[ih] Baran and arbitrary reliability from arbitrarily unreliable components
jeanjour at comcast.net
Thu Mar 12 05:49:13 PDT 2009
I think Noel is dead on. It is reasonably clear that Baran
influenced ARPA, but that Davies not having access to RAND reports
came up with the idea independently.
At the level of ARPA deciding to fund such a thing, the influence is
going to be nebulous as he describes after all it is a management
level. They are looking at the idea from a high level. They aren't
going to worry about the details. If you want to see if Baran's ideas
were implemented then it would be ARPA that you want to look at but
Noel also brings up another good point: documentation. Believe it or
not, but we have become a much more oral society. With people
interacting more using transient communication ranging from more
frequent meetings, to email, to messaging. The usual documentation
of what happened tends not to exist. The actual events that lead to
something are seldom documented.
Just as a minor example, I remember how shocked I was when I saw the
first "minutes" of a standards meeting. Because none of the social
dynamics, the politics, the game playing were of course reflected
there. That was clearly the real story, the story that historians
would eventually be interested in. Because those were the real
reasons things turned out as they did. And in this field, there is a
tendency to make it up or argue that "they must have been thinking X"
based on where we ended up. When nothing could be further from the
Every time I read one of these accounts I think of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia.
At 3:01 -0400 2009/03/12, Noel Chiappa wrote:
> > From: <mbaer at cs.tu-berlin.de>
> > I gather from your responses that the intellectual influence of Baran
> > is significant, and that many of the now commonplace ideas about
> > networking are due largely to him (and Pouzin).
>Well, many, but not all. I don't have time right now to accurately assign
>credit for all of contemporary networking... :-)
> > I recall having read in several places that ARPA had not been
> > influenced by Baran's work at all, and Roberts only had been made aware
> > of Baran's work by Davies in the 1967.
>This is a complex subject, and I think it's fair to say that most historians
>of technology who have looked at this think Baran's work _probably_ (more
>about this below) did have considerable influence on the ARPAnet work, as do
>To start with, I will point you at the two best academic histories (Arthur
>Norberg, Judy E. O'Neill, "Transforming Computer Technology: Information
>Processing for the Pentagon" and Janet Abbate, "Inventing the Internet"),
>both of which give the history in quite some detail. M. Mitchell Waldrop's
>biography of Licklider, "The Dream Machine", also covers it.
>There was a lengthy discussion of the topic of credit for the concepts of
>packet switching at:
>and although you can't trust anything you read in Wikipedia, the debate there
>cites sources you can go read for yourself. You might also want to look at
>this oral history interview with Baran:
>where he does things like list entries from his personal calendars showing
>various ARPA network luminaries visiting him, in the period before the ARPA
>network was specified. (Human memories are so fallible, _contemporary_
>written records are the 'gold standard' for historians.)
>However, having said all that... I don't think that at this distance we will
>ever be able to say with _absolute certainty_ what his influence was.
>That is because we'll never be able to find/prove things like 'A read Baran's
>document, and mentioned it in the hallway to B, who then said something to C
>at ARPA', or 'P read the Baran document, forgot the details in his concious
>mind, but then subconciously reused the ideas later when they started thinking
>All we can say _for sure_ is 'these ideas were laid out by Baran before
>anyone else that we have definite record of, and his ideas were _widely_
>propogated some years before the ARPA network work'.
>Although that's not necessarily definitive as to influence, because Davies was
>pretty sure he'd never heard of Baran's work when he started to think about
>networking some years later. (Davies heard about Baran from someone at the
>MoD, when he gave a presentation there.) So clearly not everyone heard about
>them. But maybe he just didn't remember a fifth-hand conversation in a hallway
>some years before... :-(
> > Has the RFQ in 1968 been written in complete ignorance of Baran's work?
>My recollection (from reading the stuff above) some years ago that by the
>time they got to the stage of writing the RFQ, Baran had been 'discovered'
>and consulted. But read the histories above, they will have the detail.
> > After all, it envisages packet orientation and distributed routing.
>Yes... but the routing mechanism (and many of the other details) of the
>ARPAnet were rather different. (Read the IMP paper in IFIPS to find out
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