Monday, February 6, 2017

Blog #5: The Birth of the Internet

Tension between the US and Russia during the Cold War was skyrocketing. Effective communication between the two countries was crucial during this time for the aversion of war and prevention of the first strike. Paul Baran, a researcher from an American think tank called RAND (short for Research and Development), was becoming progressively apprehensive about this possible nuclear commencement. Communication between the nuclear strike force would be vital to avoid any accidental weapon firing. Baran devised a concept that could drastically yet efficiently change the national communications network. His idea consisted of “a centrifugal distribution of central points: a distributed network that had no vulnerable central point and could rely on redundancy.” The current communications network at the time had command and control points at the center that stemmed links that would reach other points of contact. The process of rewiring this system was going to be a dilemma. Baran’s idea was of several relay stations that a message could travel around any number of ways. At the time, it was far too advanced to be able to easily find the right team of people. Baran, along with Donald Davies, the Superintendent of the Computer Science Division of the UK’s National Physics Laboratory, both conceived the idea of sending a message in the form of packets to more efficiently transfer data without harming the quality of the data sent. Davies had actually devised his idea of a packet relaying network around the same time as Baran while having been unaware of Baran’s efforts. While Baran was working on his packet switching network, RAND was working at levels both above and below the Air Force and with clientele from outside the military structure.

Discussion Questions:
1. Do you believe the development of Baran's idea was a crucial measure during the time of the Cold War?
2. Ryan mentions that Donald Davies, a computer science superintendent, was devising almost exactly the same plan about packet switching around the same time as Paul Baran. Do you think this was just a coincidence or did then current events uprise this method?

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ITR Presentation - World Wide Web