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Executive Spotlight: Howard Charney

"All Greek to Me"

If you’re not up on Greek mythology, you might want to do a quick Google on the myth of Sisyphus. I’ll wait….

Sisyphus provided a metaphor for life at 3Com when I spoke and later exchanged emails with Howard Charney, one of 3Com's founders. “At the time it seemed as if we were Sisyphus and 3Com was the rock. We were doomed to constantly keep pushing. The problem was both complicated and solved by the people. But in retrospect it now appears to have been a magical time where each contributed to make the whole ever so valuable. Such magic is rarely duplicated.”

Howard met me at a Starbucks in Palo Alto in May of 2018. I failed to take the usual coffee shop picture, and I regret that – he was impressively wearing a full-on flight suit, having just come from the local airport where he parked his plane. He was dressed like a pilot testing out a new airplane and yet somehow still managed to fit into the atmosphere of our Starbucks.

We chatted, and Howard shared with me some childhood stories that I had not heard about. Funnily enough, he grew up on Long Island, not so far from where his buddy and fellow 3Com founder Bob Metcalfe grew up. We talked about an assortment of things, and Howard also related some interesting views he acquired about the industry from his long career at Cisco that helped to enlighten our story.

Thank you, Howard, for sharing your story, and thank you and Bob for starting up the company that served us so well.

Howard was kind enough to share his thoughts about our book (out next month!). You can read his comments along with others at The Kindle edition is available for pre-order now, and paperback and hardback editions will be available for pre-order soon.

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We’d also love your helping spreading the word about our book. After you’ve nudged your friends and family, let us know what you did to help. You’ll become eligible for a prized knickknack from the 3Com time capsule, described in our blog at Just email me at

Think you can’t win that fabulous prize? Well, I’ll leave you with one more thought from Howard: “3Com was an experiment that worked because the people were so dedicated and so smart. The future of networking had to unfold a certain way, but we were also lucky. Never underestimate the importance of luck.”


Howard in the early years on Sand Hill Road, 1982. Source: Dan Robertson.

1984 photo of Howard Charney with Reinier Tuinzing, Senior Product Manager. Reinier went on to run product marketing for Kalpana, growing its switching business 10x before the company was sold to Cisco in 1994. Source: Dan Robertson.

Howard Charney loves to fly airplanes!

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