Today's Obsession: Paul Baran

The process of technological developments is like building a cathedral. Over the course of several hundred years, new people come along and each lays down a block on top of the old foundations, each saying, ‘I built a cathedral.’

Next month another block is placed atop the previous one. Then comes along an historian who asks, ‘Well, who built the cathedral?’ Peter added some stones here, and Paul added a few more. If you are not careful you can con yourself into believing that you did the most important part. But the reality is that each contribution has to follow onto previous work. Everything is tied to everything else.

Here’s a wonderful overview of the life and career of Paul Baran, who was one of the founders of the internet. His initial notions of a system for sending information to remote locations via a distributed network was so futuristic upon its initial release that at&t deemed it totally impossible.