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Unwinding Cisco's Not-So-Simple Beginnings 151

saridder writes: "There's a saying that behind every fortune is a crime, and as we have learned with Apple, Microsoft, and others, Cisco is no different. The SJ Mercury has an article outlining and debunking the myth of Cisco's founding."
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Unwinding Cisco's Not-So-Simple Beginnings

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  • Sheriff: I never met a rich man who didn't have a guilty conscience.

    Wyatt Earp: I've already got a guilty conscience... I might as well have the money too.
  • The nameless techies or the men in charge?
    i call it payback.
  • Capitalism works! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @05:49PM (#2650745) Homepage
    Hey look, Yet More Proof (tm):

    Bickering, fighting, and arguing (er, I mean, competition) between intelligent grownups DOES lead to people making millions!

    Well, there it is. I guess I havn't anything left to complain about ...
  • With all these sins committed at the founding of Cisco, they will not fare well in the long term.
    They'll be smitten and crushed for were lies the root of evil there will be destruction and chaos.
    Perhaps the downfall of the internet is the beginning of the doom of Cisco. Perhaps in the future will nobody need any routers from Cisco anymore because everyone will use XIP and .NET2010.
    And someday the sinners will find themselves in the gutter together with some old Cisco routers.

    Repent brothers ! Repent your wikked ways !

    • Could she have been more abrasive? And now she's suing because she sold out too early and is only a millionaire and not a billionaire?

      Nice crowd at Stanford.
    • Well, Cisco is certainly losing plenty of money. If their earnings profile [yahoo.com] is correct, they lost $2.7 BILLION dollars a few months ago.

      Doesn't seem like a very strong company to me. Perhaps, your sarcasm aside, they won't do so well in the long term. Cheap knockoff routers can unseat Cisco easily.
      • At first I thought about it and thought you were right, but the more I think about it, the more I have to disagree. There are plenty of knock off routers and switches already (3com, Linksys, Netgear, etc.,) and Cisco is still number one in the industry. Plus I looked at your link and they made almost a billion dollars profit each quarter! That's a lot of PROFIT. The 2 billion loss was for a write off of some equipment the they produced for the now defunct telecom and ISP's that fell through last year.

        When you think of routers, don't just think of the cheap toys sold in CompUSA and BestBuy for mom and pop at home. A major corporation, ISP, web company, financial institution, etc., is not going to base their critical network infrastructure on a cheap knock off, nor could a cheap knock off handle a high load. Imagine an ISP running off of a Linksys.

        And even of a company made a cheap alternative to compete with a 7000 series router (never mind an optical router), once all the R&D is done to make the big router, create all the software to comply with RFC's, create all the hardware to handle the different networking technologies, create innovative switching technology to handle the high load of packets, the router isn't cheap any more. (Look at Juniper, ArrorwPoint, etc,.) And if it works, Cisco will just buy them, paint the box blue and call the Cisco 54000 or something J.

        Routers and switches do more than just route. There are many technologies that just can't be implemented cheaply. When I think of a major network, even enterprise, there is a huge need for a Catalyst 6500, especially when there are a ton of users on that floor. Buying cheap 24 port 3coms won't scale, and can't route between Vlan's. Plus there's a ton of other technologies that a company needs - gig backbones, multilayer switching, STP, layer 4-7 load balancing, high speed backbones, DiffServ and COS QoS, and ton of others. Let's see a cheap toy do that.
  • From what I've read, Apple had very wholesome beginnings.

    Signing a contract [insanely-great.com] with MS was a crime, certainly. But Apple's fortune already existed before any alleged crime may have occurred.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Um, making and selling 'blue boxes' and other devices for placing long distance phone calls w/o paying?
    • That little stint where Jobs convinced the good managment of Xerox PARC (the same managment that felt Xerox PARCs efforts were not really of merit) to give Jobs and a group of Apple engineers a detailed tour of their facilities wherein they lifted ideas left and right...

