[TUHS] TUHS Digest, Vol 14, Issue 63

Marc Rochkind rochkind at basepath.com
Tue Jan 17 02:52:27 AEST 2017

If you think AT&T looked askance at cheap networking, you can imagine what
they thought of cheap telephones. When I interviewed in early 1970 at
Columbus, I recall one of the engineers joking that you'd have to buy one
of those "imitation" phones at a discount store, as if that vision was
enough to kill off the idea.

On Mon, Jan 16, 2017 at 9:44 AM, Larry McVoy <lm at mcvoy.com> wrote:

> On Mon, Jan 16, 2017 at 11:00:00AM -0500, Doug McIlroy wrote:
> > The highest levels of AT&T were happy to carry digital data, but
> > did not see digital as significant business. Even though digital T1
> > was the backbone of long-distance transmission, it was IBM, not
> > AT&T, that offered direct digital interfaces to T1 in the 60s.
> AT&T seemed pretty clueless about networking.  I gave a short talk at Hot
> Interconnects in the heyday of ATM.  Paul Borrill got me a speaking spot,
> I wasn't well known person but inside of Sun I had been railing against
> ATM and pushing for 100Mbit ethernet and Paul decided to see what the
> rest of the world thought.
> The gist of my talk was that ATM was a joke.  I had an ATM card (on loan
> from Sun Networking), I think it was 155 Mbit card.  I also had an
> ethernet card that I had bought at Fry's on my way to the talk.
> The ATM card cost $4000.  The ethernet card cost $49 IIRC.
> The point I was making was that ATM was doomed.  This was at the time in
> history when every company was making long bets on ATM, they all thought
> it was the future; well, all meaning the execs had been convinced.
> I held up the two cards, disclosed the cost, and said "this ATM card is
> always going to be expensive but the ethernet card is gonna be $10 in
> a year or two.  Why?  Volume.  Every computer has ethernet, it's gonna
> do nothing but get cheaper.  And you're gonna see ethernet over fiber,
> long haul, you're going to see 100 Mbit, gigabit ethernet, and it's
> going to be cheap.  ATM is going nowhere."
> There was a shocked silence.  Weirdest talk ever, the room just went
> silent for what seemed forever.  Then someone, I'm sure it was an engineer
> who had been forced to work on ATM, started clapping.  Just one guy.
> And then the whole room joined in.
> I took the silence as "yeah, but my boss says I have to" and the clapping
> as "we agree".
> At the time AT&T was the biggest pusher of ATM.  Telephone switches were
> big and expensive and it was clear, to me at least, that AT&T looked at
> all those cheap ethernet switches and said "yeah, let's get the industry
> working on phone switching and we'll get cheap switches too".  Nice idea,
> didn't work out.
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