Paul Baran, whose co-invention of packet switching lies at the very foundation of the Internet, has died. He was 84. Baran spent the 1960s at RAND's computer science department where he focused on developing a system for "distributed communications," fundamental research that was seminal to the birth of Arpanet which, of course, became the Internet. In 1968, Baran left RAND to co-found the Institute for the Future, the not-for-profit forecasting group where I'm a research director. His impact was broad, deep, and truly transformational. From the NYT:
“The process of technological developments is like building a cathedral,” Baran said in an interview in 1990. “Over the course of several hundred years, new people come along and each lays down a block on top of the old foundations, each saying, ‘I built a cathedral.’
“Next month another block is placed atop the previous one. Then comes along an historian who asks, ‘Well, who built the cathedral?’ Peter added some stones here, and Paul added a few more. 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.”
"Paul Baran, Internet Pioneer, Dies at 84"
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