For those who read InfoWorld regularly (doesn't everyone?), Bob Metcalfe's column is either a welcome diversion from the rather dry reportage of the rest of the magazine, or a teeth-gnashing, letter inducing feature that one would like to ignore but can't. Controversial, funny, and (usually) self-deprecating, Metcalfe has made a new career for himself by predicting the collapse of the Internet, and the demise other now well-established technologies, such as Linux. This book collects some of his best columns from the last half dozen years and includes recently written, and very entertaining, rebuttals of some of this views by other technology scions such as Esther Dyson, Nathan Myhrvold, and Eric Raymond.
Internet Collapses and Other InfoWorld Punditryby Bob Metcalfe, Robert M. Metcalfe
"What to make of this ranting gasbag named Metcalfe? Turn up the filters, tune in, and listen. You may not like the way he phrases it, but he's actually got some very important things to say and he isn't afraid to say them."Vint Cerf Bob Metcalfe is the Internet's resident gadfly and reigning pundita renowned inventor (Ethernet) and entrepreneur (3Com)
"What to make of this ranting gasbag named Metcalfe? Turn up the filters, tune in, and listen. You may not like the way he phrases it, but he's actually got some very important things to say and he isn't afraid to say them."Vint Cerf Bob Metcalfe is the Internet's resident gadfly and reigning pundita renowned inventor (Ethernet) and entrepreneur (3Com) whose weekly InfoWorld columns skewer pretensions, assault the conventional wisdom, and spit roast sacred cows. This book collects the best of Metcalfe's polemics, predictions, and pronouncements over the last decadeand pairs them with no-holds-barred rebuttals and commentary by industry heavyweights. The result is vintage Metcalfe: provocative, inflammatory, and insightful. Just a few of Bob Metcalfe's pronouncements over the years...
1991 "Microsoft is abusing its monopoly"
1993 "Wireless computing will floppermanently"
1994 "What the Internet needs now is more competition among greedy entrepreneurs"
1995 "I predict the Internet's catastrophic collapse in 1996"
1996 "Everything on the Internet should be strongly encrypted all the time"
1997 "E-postage is a good thing"
1998 "The skunk is, like Microsoft, an exquisite survival machine"
1999 "Linux will fizzle against Windows"
A Metcalfe column, such as those collected in Metcalfe's Internet Collapses and Other Infoworld Punditry, can be exciting or unnerving, it can wax poetic or incite controversy. While the subject matter is not always the most interesting to non-geeks (after all, he was the inventor of the Ethernet protocol and cofounder of 3Com; that is, an engineer), he has a way of tackling subjects that are at the very heart of computing and the Internet.
This book contains 133 columns written between 1991 and 2000, on subjects ranging from wiring, pricing, Microsoft, and privacy, to the "collapse" of the Internet, the Internet stock bubble burst, ISPs and the Open Source movement. Metcalfe has probably made as many friends as he has enemies writing these columns, but no one can accuse him of toning down his message.
As far back as 1991, he was suggesting that Microsoft was "abusing its power," and he has born the standard of this idea ever since. The many columns on the Microsoft question show that, while the issue is not black-and-white, neither are his opinions. He lashes out at the "Open-Sores" movement with the same acerbic wit, prompting the ire of many who thought he was their friend.
What is unique in this book is all the places where Metcalfe has been wrong. There are many, which is not surprising for someone who goes out on a limb so often, but he has no qualms about including these major mistakes in the book for posterity. In 1995, given the exponential growth of the Internet, he predicted that it would collapse in 1996. (Remember that this is the man who posited Metcalfe's law, which says the value of a network is relative to the square of the number of its users -- in other words, the more users there are, the more traffic increases, and this increase is not geometric, but exponential.) Well, it didn't collapse in 1996, or ever since, for that matter, but the columns on the subject, all written in 1995 and 1996, give good insight into what might have happened. Even though he was dead wrong, a lot of the points he raised are valid.
Another unique element of this book is that it contains rebuttals from many people who put his comments in a different light. They range from Bruce Sterling, rebutting a column on the term "cyberspace;" to Nathan Myhrvold, whose refusal to rebut is included as a rebuttal; to Eric Raymond, attacking his comments on the "Open-Sores" movement.
As a historical document, Internet Collapses and Other Infoworld Punditry shows the thinking and insights of one of the key thinkers in the computer world. While he is not always right, his opinions are often controversial, and his track record is pretty good. The book contains columns that, in retrospect are correct, and others that aren't, but at least he's not afraid of showing where he went wrong.
This book is a good read, though not for everyone. The geekier among us will appreciate it most, since it often deals with technical questions. But Metcalfe writes with a refreshing tone, one that is all too absent these days.
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Meet the Author
Bob Metcalfe fathered the Internet just kidding, Vint starting in 1970 at MIT, Harvard, and Xerox PARC. He invented Ethernet in 1973 and founded 3Com Corporation in 1979. He is vice president of technology at the International Data Group and has written his weekly InfoWorld column since 1992. "Bob Metcalfe is a unique American inventor and entrepreneur who also turns out to be a supreme wit and gifted author." George Gilder
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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You are invited to read how I predicted an Internet gigalapse in 1996. Thank heaven the worst outage that year was only a 118 megalapse. I ate that worrisome column in front of a thousand Internet enthusiasts at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Then, having learned that it is better for a pundit to be wrong than vague, I predicted that the Internet stock bubble would burst on November 8, 1999, which it didn't, not that exact day anyway. I'm still standing by that prediction. On the other hand, I've been on Microsoft's antitrust case since 1991. In late 1999, I predicted Bill Gates would be replaced as CEO during 2000, and a month later, Ballmer took over. And I was for advertising on the Internet back when its few grouchy users were all non-commercial. Being right and wrong like this is one part of my being a technology pundit. Another part is calling attention to important technology trends before they're obvious -- bogus software patents, for example -- and coining terms to help talk about these trends -- I'm especially proud of 'extranet.' Internet Collapses is a book of my best columns over the last 10 years. I've made no attempt to update them, or retroactively revise my predictions. I thought you'd be interested in these columns and the evolving punditry process that they portray. And as an extra added attraction, I invited a few big shots to rebut my columns, which some of them took too much enjoyment in doing. Anyway, I hope you'll end up as another of my enthusiastic readers. /Bob Metcalfe (firstname.lastname@example.org)