Some thirty years ago , the Rand corporation , America's formost cold war think
tank, faced a strange straegic problem. How could the US authrieties succesfully
communicate after a nuclear war?
Postnuclear America would need a comand-and-control network, linked from city
to city , state to state, base to base . But no matter how throughly that network was
armored or protected , its switches and wiring would always be vulnerable to the impact
of atomic bombs. A nuclear attack would reduce any conceivable network to tatters.
And how would the network itself be commanded and controlled ? Any central authority,
any network central citadel, would be an obvious and immediate target for man enemy
missle. Thecenter of the network would be the very first place to go.
RAND mulled over this grim puzzle in deep military secrecy, and arrived at a
daring solution made in 1964. The principles were simple .
The network itself would be
assumed to be unreliable at all times . It would be designed from the get-go to tyranscend
its all times . It would be designed from the get-go to transcend its own unrreliability. All
the nodes from computers in the network would be equal in status to all other nodes , each
node with its own authority to originate , pass , and recieve messages. The messages
would be divided into packets, each packet seperatly addressed. Each packet would begin
at some specified source node , and end at some other specified destination node . Each
packet would wind its way through the network on an individual basis.In fall 1969, the
first such node was insalled in UCLA. By December 1969, there were 4 nodes on the
infant network, which was named arpanet, after its Pentagon sponsor.
The four computers could even...