Paul Baran named to Internet Hall of Fame | May 2, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - May 2, 2012

Paul Baran named to Internet Hall of Fame

by Dave Boyce

Inventor Paul Baran, who died last year, has been inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in Geneva, Switzerland.

Mr. Baran, who was a resident of Atherton, is credited with inventing techniques for digital packet switching, an elegant concept fundamental to the efficiency and hardiness of the World Wide Web.

He is one of 33 people inducted into the Hall of Fame on April 23.

Among those joining Mr. Baran in this inaugural induction are World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, Internet protocol inventor Vint Cerf, Linux open-source operating system inventor Linus Torvalds, and former vice president Al Gore, who was "a key proponent of sponsoring legislation that funded the expansion of and greater public access to the Internet."

Of the three categories of inductees — Internet Pioneers, Global Connectors and Innovators — Mr. Baran and Mr. Cerf were included as pioneers, Mr. Berners-Lee and Mr. Torvalds as innovators, and Mr. Gore as a global connector.

Mr. Baran is a recipient of the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. In 2007, he was named to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio.

He co-founded the Palo Alto-based Institute for the Future and, according to collaborator Stephen Millard, started seven companies, five of which went public. Mr. Millard talked with the Almanac for a 2007 cover story associated with Mr. Baran's National Inventors Hall of Fame induction.

Technologies based on his inventions include high-speed Internet access (DSL), wireless networking, and Internet phone service, Mr. Millard said. He is credited with inventing the first metal detector.

In a nutshell, packet switching takes a digital entity such as an e-mail attachment or the playing of a YouTube video and disassembles it into thousands of meticulously identified packets of bits and bytes. Those packets are then sent along random paths through a mesh-like network of servers, and reassembled in the right order at the right time at the right computer.

"The Internet, which connects more than two billion people around the world today, is the result of many important contributions from creative and visionary individuals over the past several decades," said Raul Echeberria, the chair of the Internet Society's Board of Trustees. "The 2012 Internet Hall of Fame celebrates the accomplishments and advancements of 33 talented people who have made significant contributions to the design, development, and expansion of the Internet."


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