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Bit Movers

Professor Emeritus Robert Gallager, SM ‘57, SCD ‘60, and Robert Metcalfe ‘69 received this year’s International Marconi Fellowship, an award that recognizes significant contributions to the communications field. The shared $100,000 honorarium, given by the Guglielmo Marconi International Fellowship Foundation, was presented at an October ceremony in New York City.

Gallager is an information theorist who in the 1960s developed digital communication codes that could transmit information at the highest possible speeds. “It was a neat idea, and I was proud of that, but it was too expensive for that time,” Gallager says. Now, with cheaper and faster hardware, engineers are using his coding scheme to develop more-efficient telecommunication systems.

Metcalfe developed Ethernet, a technique for connecting computers in high-speed local-area networks, while a researcher at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center in 1973. He says he never imagined Ethernet would become such a ubiquitous technology because, at that time, computers were not widely available. He founded 3Com in 1979 and is now a partner with Polaris Venture Partners, a Waltham, MA-based venture capital firm.

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