWorld column he wrote
if the dramatic debacle he predicted did not come to pass.
In the column, Metcalfe warned of a "catastrophic collapse" of the Internet in 1996.
He made the original vow at a conference of World Wide Web engineers and
enthusiasts in Boston in 1995, and he argued here before the Sixth
International World Wide Web Conference this week that the Web had logged
Metcalfe said that outages at Netcom On-Line Communications, America Online
and BBN had demonstrated instances where thousands and millions of lost
service hours had occurred.
But he also acknowledged the "gigalapse" catastrophe he'd projected had not
Metcalfe did plead that he had just turned 51 years old and, although he had
checked to determine the ink in his column was non-toxic, ingesting it could
make him fatally ill, jeopardizing the happiness of his children.
Metcalfe's arguments in a closing keynote address were apparently not
persuasive enough to swing a room packed with Internet partisans and experts
with a stake the Web's continued growth.
The crowd erupted in hoops, claps and chants of "Eat, baby, Eat!" when he put
the decision to a voice vote.
Then the crowd booed and whistled when Metcalfe tried to get away with eating
a piece of giant cake, shaped and finished with icing to look like it was his
column, instead of eating the column itself.
"You mean eating just a piece of cake is not enough to satisfy you? I kind of
suspected it would turn ugly," he said in mock surprise.
Metcalfe then ripped a copy of the offensive column from a back issue of the
industry publication, tore it into pieces and dropped it into a clear liquid
in an electric blender he'd hidden on stage.
The columnist then poured the resulting mix into bowl, and tasted the cloudy,
pulpy substance with a spoon before slurping down the bowl's contents to the
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Copyright, Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved
P-I 10:02 04-14-97
(14 Apr 1997 10:02 EDT)