Ethernet cables are used to connect everything with an Internet connection today. Even wireless devices like tablets and smartphones have to connect to other devices like routers that are themselves run off ethernet. While the world wide web did not start booming until the late 90s, ethernet’s origins can be traced back to the 1970s.

Robert Metcalfe, the engineer who laid the groundwork for the Internet by co-inventing ethernet.

1974: Xerox PARC finishes developing the first ethernet cable, pioneered by Robert Metcalfe.

1975: Xerox files a patent for the ethernet cable. Metcalfe is listed as the inventor along with his colleagues David Boggs, Chuck Thacker, and Butler Lampson.

1976: The first ethernet system is privately deployed. Upgrades to the system eventually result in 10 Mbit/s ethernet, the first cable released to the public market later on.

1976: Metcalfe and Boggs publish the paper “Ethernet: Distributed Packet-Switching for Local Computer Networks”.

1979: Metcalfe leaves Xerox and founds his own company, 3Com. He then convinces Xerox, DEC, and Intel to work together and promote ethernet as a new standard. In the process, Xerox relinquishes their trademark on ethernet.

1980: The first standard of ethernet is released to the public.

1982: An upgraded ethernet called Ethernet II, capable of 10 Mbps, is released.

1983: IEEE 802.3 is published, beginning the standardization of ethernet industry-wide.

1985: IEEE officially adopts ethernet as the new industry standard over ethernet’s competitor Token Ring.

1986: 10Base5 ethernet cables (ethernet made with heavy coax, also known as “thicknet”) are introduced.

1989: The start-up company Kalpana (later bought by Cisco) creates the first ethernet switch.

1991: The T-568 wiring pinout is standardized for commercial buildings.

1991: Cat3 twisted pair ethernet cables are introduced, paving the way for modern ethernet cables.

1991: The first mass-market ethernet printer is introduced, the HP LaserJet IIISi. It cost $5,495 ($10,289.37 adjusted for inflation).

1994: Fiber ethernet is developed and first used in data centers.

1994: T-568A is introduced as the new standardized pinout.

1995: 100 Mbps (“Fast Ethernet”) ethernet is developed, becoming the new standard.

1998: Gigabit (GbE) ethernet is developed and approved as a standard by IEEE, leading to the development of twisted pair (TP) ethernet.

2001: 10 GbE ethernet is developed.

2001: Cat5e cable, and with it the T-568B pinout, is developed.

2002: 10 GbE ethernet is formally approved as a standard by IEEE.

2002: Cat6 cable is developed.

2003: Power Over Ethernet (POE) is developed.

2003: Robert Metcalfe receives the US National Medal of Technology.

2008: Cat6a cable is developed.

2010: 40 GbE ethernet is approved as a new standard.

2015: 100 GbE ethernet is approved as a new standard. This led to the development of new 25 Gbps transceivers.