Packet switching pioneer Paul Baran passes away at 84

Paul Baran, one of the Internet's early technology pioneers, died last Saturday after a battle with lung cancer.

Paul BaranBaran is best known for creating the "packet-switching" concept, which bundles data into small packages and sends them through a network. He devised the packet-switching concept while working on a way to create a method to move data that could still function after a nuclear attack at RAND Corp. in 1963 and 1964.

Although Baran was the first to develop the roots of packet switching, a process he called "message blocks," the term "packet switching" was developed later by British computer scientist Donald Davies in 1968.

Packet-switching was later adopted by the Department of Defense in 1969 to create what was known as the Arpanet, the precursor to today's Internet.

Like many Internet visionaries, Baran's ideas were far ahead of his time. David Baran said his father recently showed him a paper he wrote in the 1966 that spelled out the idea that "by the year 2000 that people would be using online networks for shopping and news."

Describing the technological developments in a New York Times interview in 1990 as being "like building a cathedral," Baran's early foundations helped pave the way for a host of other innovators to create interactive applications that have become the fabric of many Internet users' lives, like Skype and Facebook.  

His wife of 52 years, Evelyn, passed in 2007. In addition to his son David, who resides in Atherton, Calif., Baran is survived by three grandchildren.

For more:
- The Washington Post has this article

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