updated 3/28/2011 10:48:48 AM ET 2011-03-28T14:48:48

Paul Baran, the engineer whose development of packet switching enabled the creation of the Internet, died Saturday night at age 84. Working for the RAND Corp. in the early 1960s, Baran created both the conceptual and engineering framework for the Internet. A holder of many patents, Baran was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2007 and received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2008.

At the height of the Cold War, Baran wrote a series of papers advocating for a communication network widely distributed enough to survive a Soviet nuclear attack on a number of U.S. sites. Then, not simply content to theorize about such a network, Baran went ahead and invented the packet-switching protocol such a distributed network would need to function. That network would become the Internet, and Baran's protocol remains in use today.

Packet switching involves taking electronic signals — emails, texts, streaming movies, etc. — and chopping them up into small, discrete packs of data. Those packets could then simultaneously travel through different paths in a network, before eventually getting reassembled by a computer at their final destination. This method of sending data allows for faster, stronger, more flexible, more reliable and less expensive networks.

"The telephone company said it wouldn't work and that I was crazy," Baran told The Register in 2005. "Every time there was an objection, I had to go out and write a paper. Eventually, I ran out of reasons why it wouldn't work."

In 1968, Baran left RAND to co-found the Institute for the Future, a nonprofit think tank that brings together the futurist predictions of leaders in technology, health and business.

This article was provided by InnovationNewsDaily , a sister site of TechNewsDaily.


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