Internet Predicts Overloading of Bob Metcalfe (.GIF at 11)

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Stuff I Said I'd Post
Stuff For Sale

(as told to Daniel P. Dern)

Copyright (c) 1996, 1997 Daniel P. Dern

[ Copyleft (cl) - Permission granted to redistribute free ONLY to free-for-access online forums, sites and such (including mailing lists), and only so long as my byline, copyright and this disclaimer are included. Anyone else interested, contact me. -dpd ]

{What has gone before: < read this in Italics if you got 'em >

I had a front-page article in the July 1, 1996 issue of InfoWorld, on the every-popular topic "is the Internet collapsing." Bob Metcalfe responded to it, with, "Internet Intelligentsia Stands on Credos, Not Facts", in the same issue (p.75, opposite my final 'graphs). Here is my response to Metcalfe's response; Bob, this constitutes the other shoe finally dropping :-) < /Italics if you had 'em > -dpd}

AUGUST 1996 (shortly after lunch) -- If you've been following the cybernatterings of cyberluminary Bob Metcalfe during the past half-year or so (or past two years in Internet dog years), in his InfoWorld "From The Ether" column, or elsewhere in various speeches, articles, interviews, and online postings, you're probably well aware that Dr. Metcalfe is concerned about the Internet.

In fact, he's convinced that the Internet is overloaded to the point where it will soon collapse. Why he doesn't suggest the Internet take two aspirins, go to bed, and Internet-phone him in the morning I don't know -- perhaps he's not that kind of doctor. But he's definitely concerned.

It is therefore highly ironic that, according to the Internet, a similar fate may lie in store for Metcalfe. In an exclusive interview I just had with the Internet, the Internet opined that Bob Metcalfe is overloading, and, predicts the Internet, he will soon be unable to handle the load.

Dr. Robert Metcalfe, a suave, well- -- if perhaps too-casually- -- dressed techno bon vivant, and awardwinner, is best known for being the creator of Ethernet, and also for being one of the founders of 3Com, and recently variously publisher, editor-in-chief, and columnist at InfoWorld magazine. He's been kvetching about the Internet long before other industry pundits, even John Dvorak or Jerry Pournelle.

The Internet is, of course, a global network of networks, linked by the IP networking protocols which enable applications on different types of networks and computers to "schmooze" (intercommunicate), and has become best known as the home of the WorldWideWeb (which has in turn spawned all those "intranets," "extranets," "intrawebs," and "IP corrals"), which, as well all know, is the reason we all "need" Netscape Navigator and/or Microsoft Internet Explorer. (Conspiracy theorists attribute much of the claimed value of the Web to PR campaigns by memory chip makers.)

"It's the Firesign Theatre's 'Fudd's Law' all over again -- 'If you push anything hard enough, it will fall over,'" the Internet quipped self- referentially, while simultaneously blowing routing loops from its elegantly carved high-bandwidth meerschaum pipe and signing receipt chits for new top-level domains.

"I know Bob's worried about me -- well, I'm worried about Bob," the Internet stated statelessly. "He's pushing himself too hard -- and, unlike me, he only has one provider and wasn't engineered to scale the same way." The Internet put down the pile of paperwork on a nearby routing table, which was wobbling as if it might collapse at any moment. A green plastic fish which had escaped from another essay wriggled briefly nearby.

The Internet is flattered by the Metcalfe's ongoing interest in its health, but fears that this may be a case of the bioanarchistic pot calling the cyber-kettle black.

"He's taking on too great a load," explained the Internet, dressed in a open-protocol suit and a <BLINK>ing bow tie for the occasion, at its open suite in the Hotel D'Arpa recently for an exclusive interview. "He's writing articles and editorials, he's speaking at conferences, he's being interviewed, he's getting awards, he's giving parties... Bob Metcalfe was never designed to handle this great a load, nor to handle many of these types of functions. Heck, it makes me tired just to think about it. It's inevitable that he'll prove unable to handle the load, sooner or later." According to a recent three-year $100 million study by two mailroom clerks and a service technician at the Cantseetheforestforthetrees Group located in Cambridge, Mass. near what was supposed to have been the site of a major urban mall and housing development that never materialized, "Metcalfe's appearances and activities have been growing at a monthly rate of 15%." By mid-2002, they predict, "Metcalfe will be speaking at every trade show in the United States, as well as at 29% of the Boy and Girl Scout troop meetings, numerous city zoning board committees, and several county fairs."

