Universal Ethernet

Next year will mark the 35th birthday of Ethernet, and aren't its parents proud of how the baby has grown! In case you haven't noticed, from the LAN to the WAN, from wired to wireless, broadband access to the backbone, the stuff is everywhere.

During his recent keynote address at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) ' ET conference, Ethernet pioneer Bob Metcalfe was asked why he chose "Ether" as the name for the packet network that sprung from ALOHA. Was it inspired by childhood dental surgery? (See Docsis Détente From the Ethernet Ambassador.)

Nay, nay! The term was selected from the annals of science. Metcalfe said he was inspired by the concept of "the luminiferous aether," an "omnipresent, completely passive media for the transmission of electro magnetic waves."

Backed by such scientific heavyweights as Newton and Maxwell, aether was considered the media that enabled the propagation of light waves. However, following the famous Michelson-Morley Experiment and Einstein's more famous Special Theory of Relativity, physicists came to conclude that there's no need for a medium to transport light after all, nor firm evidence that aether exists.

But really, with Ethernet conquering communications networks and this Ethernet now being carried via light waves, might it stand to reason that Ether is ready to reclaim its mantle at the apex of physics? Is Æthernet about to conquer the entire universe, proving that the primordial space fabric itself is switched, not routed?

After all, wasn't this Einstein guy just an overrated assistant examiner at the Swiss Patent Office?

— Michael Harris, Chief Aetheryst, Cable Digital News

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