David Boggs, whose Ethernet protocol has worked its way into nearly every aspect of our daily lives, died of heart failure on February 19, 2022, in Palo Alto, California, at the age of 71.
Boggs was an electrical engineer working at the Xerox PARC research lab in 1973, according to his New York Times obituary, when he met another young engineer named Bob Metcalfe, who was working with the lab’s Alto computer and a stretch of wire.
Metcalfe was looking to see if there was a way to transmit data to and from the Alto but was unable to get the connection to work.
Boggs and Metcalfe then spent the next two years laying the foundation of all modern computer networking technology in the form of the Ethernet protocol, a systematized way for electronic devices and computers to communicate with each other.
While it’s not the internet itself, which was being developed separately through US government-funded ARPANet research, Ethernet quickly became the industry standard protocol in the 1980s and 1990s, thanks to its ability to sidestep communication errors and keep things moving along rather than get halted by bad packets of data.
The protocol also worked with wired and wireless connections equally well, enabling a mostly seamless transition between an almost entirely wired network infrastructure in the 1980s to an increasingly hybrid wired-wireless system in the 1990s and 2000s that simply works (even if you do have to reset your router occasionally).
Boggs is survived by his wife and brother.