This week saw the loss of Paul Baran, one of the Internet’s early pioneers. Working at the RAND Corporation in the 1960s, Paul Baran had an idea for making communication networks resilient to attack or traffic surges by splitting the data sent over them into what he called “message blocks.” These blocks could be sent on various paths around a network and reassembled at their destination. This approach led to the implementation of what is known today as “packet switching.” In 1969, the Defense Department Advanced Research Projects Agency built the Arpanet, a network that incorporated ideas from Paul Baran. The Arpanet was eventually replaced by the Internet, and packet switching still lies at the heart of the network’s internal workings. The distribute approach to communications that Paul Baran contributed has led to the Internet being highly resilient and less vulnerable to attack or disruption than conventional networks.
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