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Paul Baran

Digital Packet Switching

U.S. Patent No. 4,438,511
Inducted in 2007
Born April 29, 1926 - Died March 26, 2011

Paul Baran developed a fundamental concept behind today's advanced communications networking systems: digital packet switching.

Baran was born in Grodno, Poland and came to the U.S. at the age of two. In 1949, he earned his B.S. in electrical engineering from Drexel University and his M.S. from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1959. Following his graduation from UCLA, Baran was at the RAND Corporation where he designed a communication network to survive a first strike from the Soviet Union during the Cold War. He based his network on a mesh network able to reconfigure itself to bypass non-working areas. To create this totally decentralized network, Baran divided the communications stream into message blocks, or "packets," sent along various paths to eventually be rejoined into a whole at their destination.

The digital packet concept is a paradigm shift from the circuit switched communications networks of the past. Packet switching enables the construction of digital networks with greater flexibility, reliability, robustness, and lower cost than circuit switching and now has become the new standard way of building communications networks. Baran held 31 patents for his work on several new communications technologies in part based upon the concept of packets.

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