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Science

Internet pioneer Paul Baran dies at 84

Paul Baran, best known for his idea of "packet-switching"which was used by the US Department of Defense to create the Arpanet, the precursor to the Internet, has died at the age of 84 in California.

Paul Baran

In 2008, Baran received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation

Paul Baran, an engineer and Internet pioneer, has died in Palo Alto, California from complications from lung cancer, his son David Baran announced Sunday evening. Baran's idea of sending data in packages was a crucial element of what later became the Internet.

The Polish-born Baran, who moved to the United States with his family at the age of two, developed his concept of "packet-switching" while working on Cold War issues for the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica in the early 1960s. The US Department of Defense used the technology in 1969 when it created the Arpanet, the precursor to the Internet as it's known today.

"Paul wasn't afraid to go in directions counter to what everyone else thought was the right or only thing to do," Vinton Cerf, a vice president at Google and longtime friend of Baran, told the New York Times.

Breakthrough idea initially declined

Baran was ahead of his time when he suggested building a communications network that would be less vulnerable to attacks or disruptions than conventional networks.

By creating redundant routes, data packages could access a different route once the initial path was destroyed. Baran's idea was declined by private companies such as AT&T, as they insisted it would not work.

Despite his pioneering work, he was eager to share the credit. "The Internet is really the work of a thousand people," Baran said in 2001.

Author: Sarah Steffen (AFP, AP)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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