      I'm not sure if Woz attended, but I can't see him passing it up...

      Cheers,
      - RLJ

      • Um, you fool. Woz didn't have anything to do with that... but even if he had, it was an above the table deal. Xerox knew that Apple wanted some ideas, and was willing to trade some of its own, in exchange for a stake in the company. Only M$ goblins spread this stupid gossip, to try and argue that "everybody does it".
    • IIRC, they sold Blue-Boxes quite a lot before they moved onto computers.
  • Apple's crime?? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by LazyDawg ( 519783 )
    Didn't Apple PAY xerox large sums of money to get that tour of PARC?

    Microsoft was the one who decided to grab the ideas for free.
    • Re:Apple's crime?? (Score:2, Informative)

      by The_Rook ( 136658 )
      no, apple did not pay any cash to xerox for a tour of PARC. but apple did let xerox buy apple stock at a low price prior to going public. xerox made plenty of money from apple.
    • The Xerox people, with one exception, didn't seem to realize that they were giving the crown jewels to Jobs during that tour.

      The exception was Adele Goldberg (creator of Smalltalk)who insisted on a written instruction from the management before she would participate.
  • by Bi()hazard ( 323405 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @05:55PM (#2650787) Homepage Journal
    You might find this story [stanford.edu] interesting as well.
    • Interesting, but also funny. Yeager and crew begets Cisco. What did Yeager base his code on? Thin air? I doubt it, but I have no idea.

      In the same way this article then credits Berners-Lee with the founding of the WWW concept. Again, from thin air? Ah, no. I've heard that groups at DEC pitched WWW like system for Notes to Tim, and I'm sure there are others that I've never seen credited.

      In these reworkings of history we seem to like to back up just one step previous to some rich/famous/infamous person and say "Ah hah!". Is that really helping? I guess so. Maybe it is better to just credit the guy who made a name for himself/herself off the thing, wink, and be done with it.

      - ordinarius
      • And so do most religions, too...

        When a company grows big and successful, they usually build a "sanitized" and romanticized version of their startup story. In it, all the big battles are edited out, the people who wound up on the outs disappear from the history rolls, and everything is edited to make them look like a small, humble company that did well.

        So Apple and HP get the myth of the garage story, Cisco hides their battles with Stanford, and Microsoft sells Gates as a Harvard dropout (conveniently leaving out the family connections he used to get Microsoft in all the right places). The creation myth is what you get when you read Fast Company - but the true stories are out there and easy to find. It's just not what the companies themselves are trumpeting.

        Remember, in business as well as politics, history is written by the winning side.
  • by Lxy ( 80823 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @05:55PM (#2650788) Journal
    most startup stories are sensationalized. "Two people started Cisco in their living room" sounds better than "after fighting Stanford for rights to technology and with the aid of a team of geeks, Cisco was born". Same with Jobs and Wozniak. the whole "Apple IIe invented in their garage" sound much better than "Wozniak was working for HP at the time and did most of the work at his desk". People like to hear stories about total nobodies who lived the ultimate American dream, that's all. I use Cisco because they make a good product, not because of their sensational "against all odds" story.
  • and regular smart people. That's how things are "invented." Lock the smartest person in the world in a cave from birth and you will get nothing useful. Give him ideas from other people to build on and you get products and innovations.

    Let's remember that when we argue for the necessity of patents.
    • So, I'm curious if that statement is meant to be an argument for patents, or against? The original argument in favor of patents is that it requires public disclosure so that, while you continue to get benefits from your invention, other inventors can keep carrying technology forward. Today's counter-argument is that patents lock up the knowledge so that, while I know it, I can't do anything useful with it; that technological innovation is moving so speedily that today's patent terms amount to a monopoly for the lifetime usefulnees of an invention, and the net result is to stifle innovation instead of fostering it. Which way were you arguing?
      • A point lost in the minds of many who argue for patents is that very few ideas, if any, spring from the mind of one individual. In reality all high-tech ideas leverage the ideas of many who never get attribution. That's just a fact.

