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Maris Graube

Maris Graube

Maris Graube joined Tektronix in 1976. His first job was to update the company’s programmable instrumentation interface so that Tektronix products conformed to the same interface used by rival, Hewlett-Packard. The HP interface was developed by Don Loughry and had been standardized by the IEEE 488 committee in ‘75. Graube organized Tektronix’s transition to the new 488 standard and contributed additional protocols to the standard through his work with the 488 committee, where he met Loughry.

Graube thought the 488 interface could be improved and applied to a wider range of products, so he started exploring other developments in the field of computerized control networks. In ’77 he began attending the Industrial Process Control Workshop at Purdue University, where members were developing a standard for a ‘data highway,’ an early application of local area networking. Graube eventually became chairman of the group, which changed its name to Process Control Data Highway (PROWAY). ANSI adopted the PROWAY standard for process control, but Graube again saw the potential for wider application of a general data transmission standard. Graube’s enlisted help from his friend Bob Stuart, who had initiated standards for microprocessors in IEEE, and who suggested that Graube propose a new IEEE standards group.

After receiving approval from IEEE for committee 802, Graube led its first meeting at the Jack Tar Hotel in San Francisco in late February 1980. Graube’s initial goal was to architect an agreement on a single standard for local computer networks. In his mind a single standard, even if it didn’t cover all areas of the industry, would encourage development of semiconductor chips for networking, decreasing the cost and encouraging new applications of the technology. The path to agreement was complex, requiring Graube, along with the help of Robert Rosenthal of NBS, to navigate a minefield of technical and political challenges. At one point, facing gridlock in their meetings and criticism from the media, they made the decision to completely re-organize the group’s structure and voting protocol.

In another concession to the fiercely divided parties involved, Graube was forced to abandon his goal of one standard. The 802 committee eventually succeeded in standardizing three of the main networking technologies of the day; Ethernet, token bus, and token ring. To achieve these goals, Graube enlisted others with experience in standardization, including Don Loughry, whom he recruited for his experience in the 488 committee to chair the CSMA/CD subcommittee, and Robert Donnan, who chaired the subcommittee on token ring. Graube’s work leading the group was incredibly challenging, as he says in the interview: “I’d toss and turn at night and go to these meetings like going off to wars.” Throughout the process, he was able to manage personal egos, corporate power plays, and political agendas in one of the most storied histories of standards-making. Graube continued to work with the 802 committee until he left Tektronix in ’85 to start his own network consulting business.

Maris Graube Interviewed by James Pelkey 7/12/88