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Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.


Archive for January, 2010
by Gerald Boerner




“If I didn’t do it, somebody else would have done it.”
— Paul Baran

“Put it this way — No packet switching: no Internet.”
Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley essayist, futurist and friend of Baran’s

“Each of us does a little piece. I’ve done one thing. So then you get credit for doing the whole damn thing and that’s not so.”
— Paul Baran

“The one hurdle packet switching faced was AT&T. They fought it tooth and nail at the beginning. They tried all sorts of things to stop it. They pretty much had a monopoly in all communications.”
— Paul Baran

“Paul Baran, an electrical engineer, conceived one of the Internet’s building blocks—packet switching—while working at the Rand Corporation around 1960.
— Paul Baran

“When it comes to things like science it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference where the idea comes from, whether it comes from a person in India or here, as long as we all share it.”
— Paul Baran

“He’s very much of the old school. You serve. You innovate. And you don’t flash your toys to your friends. Frankly, the current generation of entrepreneurs could learn a thing or two from the culture of his generation.”
Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley essayist, futurist and friend of Baran’s

“I get credit for a lot of things I didn’t do. I just did a little piece on packet switching and I get blamed for the whole goddamned Internet, you know? Technology reaches a certain ripeness and the pieces are available and the need is there and the economics look good—it’s going to get invented by somebody.”
— Paul Baran


Wizards of the Internet: Paul Baran

baran Paul Baran (Born: 1926) was one of the three inventors of packet-switched networks, along with Donald Davies and Leonard Kleinrock. He was born in Grodno (then Poland) and his family moved to Philadelphia in 1928. Baran did undergraduate work at Drexel University, obtained his Masters degree in Engineering from UCLA in 1959 and began working for the RAND Corporation in the same year.

Similar ideas for a distributed data network were being independently pursued by Donald Davies from the National Physical Laboratory in the UK, although Davies was primarily concerned with the problem of resource-sharing rather than Baran’s focus on military issues.

Packet Switched Network Design

While working at the RAND Corporation, Paul Baran was assigned the task of designing a "survivable" communications system that could maintain communication between end points in the face of damage from nuclear attack. Baran’s previous work with emergency communication over AM radio networks prepared his thought process for this task, which included the notion of a distributed relay node architecture.

baran_paper_t Using mini-computer technology of the day, Baran and his team developed a simulation suite to test basic connectivity of an array of nodes with varying degrees of linking. That is, a network of n-ary degree of connectivity would have n links per node. The simulation randomly ‘killed’ nodes and subsequently tested the percentage of nodes who remained connected. The result of the simulation revealed that networks where n >= 3 had a significant increase in resilience against even as much as 50% node loss. Baran’s insight gained from the simulation was that redundancy was the key.

After proving survivability Baran and his team needed to show proof of concept for this design such that it would be able to be built. This involved high level schematics detailing the operation, construction and cost of all the components required to construct a network that leveraged this new insight of redundant links. The result of this was one of the first store-and-forward data layer switching protocols, a link-state/distance vector routing protocol, and an unproved connection-oriented transport protocol. Explicit detail of these designs can be found in the complete series of reports "On Distributed Communications". The design flew in the face of telephony design of the time, placing inexpensive and unreliable nodes at the center of the network, and more intelligent terminating ‘multiplexer’ devices at the endpoints. In Baran’s words, unlike the telephone company’s equipment, his design didn’t require expensive ‘gold plated’ components to be reliable.

Paul BaranListen:
Paul Baran on the importance of
communications during wartime

Selling the idea

After the publication of On Distributed Communications, Paul Baran presented the findings of his team to a number of audiences, including AT&T engineers (not to be confused with Bell labs engineers, who at the time provided Paul Baran with the specifications for the first generation of T1 circuit which he used as the links in his network design proposal). In subsequent interviews Baran mentions how his idea of non-dedicated physical circuits for voice communications were scoffed at by the AT&T engineers who at times claimed that Baran simply did not understand how voice telecommunication worked.

As a result of President Eisenhower’s Defense Reorganization Act of 1958, there was a major shift in leadership in the Pentagon around the time Baran’s work was accepted by the US Air Force and DoD for implementation and testing. When Baran discovered an older Navy admiral would oversee the project he decided the project would be better off sitting on the shelf as reference material, claiming that an ‘old analog guy’ couldn’t grasp what it was the project aimed to accomplish, and thus would likely fail from lack of understanding.

arpanet Around the same time when ARPA was developing the idea of an inter-networked set of terminals to share computing resources, among the number of reference materials considered was Paul Baran and the RAND Corporation’s On Distributed Communications volumes. The ARPANET was never intended to be a survivable communications network, but some still maintain the myth that it was. Instead, the resilience feature of a packet switched network that uses link-state routing protocols is something we enjoy today in some part from the research done to develop a network that could survive a nuclear attack.

Later Work

IM.0402_zp Baran also provided a spark of invention to four other important networking technologies. He was involved in the origin of the packet voice technology developed by StrataCom at its predecessor, Packet Technologies. This technology led to the first commercial pre-standard ATM product. He was also involved with the discrete multitone modem technology developed by Telebit, which was one of the roots of Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing which is used in DSL modems. Paul Baran founded Metricom, the first wireless Internet company, which deployed Ricochet, the first public wireless mesh networking system. He also founded Com21, an early cable modem company. Following Com21, Baran founded GoBackTV, which specializes in personal TV and cable IPTV infrastructure equipment for television operators. Most recently he founded Plaster Networks, providing an advanced solution for connecting networked devices in the home or small office through existing wiring. In all cases, Baran provided early ideas and gave credibility to strong groups of developers who then took those ideas far beyond his original spark.

