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Packet Switching

Before the invention of the Internet computers were restricted to only being able to communicate with other stations on a network which was based on a central mainframe computer.

It wasn’t until the 1960′s that researchers Lewis C Finch and Robert W Taylor pioneered the way for calls to create a connected global network.

However, it was Paul Baran who was one of the inventors of packet switching which would eventually make the internet possible.

Paul Baran was born April 26 1926 and was one of three people who can be credited for inventing packet switching. Baran was developing the idea for a distributed network so that the military could maintain command and control of their resources in the event of a nuclear war.

At the same time Donald Davies who was working at the National Physics Laboratory in the United Kingdom was also working on the idea of a distributed network, but he was more focused on the problem of being able to share resources rather than Baran, who was focused on developing it for military gains.

However, it wasn’t until 1970 that Davies assisted in building a packet switched network which was called the Mark 1.

A computer scientist Leonard Kleinrock PHD who was born on the 13th of June 1934 was to make several noticeable additions in the field of computer networking. His first contribution was his Doctoral thesis which was written in 1963 and later published in the way of a book in 1964.

His early research in queuing theory which was important in packet switching was to later help in the construction of the ARPANET; the world’s first working packet switching network, which Leonard Kleinrock was involved in.


Advanced Research Projects Agency Network was developed by the United States Department of Defence. The ARPANET was the world’s first ever working packet switching network and was seen as the internet’s predecessor. The reason that packet switching was such a major step forward and why it’s important to our story of the history of the internet is because before packet switching communication was based on circuit switching, just like the old telephone circuit.

Circuit switching tied up the circuit for the duration of the call and was only able to communicate with one person at the other end of the circuit.

Packet switching was different, as it could create a link to one or more computers by breaking down data into things called datagraphs, which were then gathered together into packets. This meant that the link could be shared, but also be routed independently of other packets. A good way to describe this is to think of a train station i.e. a train station can be used by multiple people to travel to different destinations.

As you can see we are getting closer to the creation of the internet, although we aren’t there yet, however, it was the start of proper networking, all we need now is someone to come along and realize its potential.

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