Bob Metcalfe recalls Steve Jobs' cold call

Ethernet co-inventor Bob Metcalfe remembers interactions with Steve Jobs in the early days of personal computing and having Jobs at his wedding.

In the early days of personal computing, Ethernet co-inventor Bob Metcalfe received a call from Steve Jobs, a person he didn't know, to talk about a company he had never heard of--Apple Computer. Over time, Jobs became a "hero" and sometime-collaborator.

CNET contacted Metcalfe to share his memories about Jobs, who died today, which we publish here:

Today is a sad day.

It's been 31 years since Robyn and I got married at that small white church in Woodside, but what we remember most about our wedding in 1980 is that Steve Jobs was there.

Polaris Ventures

Was sitting alone late one night in 1979 at my apartment--the one on Beacon Hill that week, not the other one in Palo Alto--and the phone rang next to my Selectric typewriter. The caller was a Steve Jobs from a company called Apple, neither of which I'd ever heard. Steve invited me to Cupertino the next week to talk about networking his personal computers. Instead of joining Apple, I told Steve I was founding 3Com and tried unsuccessfully to sell him an Ethernet in a system I had just named...Orchard. Steve declined but started helping me with 3Com by introducing me to the marketing guru Regis McKenna--I guess Steve thought I was in urgent need of marketing help.

Then there was the time Steve invited me down to Cupertino to show me VisiCalc running on the Apple II--you know, the spreadsheet before Lotus 1-2-3, which was the spreadsheet before Excel. Steve was telling me that this would be the killer app for his PC. Having never seen a paper spreadsheet before, after escaping Steve's reality distortion field that day, I didn't get it. This didn't slow Steve down. Sometime later, when the VCs (venture capitalists) asked me for a five-year projection of 3Com revenues getting to $50M, then I bought an Apple II as my VisiCalc machine. Steve then introduced me to his investors.

Steve called to invite me to his Pixar debut at De Anza College. He told me to wear a tux and that he would be sending a limo with the editor of Wired inside to pick me up. We arrived to bright lights and a red carpet. I reminded Steve that evening that all the bits going into Toy Story had been carried by Ethernet. He thanked me.

/Bob Metcalfe

Sent from my iPad, y'all.

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