Paul Baran also extended his work in packet switching to wireless-spectrum theory, developing what he called "kindergarten rules" for the use of wireless spectrum.

In addition to his innovation in networking products, he is also credited with inventing the metal detector used in airports.

Recognition of Baran’s Contributions

For the many contributions that Paul Baran made to the development of the Internet. We reproduce here a tribute from Wired Magazine on his contributions. This is a fitting summary of his work:

Wired: Founding Father

Paul Baran conceived the Internet’s architecture at the height of the Cold War. Forty years later, he says the Net’s biggest threat wasn’t the USSR – it was the phone company.

By Stewart Brand

In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, an engineer named Paul Baran sold the US Department of Defense on the idea of a failure-resistant communications method called packet switching. But because of roadblocks at AT&T and the Pentagon, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the technology was finally adopted as the foundation architecture of the Arpanet – the precursor to the Internet.

In April, Baran (pronounced "BEAR-en") will receive the Franklin Institute’s 2001 Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science, his latest in a string of prestigious honors from professional organizations including the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and NEC. Over a lifetime of quietly sustained achievement as inventor and entrepreneur, Baran cofounded the Institute for the Future and created a series of successful companies – Cabledata Associates, Packet Technologies, Metricom, Interfax, and Com21 – based on technologies he developed. As corporations like Cisco acquired his businesses, Baran’s inventions went mainstream: His discrete multitone technology is at the heart of DSL, and his developments in spread spectrum transmission are essential to the ongoing wireless explosion. Yet Baran is little known outside his field.

For this rare interview, I chatted with Baran in his meticulously tidy home office in Atherton, California. Aside from the glint in his eye, there is nothing hackerish about Baran. He comes across as a consummate professional: modest, formal, and, at 74, as sharp and engaged as ever.

Baran is greatly concerned about getting the history of technology right. He took the trouble to check over the transcript of our interview with details from documents published between 1959 and 1965, a period when thousands of intercontinental ballistic missiles were poised to end civilization.



Katie Hafner & Matthew Lyon. (1998) Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet. Simon & Schuster

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

ARPANet can be found at…

The Internet can be found at…

Paul Baran can be found at…

Other Web Sites:

Vanity Fair: How the Web Was Won…

Catholic Online: Internet pioneer Paul Baran gets richly deserved honor…

Charles Babbage Institute Collections: Paul Baran…

Wired Magazine: WIRED LEGENDS — Paul Baran…

by Gerald Boerner

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 I remember that day back in 1986, when we were watching the launch Christa McAuliffe, the first educator, into space. Then we watched in horror and unbelief when the Challenger exploded a little over a minute into the flight. This was a sobering time and a time for national mourning, not dissimilar to the aftermath of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, and others. We were all in pain, we all grieved. But today, let’s look back upon the space program and the brave men and women who participated both as astronauts and in the ground crew. We take our “hats” off and thank them for their bravery and willingness to serve on the forefront of our country’s quest of space.   GLB

A statement from the Astronaut Families: (Houston Chronicle, 2-4-03, p. 1)

“On January 16th, we saw our loved ones launch into a brilliant, cloud-free sky. Their hearts were full of enthusiasm, pride in country, faith in their God and a willingness to accept risk in the pursuit of knowledge – knowledge that they might improve the quality of life for all mankind… Although we grieve deeply, as do the families of Apollo 1 and Challenger before us, the bold exploration of space must go on. Once the root cause of this tragedy is found and corrected, the legacy of Columbia must carry on for the benefit of our children and yours.”

“I can remember in early elementary school when the Russians launched the first satellite. There was still so much unknown about space. People thought Mars was probably populated.”
— Christa McAuliffe

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
— Command Rick Husband

“When you look at the stars and the galaxy, you feel you are not just from any particular piece of land, but from the solar system.”
— Laurel Clark

“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve known this was what I wanted to do. I was probably 4 or 5 years old.”
— Michael Anderson

“I’m looking forward to the flight, of course. After you go to space once, you sort of get addicted. You want to have the same experience. Doing it again is like having a good dream once again.”
— Chawla

“It [space] was just so incredibly adventurous and exciting to me. I just thought there was no doubt in my mind that is what I want to do when I grow up.”
— Rick Husband

“I remember growing up and thinking astronauts and their jobs were the coolest things you could possibly do. But I absolutely couldn’t identify with people who were astronauts. I thought they were movie stars. I thought I was kind of a normal kid.”
— David Brown

“The colors are stunning. In a single view, I see – looking out at the edge of the earth: red at the horizon line, blending to orange and yellow, followed by a thin white line, then light blue, gradually turning to dark blue and various gradually darker shades of gray, then black and a million stars above. It’s breathtaking.”
— Pilot Willie McCool

Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

Challenger_explosion The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on January 28, 1986, when Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of central Florida, United States, at 11:39 a.m. EST (16:39 UTC).

Disintegration of the entire vehicle began after an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff. The O-ring failure caused a breach in the SRB joint it sealed, allowing pressurized hot gas from within the solid rocket motor to reach the outside and impinge upon the adjacent SRB attachment hardware and external fuel tank. This led to the separation of the right-hand SRB’s aft attachment and the structural failure of the external tank. Aerodynamic forces promptly broke up the orbiter.