        Do I argue for patents or against? If you believe what I just stated, which do you think?

        Cisco is just one example getting a little more light than usual.
        • very few ideas, if any, spring from the mind of one individual. In reality all high-tech ideas leverage the ideas of many who never get attribution. That's just a fact.

          Yeah, that's the point of patents: to make sure good ideas get spread around and seed more good ideas, instead of being hidden and exploited to lesser profit in secret; it's also a major ideological objection to granting monopoly power to any one entity. It cuts both ways.

          Are you sure you know which side you're arguing?
          • the point of patents: to make sure good ideas get spread around and seed more good ideas

            Is that why companies spend thousands on each patent; so the ideas can spread around and seed more good ideas? Sounds like an opportunity for a shareholder lawsuit.

            Stop believing the 4 color PR brochures. The USA's founding fathers' intent is not the same as todays intellectual monopoly reality. Patents keep you and me from leveraging ideas.

            Good luck reading up on existing patents to seed new ideas. US courts have created a catch 22 where you are advised not to read them:
            1. You can be sued for patent infringement even if you did not infringe. This is done when the competition knows it has more money to spend in court than you do.
            2. If you lose a patent infringement case, the punitive damages are several factors larger IF it can be shown that you read the existing patents. Your opinion of the existing patent has no bearing on this punishment.
            3. US courts have established that only Patent Attorney's are authorized to form an legitimate opinion regarding probable patent infringement. (See #2 above.)

            Is this what the founding fathers intended? This is what we have. "Invent" something useful and then patent it for kicks. Let us know how it goes. If a big company feels threatened by your product, they will take care of you. The patent system is their big stick, not yours.
  • This is a case of "Winner Take All"
  • by imrdkl ( 302224 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @06:01PM (#2650830) Homepage Journal
    From the article: Cisco experience has done unseen damage to Stanford in the form of creating inhibitions against sharing ideas, information and developments with possible commercial value [...]

    MIT seems to have excelled the best at making "spin-off" projects. I suppose they probably feel they've been burned by some of their startups, too. The same with NCSA.. heh.

    When Standford lost their cherry in this game, they should have laid down again and found new partners.

    I dont know the status of Stanfords holdings today, but rejecting as a matter of policy founder shares in Cisco was just plain bad for business. Seems they could have been giving away alot more free education today, and that would have been the best payoff imaginable.

    • goes back to that silicon valley guy that helped start all the companies. He was such a pain to work with, i think his name was axely? worked at AT&T but no one liked him so they spun off companies
    • Stanford has immense holdings, because around the same time AFAIK they *did* get substantial amounts from a little company called SUN.
    • by cgori ( 11130 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @06:43PM (#2651071) Homepage Journal
      Oh hardly.

      Disclaimer: I'm a Stanford alum and sometime-studier of silicon valley lore.

      MIT's spinoff list is all well and good but if you add up Stanford's it'd eat them alive:

      Hewlett-Packard, SGI, Sun, Cisco (regardless of what you believe from this story), Yahoo, Intuit, IDEO just for starters. You could even probably find a way to argue Intel (as an offspring of Fairchild, which settled in SV because of Bob Noyce, and probably indirectly because of Fred Terman and David Starr Jordan), but it'd be a stretch.

      Fred Terman was the Dean of the Engineering school when Hewlett and Packard were at Stanford, he was their mentor and encouraged them strongly to start a company. It's well-documented.

      Stanford has been highly entwined with the venture capital community in silicon valley since the 70's (perhaps even earlier, I can't be definitive). If you wander around the campus you can see the synergy just in the names on the buildings (Gates, Allen, Hewlett, Packard, Clark), much less the buildings built with money from the Stanford Engineering Venture Fund, which is run by any number of top-tier VCs.

