Chapter #2: Where Wizards stay Up Late

Source: Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet

Authors: Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon


In chapter 2, Katie discusses the dawn of managed networks through centralized, decentralized, and distributed networks.  The 2nd one is really just a centralized network with centralized mini-networks being connected back to one central server. The third one is the gem. Paul Baran thought up the idea of distributing nodes across the geographic grid wherever necessary and connecting them to each other with regard to location. The key, he discovered was to assure a certain level of connectivity between nodes to assure reliable redundancy in case a node crashed or was hacked. (59) This idea of distributed network greatly decreased the complexity of the physical design and costs of building a reliable network. It is also the same concept peer-to-peer on which “distributed” file sharing like Napster was founded. Baran also introduced the idea of packet switching: breaking of files into smaller bits and sending them across different network paths to their destination where they are put back together into the original file. (60) Centralized networks cannot support this concept because each node passes through the central hub by only one path. These two major breakthroughs paved the way for reliable networking over large distances supporting vast amounts of nodes.

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