Challenger_flight_51-l_crew The crew compartment and many other vehicle fragments were eventually recovered from the ocean floor after a lengthy search and recovery operation. Although the exact timing of the death of the crew is unknown, several crew members are known to have survived the initial breakup of the spacecraft. However, the shuttle had no escape system and the astronauts did not survive the impact of the crew compartment with the ocean surface.

The disaster resulted in a 32-month hiatus in the shuttle program and the formation of the Rogers Commission, a special commission appointed by United States President Ronald Reagan to investigate the accident. The Rogers Commission found that NASA’s organizational culture and decision-making processes had been a key contributing factor to the accident. NASA managers had known that contractor Morton Thiokol’s design of the SRBs contained a potentially catastrophic flaw in the O-rings since 1977, but they failed to address it properly. They also disregarded warnings from engineers about the dangers of launching posed by the cold temperatures of that morning and had failed to adequately report these technical concerns to their superiors. The Rogers Commission offered NASA nine recommendations that were to be implemented before shuttle flights resumed.

Christa_McAuliffe Many viewed the launch live due to the presence on the crew of Christa McAuliffe, the first member of the Teacher in Space Project. Media coverage of the accident was extensive: one study reported that 85 percent of Americans surveyed had heard the news within an hour of the accident. The Challenger disaster has been used as a case study in many discussions of engineering safety and workplace ethics and inspired the 1990 television movie, Challenger.

Pre-launch conditions and delays

Challenger was originally set to launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 2:42 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) on January 22. However, delays suffered by the previous mission, STS-61-C, caused the launch date to be pushed back to January 23 and then to January 24. Launch was then rescheduled to January 25 due to bad weather at the Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) site in Dakar, Senegal. NASA decided to use Casablanca as the TAL site, but because it was not equipped for night landings, the launch had to be moved to the morning (Florida time). Predictions of unacceptable weather at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) caused the launch to be rescheduled for 9:37 a.m. EST on January 27. According to Malcolm McConnell’s book, Challenger: A Major Malfunction, NASA normally would have launched with the predicted forecast of a 50 percent chance of rain if not for plans to have Vice President George H. W. Bush stop over and watch the launch on his way to Honduras.

Ice_on_the_Pad_on_the_Day_of_STS-51-L's_Launch_-_GPN-2004-00011 The launch was delayed the next day by problems with the exterior access hatch. First, one of the microswitch indicators used to verify that the hatch was safely locked malfunctioned. Then, a stripped bolt prevented the closeout crew from removing a closing fixture from the orbiter’s hatch. When the fixture was finally sawn off, crosswinds at the Shuttle Landing Facility exceeded the limits for a Return to Launch Site (RTLS) abort. The crew waited for the winds to die down until the launch window finally ran out, forcing yet another scrub.

Forecasts for January 28 predicted an unusually cold morning, with temperatures close to 31 °F (−1 °C), the minimum temperature permitted for launch. The low temperature had prompted concern from engineers at Morton Thiokol, the contractor responsible for the construction and maintenance of the shuttle’s SRBs. At a teleconference on the evening of January 27, Thiokol engineers and managers discussed the weather conditions with NASA managers from Kennedy Space Center and Marshall Space Flight Center. Several engineers—most notably Roger Boisjoly, who had voiced similar concerns previously—expressed their concern about the effect of the temperature on the resilience of the rubber O-rings that sealed the joints of the SRBs. Each SRB was constructed of six sections joined in three factory joints and three “field joints”.

The factory joints were welded, but the field joints—assembled in the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center—each used two rubber O-rings, a primary and a secondary (backup), to seal them. (Since the accident, SRB field joints now use three O-rings.) The seals of all of the SRB joints were required to contain the hot high-pressure gases produced by the burning solid propellant inside, forcing it out the nozzle at the aft end of each rocket. Thiokol engineers argued that if the O-rings were colder than 53 °F (12 °C), they did not have enough data to determine whether the joint would seal properly. This was an important consideration, since the SRB O-rings had been designated as a “Criticality 1” component—meaning that there was no backup if both the primary and secondary O-rings failed, and their failure would destroy the Orbiter and its crew.

Liftoff and initial ascent

The following account of the accident is derived from real time telemetry data and photographic analysis, as well as from transcripts of air-to-ground and mission control voice communications. All times are given in seconds after launch and correspond to the telemetry time-codes from the closest instrumented event to each described event.

STS-51-L_grey_smoke_on_SRB Gray smoke escaping from
the right side SRB

At 6.6 seconds before liftoff, as normal, the three space shuttle main engines (SSME) ignited. Until liftoff actually occurs, the SSMEs can be safely shut down and the launch aborted if necessary. At liftoff time (T=0, which was at 11:38:00.010 EST), the three SSMEs were at 100% of their original rated performance, and began throttling up to 104% under computer control. At this moment, the two SRBs were ignited and hold-down bolts were released with explosives, freeing the vehicle from the pad. With the first vertical motion of the vehicle, the gaseous hydrogen vent arm retracted from the External Tank (ET) but failed to latch back. Review of film shot by pad cameras showed that the arm did not re-contact the vehicle, and thus it was ruled out as a contributing factor in the accident. The post-launch inspection of the pad also revealed that kick springs on four of the hold-down bolts were missing, but they were similarly ruled out as a possible cause.

