Paul Baran switches packets no more

Internet innovation is for many synonymous with the latest mobile gadgetry, and few give a thought to the underlying technologies. Behold the new technical illiteracy.

One of those fundamental Internet technologies is network packet switching, invented in the mid-1960s by Paul Baran, Donald Davies and Leonard Kleinrock. Packet switching involves cutting up data into small blocks which are distributed via different network nodes, and reassembled near their final destination. Routing the data in this way protects the information against corruption, loss and attack. Packet switching is the basis of the anti-hierarchical, bottom-up Internet, and herein lies its power and resilience.

I’m sad to learn that Paul Baran has just died, aged 84. The greatness of this quiet, understated man “of infinite patience” dwarfs that of the celebrity salesmen of the personal computer, mobile device and social media age.

RIP Paul Baran (1926-2011)