Sunday, March 06, 2011

Great advice from the pioneer of broadband DSL

Read the Forbes blog post entitled "Engineers: Ignore Critics, Follow Your Dreams, Change The World" by John Cioffi, the entrepreneurial engineer who pioneered broadband DSL. He says:
Entrepreneurial success requires passion, patience and thick skin. Entrepreneurs who also happen to be an engineers need a triple dose of all of those qualities, because no matter what the venture, real entrepreneurs often face long odds and loud critics.
He goes on to say:
As a 23-year-old engineer at Bell Laboratories in 1979, I came to believe that high-speed, high-volume transmissions were feasible via copper telephone lines. A lot of people thought I was star-struck with the projection of arcane theories that could not be practically realized. The prevailing contrary belief was that phone lines could never carry video. The prevailing conventional wisdom was that the whole network would have to be replaced with optical fiber to enable video transmission. Nonetheless, I could not see any reason why high-bandwidth video and other data signals could not be carried on the existing copper, and became fascinated with how to do it.
My efforts were often ridiculed and criticized, but since no one provided me a technically sound reason to the contrary, I continued. A big motivation beyond the technical challenge was that the economics of wide-scale replacement of copper with fiber was staggering, thus suggesting that this very interesting technical problem would also have large economic value. In the end, copper-based DSL technology did become a reality. The pioneering work we began twenty years ago at a company I founded, Amati Communications, now accounts for approximately 98 percent of the nearly 400 million DSL connections in the world today.
So much for conventional wisdom.
An interesting story.


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