To see a video of the Challenger Disaster,

Later review of launch film showed that at T+0.678, strong puffs of dark gray smoke were emitted from the right-hand SRB near the aft strut that attaches the booster to the ET. The last smoke puff occurred at about T+2.733. The last view of smoke around the strut was at T+3.375. It was later determined that these smoke puffs were caused by the opening and closing of the aft field joint of the right-hand SRB. The booster’s casing had ballooned under the stress of ignition. As a result of this ballooning, the metal parts of the casing bent away from each other, opening a gap through which hot gases—above 5,000 °F (2,800 °C)—leaked. This occurred in previous launches, but each time the primary O-ring shifted out of its groove and formed a seal. Although the SRB was not designed to function this way, it appeared to work well enough and Morton-Thiokol changed the design specs to accommodate this process, known as extrusion.

Challenger_STS-51-L-launch Unfortunately, while extrusion was taking place, hot gases would leak past, a process called blow-by, damaging the O-rings until a seal was made. Investigations into the matter by Morton-Thiokol engineers determined that the amount of damage to the O-rings was directly related to the time it took for extrusion to occur, and that cold weather, by causing the O-rings to harden, lengthened the time of extrusion. (The redesigned SRB field joint used subsequent to the Challenger accident uses an additional interlocking mortise and tang with a third O-ring, mitigating blow-by.)

On the morning of the disaster, the primary O-ring had become so hard due to the cold that it couldn’t seal in time. The secondary O-ring was not in its seated position due to the metal bending. There was now no barrier to the gases, and both O-rings were vaporized across 70 degrees of arc. However, aluminum oxides from the burned solid propellant sealed the damaged joint, temporarily replacing the O-ring seal before actual flame rushed through the joint.

As the vehicle cleared the tower, the SSMEs were operating at 104% of their rated maximum thrust, and control switched from the Launch Control Center (LCC) at Kennedy to the Mission Control Center (MCC) at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. To prevent aerodynamic forces from structurally overloading the orbiter, at T+28 the SSMEs began throttling down to limit the velocity of the shuttle in the dense lower atmosphere, as per normal operating procedure. At T+35.379, the SSMEs throttled back further to the planned 65%. Five seconds later, at about 19,000 feet (5800 m), Challenger passed through Mach 1. At T+51.860, the SSMEs began throttling back up to 104% as the vehicle passed beyond Max Q, the period of maximum aerodynamic pressure on the vehicle.

Cause and Time of Death

On July 28, 1986, Rear Admiral Richard H. Truly, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Space Flight and a former astronaut, released a report from Joseph P. Kerwin, biomedical specialist from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, relating to the deaths of the astronauts in the accident. Dr. Kerwin, a veteran of the Skylab 2 mission, had been commissioned to undertake the study soon after the accident. According to the Kerwin Report:

The findings are inconclusive. The impact of the crew compartment with the ocean surface was so violent that evidence of damage occurring in the seconds which followed the disintegration was masked. Our final conclusions are:

  • the cause of death of the Challenger astronauts cannot be positively determined;
  • the forces to which the crew were exposed during Orbiter breakup were probably not sufficient to cause death or serious injury; and
  • the crew possibly, but not certainly, lost consciousness in the seconds following Orbiter breakup due to in-flight loss of crew module pressure.[10]

Despite the report, some experts, including one of NASA’s lead investigators Robert Overmyer, believed most if not all of the crew were alive and possibly conscious during the entire descent until impact with the ocean.

Crew escape was not possible

STS-51L_riadiace_stredisko During powered flight of the space shuttle, crew escape was not possible. While launch escape systems were considered several times during shuttle development, NASA’s conclusion was that the shuttle’s expected high reliability would preclude the need for one. Modified SR-71 Blackbird ejection seats and full pressure suits were used on the first four shuttle orbital missions, which were considered test flights, but they were removed for the “operational” missions that followed. (The CAIB later declared, after the Columbia descent disaster, that the space shuttle system should never have been declared operational because it is experimental by nature due to the limited number of flights as compared to certified commercial aircraft.) Providing a launch escape system for larger crews was considered undesirable due to “limited utility, technical complexity and excessive cost in dollars, weight or schedule delays.”

After the loss of Challenger the question was re-opened, and NASA considered several different options, including ejector seats, tractor rockets and bailing out through the bottom of the orbiter. However, NASA once again concluded that all of the launch escape systems considered would be impractical due to the sweeping vehicle modifications that would have been necessary and the resultant limitations on crew size. A bail-out system was designed to give the crew the option to leave the shuttle during gliding flight; however, this system would not have been usable in the Challenger scenario.

The Aftermath

Reagan_Challenger U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s
Oval Office address after the
shuttle disaster.

In the aftermath of the disaster, NASA was criticized for its lack of openness with the press. The New York Times noted on the day after the disaster that “neither Jay Greene, flight director for the ascent, nor any other person in the control room, was made available to the press by the space agency.” In the absence of reliable sources, the press turned to speculation; both The New York Times and United Press International ran stories suggesting that a fault with the external tank had caused an explosion, despite the fact that NASA’s internal investigation had quickly focused in on the solid rocket boosters. “The space agency,” wrote space news reporter William Harwood, “stuck to its policy of strict secrecy about the details of the investigation, an uncharacteristic stance for an agency that long prided itself on openness.”


On the night of the disaster, President Ronald Reagan had been scheduled to give his annual State of the Union Address. He initially announced that the address would go on as scheduled, but then postponed the State of the Union Address for a week and instead gave a national address on the Challenger disaster from the Oval Office of the White House. It was written by Peggy Noonan, and finished with the following statement, which quoted from the poem “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.:

“We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of Earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’

Three days later, President Reagan with his wife Nancy traveled to the Johnson Space Center to speak at a memorial service honoring the astronauts where he stated

“Sometimes, when we reach for the stars, we fall short. But we must pick ourselves up again and press on despite the pain.”

