Technology > Networks
Arpanet (1969-1990), Gopher (1992-1996)
From about 1992 through 1996,
Gopher was an Internet application
in which hierarchically-organized text files
could be brought from servers
all over the world
to a viewer on your computer.
Especially in universities,
Gopher was a step toward
the World Wide Web's
Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP),
which effectively replaced it
within a short time.
With hypertext links,
the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML),
and the arrival of a graphical browser, Mosaic,
the Web quickly transcended Gopher.
Gopher was developed
at the University of Minnesota,
whose sports teams
are called "the Golden Gophers."
the government-sponsored precursor
Information Processing Techniques Office,
part of the Advanced Research Projects Agency,
known as ARPA
Dies at 84
March 27, 2011
The New York Times
By KATIE HAFNER
Paul Baran, an engineer who helped create the technical underpinnings for the
Arpanet, the government-sponsored precursor to today’s Internet, died Saturday
night at his home in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 84.
The cause was complications from lung cancer, said his son, David.
In the early 1960s, while working at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica,
Calif., Mr. Baran outlined the fundamentals for packaging data into discrete
bundles, which he called “message blocks.” The bundles are then sent on various
paths around a network and reassembled at their destination. Such a plan is
known as “packet switching.”
Mr. Baran’s idea was to build a distributed communications network, less
vulnerable to attack or disruption than conventional networks. In a series of
technical papers published in the 1960s he suggested that networks be designed
with redundant routes so that if a particular path failed or was destroyed,
messages could still be delivered through another.
Mr. Baran’s invention was so far ahead of its time that in the mid-1960s, when
he approached AT&T with the idea to build his proposed network, the company
insisted it would not work and refused.
“Paul wasn’t afraid to go in directions counter to what everyone else thought
was the right or only thing to do,” said Vinton Cerf, a vice president at Google
who was a colleague and longtime friend of Mr. Baran’s. “AT&T repeatedly said
his idea wouldn’t work, and wouldn’t participate in the Arpanet project,” he
In 1969, the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency built the
Arpanet, a network that used Mr. Baran’s ideas, and those of others. The Arpanet
was eventually replaced by the Internet, and packet switching still lies at the
heart of the network’s internal workings.
Paul Baran was born on April 29, 1926, in Grodno, Poland. His parents moved to
the United States in 1928, and Mr. Baran grew up in Philadelphia. His father was
a grocer, and as a boy, Paul delivered orders to customers in a small red wagon.
He attended the Drexel Institute of Technology, which later became Drexel
University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in
1949. He took his first job at the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation in
Philadelphia, testing parts of radio tubes for an early commercial computer, the
Univac. In 1955, he married Evelyn Murphy, and they moved to Los Angeles, where
Mr. Baran took a job at Hughes Aircraft working on radar data processing
systems. He enrolled in night classes at the University of California, Los
Mr. Baran received a master’s degree in engineering from U.C.L.A. in 1959.
Gerald Estrin, who was Mr. Baran’s adviser, said Mr. Baran was the first student
he ever had who actually went to the Patent Office in Washington to investigate
whether his master’s work, on character recognition, was patentable.
“From that day on, my expectations of him changed,” Dr. Estrin said. “He wasn’t
just a serious student, but a young man who was looking to have an effect on the
In 1959, Mr. Baran left Hughes to join RAND’s computer science department. He
quickly developed an interest in the survivability of communications systems in
the event of a nuclear attack, and spent the next several years at RAND working
on a series of 13 papers — two of them classified — under contract to the Air
Force, titled, “On Distributed Communications.”
About the same time that Mr. Baran had his idea, similar plans for creating such
networks were percolating in the computing community. Donald Davies of the
British National Physical Laboratory, working a continent away, had a similar
idea for dividing digital messages into chunks he called packets.
“In the golden era of the early 1960s, these ideas were in the air,” said
Leonard Kleinrock, a computer scientist at U.C.L.A. who was working on similar
networking systems in the 1960s.
Mr. Baran left RAND in 1968 to co-found the Institute for the Future, a
nonprofit research group specializing in long-range forecasting.
Mr. Baran was also an entrepreneur. He started seven companies, five of which
eventually went public.
In recent years, the origins of the Internet have been subject to claims and
counterclaims of precedence, and Mr. Baran was an outspoken proponent of
distributing credit widely.
“The Internet is really the work of a thousand people,” he said in an interview
“The process of technological developments is like building a cathedral,” he
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
Mr. Baran’s wife, Evelyn, died in 2007. In addition to his son, David, of
Atherton, Calif., he is survived by three grandchildren; and his companion of
recent years, Ruth Rothman.
Paul Baran, Internet
Pioneer, Dies at 84,
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