[ih] Baran and arbitrary reliability from arbitrarily unreliable components

Noel Chiappa jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu
Wed Mar 18 15:51:07 PDT 2009

    > From: John Day <jeanjour at comcast.net>

    > Davies not having access to RAND reports

Oh, one minor point for the record on this.

A summary of Baran's work was published in:

  Paul Baran, "On Distributed Communications Networks", ('IEEE Transactions on
  Communications Systems', March 1964)

Note the date - in Baran's oral history interview he notes (pp. 40-41) that
one work, a book (by Donald Davies, from context) had a typo and listed the
paper as being in 1969, an error that has since been widely copied (with the
obvious erroneous conclusions drawn) - to Baran's amusement! ("It's fun to
see many people refer to that paper with the 1969 date year after year in
footnotes and in bibliographies. It's obvious that they haven't read the
paper, only the reference to it.")

I don't know how widespread ToCS was back then, but to reply to your
observation above, it wasn't necessary to have had access to Baran's reports
to find out about his work back in '64 in pretty fair detail (I have read the
ToCS paper, and it covers the main points).

Even more problematic, an abstract of Baran's '64 IEEE ToCS paper had been
published in IEEE Spectrum in August '64. I seem to recall doing some
research to find out the circulation figures for that journal back then, and
I apparently discovered (no notes as to where I found this) that it was about
160,000 in those days! I haven't seen that abstract though, to know how
detailed it was.

Mind, I have no reason to doubt Davies' memory that he did not recall seeing
anything about Baran's work - but as I pointed out before, it's almost
certainly impossible to prove, at this remove, that _some inkling_ of it did
not reach him somehow, and he simply didn't remember.

Still, Baran's ideas had been circulated quite openly and widely through
professional journals years before.


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