It was attended by 6,000 NASA employees and 4,000 guests, as well as by the families of the crew. During the ceremony, an Air Force band led the singing of “God Bless America” as NASA T-38 Talon jets flew directly over the scene, in the traditional missing-man formation. All activities were broadcast live by the national television networks.

The families of the Challenger crew organized the Challenger Center for Space Science Education as a permanent memorial to the crew. Fifty-two learning centers have been established by this non-profit organization.

Other Events on this Day
  • In 1878…
    The first commercial telephone exchange is installed in New Haven, Connecticut, serving 21 subscribers with eight lines.
  • In 1915…
    Congress creates the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • In 1916…
    Louis D. Brandeis is appointed to the Supreme Court by Woodrow Wilson, becoming the high court’s first Jewish member.
  • In 1934…
    America’s first ski lift opens in Woodstock, Vermont — a tow rope pulled by a Model T engine.
  • In 1986…
    The space shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral

Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Challenger Disaster can be found at…

Christa McAuliffe (1st Civilian in Space) can be found at…

Web Sites:


Holocaust Day marked at Nazi death camp Auschwitz

RIP, Auschwitz, May you always be remembered and never repeated… During World War II, the Nazi forces sent European Jews and other ‘Undesirables’, were sent here to be sorted into those to be worked to death or gassed immediately. Those who remained alive were in tragic condition. But 65 years ago, the remaining inmates were liberated by the Allied Forces. A skeleton of the original camp remains today as an “eternal” memorial to those who were sacrificed there.

Let us reflect upon the culture that allowed such camps to exist and work to prevent it from happening again. Human life is worth more than that…


BBC News – Holocaust Day marked at Nazi death camp Auschwitz

Events have taken place at Auschwitz to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp, as the world marks Holocaust Memorial Day.

Elderly survivors gathered in freezing weather in Poland, where the camp was built under German occupation.

Israel’s prime minister and president urged that the Holocaust should never be forgotten, mourned its dead, and warned of a new danger posed by Iran.

More than a million people were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz.

The great majority were Jews but they also included non-Jewish Poles, Roma Gypsies and Soviet prisoners of war.

… [MORE]

Now that the iPad is here, what is it missing?

Plenty, according to this article. Many features of even netbooks are not available on the iPad and may not be available for quite a while since the iPad uses the iPhone OS, which is fairly limited… Is it taking a look, maybe, but there are a number of tablet computers set to enter the market later in the year…

For me, I call it a "wait and see"!


What’s Missing from the Apple iPad? 

Now that we know what the Apple iPad does do, and the lingering effects of the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field are starting to wear off a bit, let’s take a closer look at exactly what the iPad doesn’t do.

It does usher in a new computing form factor (or rather, revives it) — but it’s a space that will be awfully crowded in short order. Should you rush in to pick up the Apple-flavored tablet, or are there reasons to consider waiting for the series of devices that are sure to follow? For now, a quick look at what’s missing in the iPad version 1.0 might help decide the balance of your bank account at the end of March.

… [MORE]

Will the iPad really kill the Kindle?

I’m not sure that it will… This article presents 4 pro and 4 con arguments; but we need to consider what the true cost of each device is. The Kindle comes with an incredible battery, clear screen (with sizable type), and free 3G networking. Apple has always been notorious for its hidden costs. Just look at the basic iPhone cost for an average service plan ($150 a month). I’m sure that the iPad will also carry many hidden costs and not meet its performance expectations…

What do you think? Leave a comment for us to hear your take on this…


4 Reasons iPad Will Kill the Kindle, 4 Reasons It Won’t 

The Apple iPad burst onto the tech scene today in stunning full-color. Does that mean Amazon’s genre-defining and market-leading Kindle e-book reader is now dead?

“Uh-oh,” is the reaction we can imagine Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had when watching today’s unveiling of the eagerly awaited Apple iPad tablet. The new Apple device looks, at least upon first glance, like it will completely eat Amazon’s lunch. In fact, Steve Jobs even eulogized the Kindle in his unveiling.

“Amazon’s done a great job of pioneering this functionality with the Kindle. We’re going to stand on their shoulders and go a little further,” he said while unveiling the iPad’s iBook e-reader software. But is the Kindle really dead? Amazon proudly proclaimed the Kindle as the number one selling product on, with a huge banner on their home page today. Can it really be all over so fast?

Here are four reasons why the Kindle is dead, and four more why it might still have some life left in it.