(Copies of the full report, including color graphs and pie charts, are available for the small cheap paltry sum of $597, payable in $3.00 Ecash certificates made on a browser with margins set to 6.2 centimeters. Free copies are available from their web site.)

Metcalfe's silicon-intelligent anarchistica, notably several leading Ethernet segments at major universities, deny the rumors. "Bob's NAPs keep him well-rested and productive," reported one at a technical east coast site. But others report dropped salt packets, open jars of clam dip, and a growing pile of sport coats and sweaters -- some of which, one WAN wag reported, aren't as seamless as they used to be.

"Being a pundit requires a lot more speed and flexibility than it used to," notes Sc*tt Br*dn*r, an alleged academic at a university located a few miles upriver from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M*T) in Cambridge, Mass. "Bob's been able to cope, but he'll run out of bandwidth sooner or later, and fail to show up for a meeting somewhere, or drop his speech en route."

D*v* Cl*rk, an alleged computer science academic purported to have been allegedly seen having a beer with an alleged journalist, says, "We have computer simulations of Metcalfe running on our academic computers which show how Metcalfe could run at a higher speed. Unfortunately, our program refuses to run simulations involving Metcalfe performing non-academic activities." Cl*rk hypothesized that his simulator was assuming an arbitrarily large supply of graduate students as one of the resources in its calculations.

V*nt C*rf, alleged father of the Internet paternity suite and co-founder of C*rfN*t, adds, "At this point, given the expectations that have been created for Metcalfe, it's important that he drop something, if only to prove we're right and he's wrong."

Defenders of Metcalfe claim the Internet is being unfair. "Bob, like all of us, is comprised of many individual organs, bones, cells and old parking tickets," points out an Ethernet segment in Umbilical, Hawaii which was subsequently arrested by the Grammar Police for improper use of 'comprise.' "To say he's completely overloading, versus that some muscle or organ may be overloading, is unfair."

"Part of the problem," the Internet said in response to these counter- critiques, "is that Metcalfe was never designed to handle a load like this. He still needs security, management, proper billing, guaranteed service, and blue suede shoes. It's our own fault for continuing to use him."

I attempted to reach Metcalfe for comment, but he was unavailable (hmmm!) -- off making a speach somewhere in New York... or was it Chicago... or Los Angeles... or whatever. (Kinda proves the point, don't it?)

"I understand what it's like to be overloaded," the Internet concluded. "But I've got the same confidence in Bob that he's got in me. Frankly, I think we both want to collapse, and then be allowed to spend a few weeks chilling out somewhere quiet, downloading back a few drinks, and waiting for the press to find some other headline-grabbing scapegoat.

"As for all those businesses supposedly relying on me -- heck, I never said I was good for that stuff," the Internet pinged. "I was supposed to just be the proof of concept. Making me into that info-super-duper- highway, that was somebody else's idea. Whoops -- here somes the three o'clock weather checkers and PointCast update -- back to work!"

Shrugging out of its jacket and into a naugahyde jacket with a large "IP On Everything" JPEG on the back, the Internet sauntered off to the nearest meetpoint, singing, in a semi-public key, to a frightening familiar tune, "I know I connect all those LANs/and the LANs I connect to are grand/So when I say, IP, aye, IP, eye-pee-eye-eh/I'm lookin' fine, info-highway/info-highway, no way!..."


(Note to readers: Only stunt or simulated Metcalfes were used in testing and writing this article. Not real Metcalfes, or even his sweaters, were used. And had this been a real "Internet is out" alert, this would, of course, never have gotten to you.)


- Daniel P. Dern (, has been writing, speaking, consulting, and writing song parodies about the Internet for over a decade. Author of THE INTERNET GUIDE FOR NEW USERS and founding editor of Internet World magazine, he's ready for somebody to give him another Internet magazine to be in charge of. Or even another Internet column. And yes, he knows his Web site is vastly in need of updating, okay?

Copyright (c) 1996 Daniel P. Dern

/the end. really.

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