History Of the InternetHistory of the Internet

Packet Switching

Little did they know that both of them were working on the same project at the same time. In the Beginning of the 1960’s Paul Baran worked at RAND corporation where he would begin his quest of finding equipment that will be able to withstand a nuclear attacks. Baran wanted to make a mode of transport for vital information that would not be damaged by a nuclear attack. He then thought of how a brain works to transmit information to the body via the neural net, and how even when there was a damage cell the massage would be re routed around the cell to appropriate destination. Baran came up with the idea of dividing a message up in parts, called "blocks," and then sending them individually across a medium to be reassembled at the destination. Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon in "Where Wizards Stay Up Late" give another example of the block concept where they relate the message transfer to freight movers. The authors describe how when a house is being moved from one end of the continent to the other it will usually be disassembled and then reassembled at the destination. This method of transporting a house is more efficient than transporting the house in one piece, which is still possible.

These "message Blocks" as Baran called them would also hold important information like who sent it, who it should go to and what order the block are in. In 1965 Baran go the final approval from the Air Force to test out his theory’s block switching. The Defense Communication Agency got control of the project and screwed it up so Baran was unable to complete the project.

Just around the time when Paul Baran gave up on block switching, Donald Watts Davies, a Physicist from the British National Physical Laboratory, was thinking up a similar sort of system for transporting information over a network. Unaware of what Paul Baran was doing in previous years, he came up with "Packet Switching" using the same principals as Barans Block Switching.

Paul Baran Donald Davies

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