      That quote in the story is from Tom Reindfleisch if I recall, in an internal university memo. Like they wouldn't have axes to grind internally, or want to influence future policy. Always, always remember the context of quotes, especially in media-driven stories like this one.

      Stanford these days takes equity holdings or cash. The Office of Technology Licensing happens to hold the licensing rights for the DNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) which is the basis for most biotech. They make millions/billions of dollars for the university endowment every year. I wouldn't fault them for guessing wrong 20 years ago about the potential of two wackos who were (apparently at the time) bilking the university for some intellectual property.
      • Ah yes. Good. Mod parent down as troll, then.

        The article was pretty pathetic in some places, and it was actually hard to imagine Stanford not rakin' it in.

        It was a good stab at at an historical accounting, I guess, but Cisco will live on. Business is business.

      • "The Office of Technology Licensing happens to hold the licensing rights for the DNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) which is the basis for most biotech."

        No they don't. Hoffman-LaRoche and Applied Biosystems, Inc., hold the patents for all of the commercially/experimentally important parts of PCR. And PCR was invented at Cetus, a private research house.

        • My bad. I confused two magazine stories. The one I was thinking of was a sort of FM waveform synthesis (i.e. think of your old Yamaha DX-7 keyboard) called Sondius-XG.

          Not worth nearly as much, sadly as the PCR patent would have been.

          Stanford does have some DNA-related patents/technologies in the area of gene splicing which brought in ~$40M in revenue in 1998 (according to the OTL). Goes to show that I should shut up about biotech in detail though and stick to microprocessors.

          Here [stanford.edu] is the general report for 1999-2000 from the OTL.

      • MIT's spinoff list is all well and good but if you add up Stanford's it'd eat them alive

        Of course, the real difference between Stanford and MIT is that MIT got net 18, and Stanford had to settle for net 36 (and appears to have given it back to IANA since then).

        Of course, what would you expect from the university whose spinoff BBN built the ARPANET [bbn.com], built routers before Cisco [bbn.com], and brought us the use of @ for email addresses [bbn.com]?

        Seriously, though, both Stanford and MIT have had a real impact. One study [mit.edu] ranked the total economic value of MIT's spinoffs as the 24th largest economy in the world for 1994 (between Thailand and South Africa).

        But I gotta thank Stanford for Google.

      • If you're including Intel and Fairchild and Noyce, shouldn't National Semiconductor and Zilog be on that list as well?
  • Nerds 2.0.1 (Score:5, Informative)

    by instinctdesign ( 534196 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @06:06PM (#2650857) Homepage
    The article mentions the PBS special Nerds 2.0.1 but doesn't link to the compendium site, which is worth checking out. Check out the Nerds 2.0.1 site [pbs.org], or more specifically, the section on Cisco [pbs.org].

    It was a good series that is defiantly worth checking out if its on your local PBS station.
  • by Jacco de Leeuw ( 4646 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @06:11PM (#2650890) Homepage
    Stanford was offered equity in Cisco, but the licensing office turned it down as a matter of policy.

    Reminds me of that devil sketch by Rowan Atkinson ("Mr Bean") in which he tell the atheists in the audience:

    You must be feeling a right bunch of nitwits! [rowanatkinson.org]

  • by bluGill ( 862 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @06:12PM (#2650895)

    Back in 1986 the first router company sent a vice president to California to check out some companies there as canidates for a buy out. After much thought the executive decided that Cisco was going nowhere, and they bought a slightly larger router company down the street from Cisco.

    Long timers at Network System [network.com] belive that if the executive had decided to buy Cisco instead of the other company, you wouldn't have heard of Cisco today, instead that other company would have been dominate. How things change, Network Systems no longer makes routers, having realised that Cisco won the market long ago.

  • I'm very happy about cisco's success. But none the less, Stanford recieves a huge amount of public money - and the intellectual property that Cisco has should rightly belong to the public domain.

