Top boffin Paul Baran whose 1960s research paved the way for the world wide wibble has died. He was 84.
Baran came up with the idea of making communication networks resilient to attack or traffic surges by splitting the data sent over them into chunks.
The military was worried about what would happen if the Russians launched first and managed to knock out a few key parts of its telecommunications networks.
Baran thought it would be a good idea to slice data into “message blocks” and using a distributed system of nodes to pass them on. The system could withstand an attack because it lacked a central hub through which all data or messages passed.
He called his original idea “hot-potato routing” which didn’t really go down well with his fellow techies because it was too easy to understand. When the name was changed to data packaging it took off.
British boffin Donald Davies looked at data packaging and folded it into a technology known as packet switching. This cut data up into small chunks that are then despatched around the network.
It later formed the basis of the academic Arpanet, which was a network designed to aid US scientists communicate and which laid the foundations of the modern-day internet.
Vinton Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet and a longtime friend of Baran, told the New York Times that Baran wasn’t afraid to go in directions counter to what everyone else thought was the right or only thing to do.
Recently Baran showed his son a paper written in 1966 which speculated about what people would do with the telecommunication networks in the future.
In a “lunatic fringe idea” Baran apparently predicted that by the year 2000 that people would be using online networks for shopping and news.