… [MORE]

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Today’s profile examines the life and contributions of the controversial author and critic, Susan Sontag. She was a controversial author who wrote critically about war, especially the fighting in the former Yugoslavia units. She was also a critic of photography, writing On Photography which presented a different perspective on the images collected by most photographers. She was especially hard on the photojournalists claiming that when they could not find anything to photograph: the problem, according to Sontag, was they couldn’t find anything BAD to photograph!  GLB


“War is, first of all, noise. Incredible noise. In Sarajevo, it was like that– all the time. That sound– except– well, between three and five in the morning. Sometimes it– it would be silent.”
— Susan Sontag

“When photojournalists report that "there was nothing to photograph," what this usually means is that there was nothing terrible to photograph.”
— Susan Sontag

“Susan Sontag is not a photographer, yet her famous book ON PHOTOGRAPHY is required reading in almost every serious photography course in the world.”
— Bill Moyers

“The taste for futurology, or prophecy, is of at least equal importance. But this taste also confirms the prevailing unreality of the real historical past. Some novels which are situated in the past…”
— Susan Sontag

“We’re not animals. We’re not just people sheltering in our basements and standing on bread lines and water lines getting killed. You know people– when I came back people said, ‘Well who went to the theater?’ I said, "The same people that went to the theater before the war.”
— Susan Sontag

“I don’t think images can stop war, because I don’t think images just come all wrapped up with their meanings– very apparent to us. I think the images, as I say, they’ll disgust you with war in general, but they won’t tell you which of the wars, let’s say, that might be worth fighting…”
— Susan Sontag

“Well, they can– of course they can’t convey the totality. That goes without saying. No image can. But it’s also the– when you watch things through an image, it’s precisely affirming that you’re safe. Because you are watching it. You’re here and not there. And in a way you’re also– you’re– you’re innocent. You’re not doing it.”
— Susan Sontag

“As long as a particular disease is treated as an evil, invincible predator, not just a disease, most people with cancer will indeed be demoralized by learning what disease they have. The solution is hardly to stop telling cancer patients the truth, but to rectify the conception of the disease, to de-mythicize it.”
— Susan Sontag


The quotes included in this posting were taken from the public quotation sites which do not indicate that they are covered by any special copyright restrictions. Likewise, the images included in this posting were obtained under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License from the web site which did not state any restrictions on their use. This blog makes every attempt to comply with the legal rights of copyright holders.

This posting is intended for the educational use of photographers and photography students and complies with the “educational fair use” provisions of copyright law. For readers who might wish to reuse some of these images should check out their compliance with copyright limitations that might apply to that use.



Susan Sontag (1933 – 2004)

susanSontag Susan Sontag was an American author, literary theorist, and political activist. She also wrote a perceptive essay on photography and was the companion of Anne Liebowitz for years.

Sontag, born Susan Rosenblatt, was born in New York City to Jack Rosenblatt and Mildred Jacobsen, both Jewish Americans. Her father ran a fur trading business in China, where he died of tuberculosis when Susan was five years old. Seven years later, her mother married Nathan Sontag. Susan and her sister, Judith, were given their stepfather’s surname, although he never formally adopted them.

Sontag grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and, later, in Los Angeles, where she graduated from North Hollywood High School at the age of 15. She began her undergraduate studies at Berkeley but transferred to the University of Chicago in admiration of its famed core curriculum. At Chicago, she undertook studies in philosophy and literature alongside her other requirements (Leo Strauss, Richard McKeon and Kenneth Burke were among her lecturers) and graduated with a B.A. She did graduate work in philosophy, literature, and theology at Harvard with Paul Tillich, Jacob Taubes and Morton White et al. After completing her Master of Arts in philosophy and beginning doctoral work at Harvard, Sontag was awarded a University Women’s Association scholarship for the 1957-1958 academic year to St Anne’s College, Oxford, where she had classes with Iris Murdoch, J. L. Austin, Alfred Jules Ayer, Stuart Hampshire and others. Oxford did not appeal to her, however, and she transferred after Michaelmas term of 1957 to the University of Paris. It was in Paris that Sontag socialised with expatriate artists and academics including Allan Bloom, Jean Wahl, Alfred Chester, Harriet Sohmers and Maria Irene Fornes. Sontag remarked that her time in Paris was, perhaps, the most important period of her life. It certainly provided the grounding for her long intellectual and artistic association with the culture of France.

susan At 17, while at Chicago, Sontag married Philip Rieff after a ten-day courtship. The philosopher Herbert Marcuse lived with Sontag and Rieff for a year while working on his book Eros and Civilization. Sontag and Rieff were married for eight years throughout which they worked jointly on the study Freud: The Mind of the Moralist that would be attributed solely to Philip Rieff as a stipulation of the couple’s divorce in 1958. The couple had a son, David Rieff, who later became his mother’s editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, as well as a writer in his own right.

The publication of Against Interpretation (1966), accompanied by a striking dust-jacket photo by Peter Hujar, helped establish Sontag’s reputation as "the Dark Lady of American Letters." Movie stars like Woody Allen, philosophers like Arthur Danto, and politicians like Mayor John Lindsay vied to know her. In the movie Bull Durham, her fictional writing was disparaged in a speech by the fictional Crash Davis to the fictional Annie Savoie in which Davis says he believes her novels are "over-rated, self-indulgent crap."

In her prime, Sontag avoided all pigeonholes. Like Jane Fonda, she went to Hanoi, and wrote of the North Vietnamese society with much sympathy and appreciation (see "Trip to Hanoi" in Styles of Radical Will). She maintained a clear distinction, however, between North Vietnam and Maoist China, as well as East-European communism, which she later famously rebuked as "fascism with a human face."

Tombe_de_Susan_Sontag_au_Cimetière_du_Montparnasse Grave of Susan Sontag

Sontag died in New York City on 28 December 2004, aged 71, from complications of myelodysplastic syndrome which had evolved into acute myelogenous leukemia. Sontag is buried in Montparnasse Cemetery, in Paris. Her final illness has been chronicled by her son, David Rieff.


