Timeout To Honor Paul Baran

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Paul Baran didn't exactly invent the Internet. He would have been the first person to tell you that. I'm sad to report that Mr. Baran passed away over the weekend at the age of 84. His work , however, developing the ARPANET back in the 1960's lives on today as the fundamental basis of how data is moved from point A to point B on the Internet.

Paul Baran invented something called "packet switching".  It means breaking up data into "packets" and sending them over the network by different pathways and then reassembling them into the whole again at its destination.

Baran also believed those alternate pathways were necessary redundancies needed to protect the network to avoid disruptions due to outages or even sabotage.

ARPANET remember was the government's early version of the Internet. ARPANET was also used and developed during the Cold War. Packet switching was a brilliant way to protect data from being intercepted by the other guys.

Before shopping his then fantastical dream of networked computers to the government, Baran tried the private sector. He approached AT&T a number of times in the mid-1960's. Eact time he was rebuffed. AT&T executives said it would never work. There's a punchline in there somewhere, but I'll take a pass since this is somewhat of an obituary.

Paul Baran was as modest as he was brilliant. When asked back in 1990 about his contribution to the creation of the Internet, he had this to say:

"If you are not careful you can con yourself into believing that you did the most important part. But the reality is that each contribution has to follow onto previous work. Everything is tied to everything else."

Everything is tied to everything! Sort of like the Internet, eh?

 

Last updated: Mar 29, 2011




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