Larry Roberts, pioneered packet switching

Larry Roberts


As part of the gang of four that drove the development of today's Internet, Larry Roberts is known as the member who pioneered the packet switching concept.

Of course, Roberts drew his inspiration from another Internet pioneer, J. C. R. Licklider. When Roberts was working at MIT Lincoln Labs, he read Licklider's "Intergalactic Computer Network," which outlined the vision of establishing a time-sharing network of computers.

It was this paper that gave Roberts the inspiration to develop the concept of a computer-to-computer network that could communicate via data packets for the ARPANET.

As director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency's (ARPA) Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO), the organization that funded the development of the ARPANET, Roberts funded the development of the second node on the ARPANET otherwise known Augmentation Research Center (ARC) led by Douglas Englebart.  

Among the many innovations that Englebart's ARC created are a number of computing and Internet tools users now take for granted such as bitmapped screens, the mouse, hypertext, collaborative tools, and precursors to the graphical user interface (GUI).

Seeing an opportunity to put his packet switching research into commercial use, Roberts left ARPANET in 1973 when he was recruited by Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN) to become the CEO of Telenet, the first commercial packet switched network that became operational in 1974. Roberts led Telenet until 1980 after it was bought out by GTE.

Following his work at Telenet, Roberts helped drive the emergence of the Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) protocol as CEO of NetExpress and then as president ATM Systems. Later, he served as the chairman and CTO of the now defunct Caspian Networks.

To this day Roberts continues to work on improving the state of the Internet through his latest venture Anagran, which focuses on IP flow management with QoS.

Larry Roberts, pioneered packet switching