Dern response to Metcalfe critique of Dern 'net collapse?' piece (fwd)

J.D. Falk jdfalk at
Sat Aug 31 00:43:23 UTC 1996

	Both NANOG and the Internet Press Guild talking about some of the
same things...what fun!
	BTW, the IPG is at ''.  We'll be
forming a public list for discussion of coverage of the net in major
media, sorta like used to be. 

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 29 Aug 1996 00:47:04 -0400
From: Daniel P Dern <ddern at>
Reply-To: ipg-l at
To: ipg-l at
Subject: (Belated fwd) Dern response to Metcalfe critique of Dern 'net    collapse?' piece
Resent-Date: Thu, 29 Aug 1996 00:49:41 -0400
Resent-From: ipg-l at

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

    (as told to Daniel P. Dern <ddern at,>)

                 Copyright (c) 1996 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 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 

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 

"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 

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 

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 (ddern at, 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, 

                 Copyright (c) 1996 Daniel P. Dern

/the end.  really. 


Daniel Dern (ddern at, 
  Internet analyst,  author, columnist & speaker 
  (617) 969-7947 FAX: (617) 969-7949 

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