    I really have no objection of them using it, or being successfull becaus of it, but locking everyone else out is what I really have a problem with. (especially since I probably paid for it)

    • Umm, the intellectual property that Cisco used has long since been mutated into something that doesn't even resemble the original code. Sorry, I think you're beating a dead horse here. 15 years ago maybe you could have made that argument, but not today.
      • Umm, the intellectual property that Cisco used has long since been mutated into something that doesn't even resemble the original code. Sorry, I think you're beating a dead horse here. 15 years ago maybe you could have made that argument, but not today.

        AHH, but the intellectual property that they started with was used as the foundation for all their new R&D. The fact that the public provided the seed, should entitle them to this equity. It would be like if I robed the Fed, kept 15 years worth of interest, and then returned it back expecting nothing of it. No - it's doubtfull that intellectual property should be as omnipresent as it is to begin with, but that the taxpayers should plant the seed is outrageous.

  • I find it ironic that the anti-establishment, anti-government intervention nerds of the valley keep forgetting that they are chowing down on public money. I think its a stretch to classify Cisco's history as criminal; more of a case of biting the hand that fed you.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is a nice story, but the good old cisco that made products that actually worked is LONG gone. Since about 1998, cisco has turned into Cisco, and is more interested in selling new products that need at LEAST 6 more months development before they should be sold, or alltogether vaproware (eg. IP phones). Cisco's favorite line regarding IP phones could be translated to read "Well, we know pretty much every PBX system made since the 70s can do that now, and we gurantee we'll get that working eventually, so just go ahead and buy it now and we'll get it done for you." What they fail to mention is that in 6-12 months when the product you have actually works, you have to pay for it all over again. Any fellow cisco guys able to back me up on this? Remember the Cat2900XL (WS-C2924-XL) vs. Cat2900XL (WS-C2924XL-A or -EN), or how about anyone who is unfortunate enough to have a Cat6000 MSM card they're using? (They don't do about half of what a Layer-3 engine should do, and Cisco won't give you two cents credit towards the MSFC which actually works). Anyone remember the 2500/4500 days when it never even occurred to you that there was a hardware or software problem? Compare that to now, when it's common knowledge that when Cisco releases ANYTHING new, be it router hardware, or IOS releases, don't even bother thinking about it for 6-12 months until it actually works. I'm ranting and raving here, I know..but as someone who has worked with cisco products for quite a few years (and has a CCIE nonetheless, thank you) I can tell you that the REAL cisco died long ago, when John Chambers capitalized the "c" and turned cisco into yet another soulless "sell it now, make it work later" company. Perhaps we could get the original gang together to build stuff that works again??
    • or alltogether vaproware (eg. IP phones)

      My dad's who work uses these things. Plug them into into any cisco router and there's you office extentions. Isn't that an IP phone or am I missing something?

    • Oh come on now. The problems with Cisco's hardware basically lies in the fact that new hardware requires new software. ED and LD code are nothing but Alpha and Beta code. Anyone who buys hardware that requires Beta code gets what they deserve. If you were to approach your management and tell them that you were going to buy PC's that would only run a Beta operating system they would laugh you right out of the building, yet clueless network engineers buy 6500/MSFC's every day, but they still run only non-GD code. The only thing you can really fault Cisco for in the whole 6500 issue is that the made the 5500's end of life before they had a GD code for the 6500's.
      As far as the IP phones are concerned, I have one on my desk and I can assure it works quite well. I really like having the ring tone being a recording of a Gene Wilder saying "I thought I told you never to interrupt me while I'm working!".
    • sure ...

      an Anonymous Coward who
      1. is ignorant of the reality of IP Phones
      2. is biting the hand that feeds him
      3. claims to be a CCIE !! - yeah right...

      Remember, you always have the option of running rock solid GD code, and forgoing fancy new s/w features.

