The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., as part of its Odysseys In Technology Series, sponsored by Sun Microsystems Laboratories, will present Paul Baran, the inventor of packet switching, and a 2005 Computer History Museum Fellow Award recipient, 7 p.m., Wednesday, December 7, at the Computer History Museum's Hahn Auditorium, 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd. For reservations, please visit, www.computerhistory.org/events.
Baran, who received the Computer History Museum Fellow Award October 18 for his foundational work on packet switching on which the Internet is based, and for a lifetime of entrepreneurial activity, is the author of 150 papers and 40 patents, and creator of five start-ups.
Baran's packet switching research was motivated by the Cold War demand for an invincible military network that would survive a "second strike," theoretically discouraging a possible attack by the Soviet Union. His solution was to eliminate dependence upon the United States. highly centralized telephone facilities by using a series of computers to route pieces of data (later called "packets" by British inventor Donald Davies) from one to another - a system that had no central stations and that required no fixed route. Messages would be broken into packets, and each would follow whatever electronic route that existed, being re-assembled at their destinations into a coherent message. This served as a foundation upon which others later built the ARPANET, which, over time, evolved into the early Internet.
Baran's foresight was heralded in a speech, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Rand Corporation, given by James Q. Wilson, professor of management at UCLA. Wilson said, "When you use a computer to send an e-mail, you are using a method created by Paul Baran over three decades ago."
Born in Poland in 1926, Baran at the age of two emigrated to the United States with his parents. He received a B.S. in electrical engineering from Drexel University in 1949. He then joined the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation where he was a technician on the Univac I computer. In 1959, Baran received an M.S. degree in engineering from UCLA and joined the Rand Corporation, where he developed the concept of packet switching to make distributed networks feasible. At Rand, he wrote a 13-volume set of reports defining in detail an all-digital, nation-wide distributed network for digital voice and data. Baran left Rand in 1968 to co-found the Institute for the Future, a not-for-profit research group specializing in long-range forecasting. In 1972, he started a number of for-profit companies based on technologies he developed. These included Cabledata Associates, Equatorial Communications, Telebit, and Packet Technologies/Stratacom. In 1986, he co-founded Metricom and Ricochet wireless, and in 1989, InterFax. He co-founded Com21 in 1995 and co-founded GoBackTV in 2003.
In addition to his Computer History Museum Fellow Award, other awards include the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal in 1990 for his work on packet switching, and the Franklin Institute's Bower Award and Prize in Science in 2001.
Baran is joined on stage by Henry Lowood, curator of the Science and Technology Collections of the Stanford Libraries to discuss how his accomplishments came about and how they continue to have an impact on government, security and our everyday lives.
Odysseys in Technology, The Computer History Museum Speaker Series Sponsored by Sun Microsystems Laboratories presents people and perspectives behind extraordinary innovations and advancements in the computer technology-related world. Each event in the Series provides stimulating interaction with authentic experts whose achievements have transformed how things are done or viewed, and examines how their personal stories might inform the present and future. These programs occasionally feature technologies or point events, with the objective to apply lessons of history to present day understanding and inspiration. Reservations are recommended to attend the Odysseys In Technology events. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $10. The Odysseys In Technology lectures start promptly at 7:00 p.m. A reception is held at 6:00 p.m. for Computer History Museum members. For more information, please visit www.computerhistory.org/events.
The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, a public benefit organization with a 25-year history as part of the former Boston Computer Museum, preserves and presents for posterity the artifacts and stories of the information age. The Museum is dedicated to exploring the social impact of computing and is home to the world's largest collection of computing-related items -- from hardware (mainframes, PCs, handhelds, integrated circuits), to software, to computer graphics systems, to the Internet and networking -- and contains many rare objects such as the Cray-1 supercomputer, the Apple I, the WWII ENIGMA, the PalmPilot prototype, and the 1969 Honeywell "Kitchen Computer." The collection also includes photos, films, videos, documents, publications, and advertising and marketing materials. Currently in its first phase, the Museum brings computing history to life through its popular speaker series, seminars, oral histories and workshops. The Museum also offers self-guided and docent-led tours of Visible Storage, where nearly 600 objects from the collection are on display. A new exhibit, "Mastering The Game: A History of Computer Chess," opened in September 2005. Please check the Web site for open hours. Future phases will feature full museum exhibits and educational programs, including a timeline of computing history, theme galleries, a research center, and much more. For more information, please visit www.computerhistory.org or call 650.810.1010.