Sontag’s literary career began and ended with works of fiction. After teaching philosophy and theology at Sarah Lawrence College, City University of New York and Columbia University under Jacob Taubes from 1960 to 1964, Sontag left academia and devoted herself to full-time writing. At age 30, she published an experimental novel called The Benefactor (1963), following it four years later with Death Kit (1967). Despite a relatively small output, Sontag thought of herself principally as a novelist and writer of fiction. Her short story "The Way We Live Now" was published to great acclaim on 26 November, 1986 in The New Yorker. Written in an experimental narrative style, it remains a key text on the AIDS epidemic. She achieved late popular success as a best-selling novelist with The Volcano Lover (1992). At age 67, Sontag published her final novel In America (2000). The last two novels were set in the past, which Sontag said gave her greater freedom to write in the polyphonic voice.

It was as an essayist, however, that Sontag gained early fame and notoriety. Sontag wrote frequently about the intersection of high and low art and the form/content dichotomy across the arts. Her celebrated and widely-read 1964 essay "Notes on ‘Camp’" was epoch-defining, examining an alternative sensibility to that which would see the best art in terms of its seriousness. It gestured towards and expounded the "so bad it’s good" concept in popular culture for the first time. In 1977, Sontag wrote the essay On Photography, which gave media students and scholars an entirely different perspective of the camera in the modern world. The essay is an exploration of photographs as a collection of the world, mainly by travelers or tourists, and the way we therefore experience it. She outlines the concept of her theory of taking pictures as you travel:

The method especially appeals to people handicapped by a ruthless work ethic – Germans, Japanese and Americans. Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work driven feel about not working when they are on vacation and supposed to be having fun. They have something to do that is like a friendly imitation of work: they can take pictures.

Sontag suggested photographic "evidence" be used as a presumption that "something exists, or did exist", regardless of distortion. For her, the art of photography is "as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are", for cameras are produced rapidly as a "mass art form" and are available to all of those with the means to attain them. Focusing also on the effect of the camera and photograph on the wedding and modern family life, Sontag reflects that these are a "rite of family life" in industrialized areas such as Europe and America.

SONTAG reclined To Sontag "picture-taking is an event in itself, and one with ever more peremptory rights – to interfere with, to invade, or to ignore whatever is going on". She considers the camera a phallus, comparable to ray guns and cars, which are "fantasy-machines whose use is addictive". For Sontag the camera can be linked to murder and a promotion of nostalgia while evoking "the sense of the unattainable" in the industrialized world. The photograph familiarizes the wealthy with "the oppressed, the exploited, the starving, and the massacred" but removes the shock of these images because they are available widely and have ceased to be novel. Sontag saw the photograph as valued because it gives information but acknowledges that it is incapable of giving a moral standpoint although it can reinforce an existing one.

Sontag championed European writers such as Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Antonin Artaud, E. M. Cioran, and W. G. Sebald, along with some Americans such as María Irene Fornés. Over several decades she would turn her attention to novels, film, and photography. In more than one book, Sontag wrote about cultural attitudes toward illness. Her final nonfiction work, Regarding the Pain of Others, re-examined art and photography from a moral standpoint. It spoke of how the media affects culture’s views of conflict.

A new visual code [Photography]

In her Essay On Photography Sontag says that the evolution of modern technology has changed the viewer in three key ways. She calls this the emergence of a new visual code.

On_Photography Firstly, Sontag suggests that modern photography, with its convenience and ease, has created an overabundance of visual material. As photographing is now a practice of the masses, due to a drastic decrease in camera size and increase of ease in developing photographs, we are left in a position where “just about everything has been photographed” (Sontag, Susan, (1977), On Photography 3). We now have so many images available to us of: things, places, events and people from all over the world, and of not immediate relevance to our own existence, that our expectations of what we have the right to view, want to view or should view has been drastically affected.

Arguably, gone are the days that we felt entitled of view only those things in our immediate presence or that affected our micro world; we now seem to feel entitled to gain access to any existing images. “In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notion of what is worth looking at and what we have the right to observe”. This is what Sontag calls a change in “viewing ethics”.

Secondly, Sontag comments on the effect of modern photography on our education, claiming that photographs “now provide most of the knowledge people have about the look of the past and the reach of the present”. Without photography only those few people who had been there would know what the Egyptian pyramids or the Parthenon look like, yet most of us have a good idea of the appearance of these places. Photography teaches us about those parts of the world that are beyond our touch in ways that literature can not.

susan-sontag-500 Sontag also talks about the way in which photography desensitizes its audience. Sontag introduces this discussion by telling her own story of the first time she saw images of horrific human experience. At twelve years old, Sontag stumbled upon images of holocaust camps and was so distressed by them she says “When I looked at those photographs something broke… something went dead, something is still crying”. Sontag argues that there was no good to come from her seeing these images as a young girl, before she fully understood what the holocaust was. For Sontag the viewing of these images has left her a degree more numb to any following horrific image she viewed, as she had been desensitized. According to this argument, “Images anesthetize” and the open accessibility to them is a negative result of photography.

Sontag examines the relationship between photography and reality. Photographs are depicted as a representation of realism. Sontag claimed that “such images are indeed able to usurp reality because first of all a photograph is not only an image, an interpretation of the real; it is also a trace, something directly stenciled off the real (Sontag, Susan (1982), The Image World 350). It is a resemblance of the real as the photograph becomes an extension of the subject. However, the role of the photograph has changed, as copies destroy the idea of an experience. The image has altered to convey information and become an act of classification. Sontag highlights the notion that photographs are a way of imprisoning reality- making the memory stand still.