      Most ISP's run GD releases of SP code, that is 11.2.x , where x is large number - ie > 20

      Darren Kruse CCNP CCDP
      WAN/LAN Networking Consultant
      mailto://darren_kruse@hotmail.com
      www.geocities.com/darren_kruse [geocities.com]

  • They sure have an interesting corporate culture. Check out Employees.org [employees.org], a sort of "freenet" for Cisco employees, consisting of an old sun with a probably unauthorised connection in the DMZ of Cisco's data center.

    And lets not forget Cisco employees on IRC with hostnames like "ph33r.cisco.com"

    Looks like a fairly interesting place to work :)
    • The place is great. I make sure to get to my local Cisco office in MA at least one a month. Lab's are open to play with, all the free drinks and popcorn you want, usually there's even free food left over from all the sales meetings and conferences they have :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2001 @07:03PM (#2651177)
    ... is universities using students as slave labor.

    Universities engage in scientifically uninteresting joint projects with the industry to raise money. They employ students as free labor. The students get units, the lab gets unearmarked funds and the industry gets cheap software.

    The head of our lab called it prostitution. Since most students don't have a choice, you might as well call it forced prostitution.

    • Having worked for a University's computing department for a number of years as a student, both general computing and for the business school - I can tell you it is very common for schools to gobble up the technology created by students and in turn look for business opportunities

      OTOH, I definitely used "work-time" to work on outside projects (thanks telnet), so I guess it goes both ways.

  • The sad thing is that, once again, the University is left out of the innovation equation. In this time when the United States economy is being driven by technology, it is important to remember that the University is one of the few places where innovation can occur in a relatively free environment. It is the one place where a five to twenty year development cycle is accepted. There is nothing wrong with an entrepreneur taking the publically funded prototype and creating a commercial product. What is bad is when that entrepreneur wants to pretend that the University is not a critical part of the process.

    Drug companies are especially guilty of this crime, greatly inflating their research costs and downplaying the fact that most basic research is done through highly efficient government and private grants at the public research institutions.

  • Anyone know where they got the name "cisco" from?
    I was guessing Computer Information Systems COmpany, or it could have just been as simple as crisco spelled incorrectly.
  • The story of Cisco is more interesting than JUST its intial beginnings. The author of the SiliconValley article cannot be as comprehensive as a good book. Cisco is a very talented and clever organization of people with a very interesting business model (imperialistic in a sense). Cisco Connection [amazon.com] is a well-written story about the conecton of Cisco and its dealings and dynamics over the last decade and a half. Very interesting corporate reading.
  • Yeager is named in the agreement document as the principle developer/inventor, and received 85% of the royalty distribution (which he contributed to the SUMEX project to support further research) .... Still, Yeager never benefited from that venture (nor was he given an opportunity to by the organizers of Cisco Systems). Nor has he received public recognition for his major contribution to Cisco's founding and success.

    Giving Yeager public credit is all fine and good and well deserved, however he DID receive money from Cisco in 1986 (85% of $150,000 as far as I can tell) and gave it away! IMO, he (or anyone else) is not allowed to comment about not being adequately paid for his efforts.

    A few of the people involved even admitted that Cisco's success was questionable. To get a lump sum of money like that from a company that could very well be vapour in a short amount of time is quite an accomplishment.

    Now just think that if he had used his technical knowledge to invest that cheque in 2 dozen or so hi-tech companies of that time, he could have been a rich man.

    All he gets out of the deal is a clear conscience and thereby revokes his license to complain about the fact he didn't get paid for it.

