Voices of Ethernet | A Conversation with Robert Garner

Episode 5,   Feb 04, 2022, 10:35 PM

Robert Garner has 41 years of experience in management, architecture and design engineering across product development and research at Xerox Systems Development, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), Sun Microsystems, Brocade Communications and IBM Research. From that remarkable career, he has preserved a slew of stories and an impressive collection of relics, and he’s thrilled to share them.

Garner was working toward his master’s at Stanford University in 1977 when an on-campus interview with Bob Metcalfe led to his being hired into the Xerox Systems Development Division. Metcalfe was putting together a team to productize Ethernet and the experimental Alto workstation designed by Xerox PARC. In that heady environment, Garner co-designed the 10-Mbps Ethernet adapter and CPU hardware for the groundbreaking Xerox Star 8010 Profession Workstation, the first commercial personal computer incorporating the fundamental technologies that have come to be standard in mainstream PCs.

It was an era of lively lunches and late nights among brilliant colleagues. “We were so passionate,” Garner said. “I would ride my bike to PARC and back to the apartment I was staying in, and I would ride back by a cemetery at 2 in the morning. It was pretty spooky.”

He went on to design or manage a tremendous list of innovations during his career—several of them milestone enablers in Ethernet’s evolution into the foundation of networking globally.