    </devils-advocate>

    That said, it's obvious that his contributions were large and he will be forever known as one of the few 'good guys' of the 'Internet Revolution'. A little bit of humility and hard work can go a long way. Let's just hope that more people are motivated by technology instead of corporate greed in the future. Yeager sets quite an example for all of us.
  • I think Cisco is overrated. Sure I like the routers, but try to compare their products, switches load-balancers to other like Foundry or Extreme. Compare prices, features and performance.
    Then they don't look so great to me, I think they have "watered out" their name by buying all kind of companies and then slapping their logo on a lousy product.
    • The beauty behind cisco's products isn't their performance. Anyone who is into networking hardcore knows that extreme switching, juniper routing, etc is tonnes faster. That's irrelevant. The beauty is the cisco is the only company in the world with an end-to-end integrated, manageable solution. The only company. Nobody else can lay claim that their products are integrated as well as cisco's are. IBM couldn't (and ultimately gave up on networking. Nortel can't. Cabletron couldn't. There's nobody else.


      And therein is the beauty of this cisco systems products. Are they the fastest? No. Do they offer the lowest price to most features? No. Do they have a fully integrated and manageble end-to-end, WAN-to-LAN enterprise solution? Yes.

  • by carping ( 152066 )
    I think its important to realize that many, many of the riches created by individuals and corporations (no corp. bashing, here I swear) were manufactured through illicit means.

    The Astor family of the Waldorf-Astor Hotels, etc. started off as tenement owners, including more than one building that collapsed or burned killing, in at least one instance, hundreds. But now they're ligit.

    The Kennedy's we all know sold liquor during prohibition. Went ligit.

    Bush's (No Bush bashing here) grandfather (no the other) sold Nazi war bonds in the US and were busted for it. Went ligit (some disagree).

    The list can be much longer, those are just the big ones. Cisco is no exception nor are nearly all industries in Germany that existed in World War II (no German industrialist, no matter how bad they treated slaves were tried at Nuremberg).

    The point being? If you can make enough money, and prove that you are more valuable to society (so that means A LOT of money) and you turn over a new leaf (or just quit cheating, stealing, cultivating) you win, as do you children. Sure maybe some guy will write a book or post a message on Slashdot but who cares, you won't have to ever work again.

    Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, being immoral and unethical does OFTEN pay off. Don't be stupid, be Good and wait till the benefit is great enough, then make you move. Risk big, win big.

    Ian says "Reward good behavior, Punish poor behavior"
  • Some history (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @10:19PM (#2652017) Homepage
    Having been around Stanford at the time, while working on routers at Ford Aerospace and going to Stanford, I should say a few things.

    First, all the major network developers saw the need for routers. Xerox PARC had had PUP/XNS routers for a while, based on Alto machines. PDP-11/34 minicomputers running Dave Mills's "fuzzball" code had been routing IP datagrams since 1981 or so. BBN had several routers. I built an IP router myself at Ford Aerospace in 1985, using a VMEbus cage with a Motorola 68000 and some Ethernet boards. I'd previously had a VAX doing routing in its spare time. So how to do it was understood.

    I knew about the Stanford routers, but felt that their Multibus card cages weren't solidly enough built for deployment. (Remember, I was at an aerospace company.) Commercial VMEbus stuff was starting to appear, and that seemed the way to go, even though it cost more.

    We were trying to get away from multiprotocol routers, which add an extra layer to everything. We were thinking "TCP/IP everywhere", rather than routing SNA, DECnet, XNS, X.25, and TP4 (all of which have been forgotten) over the same wires.

    But a mass market for routers seemed a long way off. Ford Aerospace had built some big digital networks for DoD in the past, and they typically had 10 to 100 switching points. Management didn't see a case for a volume product. (Ford Aerospace had been badly burned on some previous products that were too early, like a really nice projection TV in the 1970s).

    The major vendors were all fighting TCP/IP in favor of their proprietary network protocols. This was the era of the "PC LAN". Ungermann-Bass, Network Systems, and 3COM all had incompatible PC LANs. IBM had three PC LANs which wouldn't talk to each other.

    Cisco was more of a marketing success than a technical one. There was no real obstacle to building a router by 1984 or so. But selling lots of them looked hard.

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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