Ultimately images are surveillance of events that trigger the memory. In modern society, photographs are a form of recycling the real. When a moment is captured it is assigned a new meaning as people interpret the image in their own manner. Sontag depicts the idea that images desensitize the real thing, as people’s perceptions are distorted by the construction of the photograph. However this has not stopped people from consuming images; there is still a demand for more photographs. Therefore, Sontag has impacted the audience’s understanding of reality, as photographs have adapted to a form of surveillance.

Susan Sontag brought out some uses of the photography, “Photography has become one of the principal devices for experiencing something, for giving an appearance of participation” (Sontag,1977), such as memorizing and providing evidence. She also states that “to collect photography is to collect the world.” (Sontag,1997)

Sontag believes that photography implies that we know about the world if we accept it as the camera records it. She states that photography has ‘become one of the principal devices for experiencing something, for giving an appearance of participation’. She refers to photographs as memento mori, where to take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability and mutability. The progression from the written word to capturing an image shifts the weight of the interpretation from the author to the receiver. Sontag believes however that ‘photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone can make or acquire’.

It is a slice in time and in effect, is more memorable than moving images for example, videos. It fills the gaps in our mind of the past and present. Even though photography has such effect, there are limits to photographic knowledge of the world. The limitations are that it can never be interpreted ethical or political knowledge. It will always be some kind of sentimentalism, whether cynical or humanist. Our modern day society can be described as a society feeding on aesthetic consumerism. There is an addiction and a need to constantly have reality confirmed and experiences enhanced by photographs.

Criticism and Acclaim

On Photography won the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for 1977 and was selected among the top 20 books of 1977 by the editors of the New Times Book Review.

In 1977, William H. Gass, writing in the New York Times, said the book "shall surely stand near the beginning of all our thoughts upon the subject" of photography.

In a 1998 appraisal of the work, Michael Starenko, wrote in Afterimage magazine that "On Photography has become so deeply absorbed into this discourse that Sontag’s claims about photography, as well as her mode of argument, have become part of the rhetorical ‘tool kit’ that photography theorists and critics carry around in their heads."

Sontag’s work is literary and polemical rather than academic. It includes no bibliography, and few notes. There is little sustained analysis of the work of any particular photographer and is not in any sense a research project as often written by Ph.D students. Many of the lesser reviews from the world of art photography that followed On Photography’ at the time of its publication were skeptical and often hostile, such as those of Colin L. Westerbeck and Michael Lesey.

In 2004 Sontag published a partial refutation of the opinions she espoused in On Photography in her 1994 collection of essay Regarding the Pain of Others. This book may be deemed as a postscript or addition to On Photography. Sontag’s publishing history includes a similar sequence with regard to her work Illness as Metaphor from the 1970s and AIDS and Its Metaphors a decade later, which included a revision of many ideas contained in the earlier work.

Private life

Sontag became aware of her attraction to women in her early teens and wrote in her diary aged 15, "so now I feel I have lesbian tendencies (how reluctantly I write this)." Aged 16, she had her first sexual encounter with a woman: "Perhaps I was drunk, after all, because it was so beautiful when H began making love to me …. It had been 4:00 before we had gotten to bed … I became fully conscious that I desired her, she knew it, too…."

In the early 1970s, Sontag was romantically involved with Nicole Stéphane (1923-2007), a Rothschild banking heiress turned movie actress. Sontag later engaged in a committed relationship with photographer Annie Leibovitz, with whom she was close during her last years; choreographer Lucinda Childs, writer Maria Irene Fornes, and other women.

In an interview in The Guardian in 2000, Sontag was quite open about her bisexuality:

"Shall I tell you about getting older?", she says, and she is laughing. "When you get older, 45 plus, men stop fancying you. Or put it another way, the men I fancy don’t fancy me. I want a young man. I love beauty. So what’s new?" She says she has been in love seven times in her life, which seems quite a lot. "No, hang on," she says. "Actually, it’s nine. Five women, four men."


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Susan Sontag can be found at…

Susan Sontag: On Photography can be found at…

Also see…

Boston Review: An Interview with Susan Sontag

PBS NOW with Bill Moyers: Transcript: Susan Sontag — A Bill Moyers Interview…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 For each new computer breakthrough, an enabling technology is generally required. Before computers could become serious business machines, we needed ways of storing program instructions. Before we could work on major applications, such as accounting, we needed both long term storage mechanisms (Drum or Hard Disk) and Data Base Systems. Before we got microcomputers, we needed the microprocessor and high-capacity RAM chips. Today, we consider Packet Switching, the enabling technology for present-day networking.

Since today’s topic is much more challenging than some of the previous ones, we present some “lighter” quotes, many of which are “tongue in cheek”GLB


“Artificial Intelligence usually beats natural stupidity.”
— Anonymous

“If you don’t want to be replaced by a computer, don’t act like one…”
— Arno Penzias

“Remember, the problem is not that people are stupid; the problem is that modems are cheap.”
— Vince Sabio

“I sit looking at this damn computer screen all day long, day in and day out, week after week, and think: Man, if I could just find the ‘on‘ switch…”
— Zackary Good

“If computers had invented humans as part of a BI program (biological intelligence), humans would have been tossed aside as barely having achieved perfect game play at Tic-Tac-Toe.”
— Epine

“Science is supposedly the method by which we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. In computer science, we all are standing on each others’ feet.”
— G. Popek

“Los Angeles County officials have asked that manufacturers, suppliers and contractors stop using the terms ‘master‘ and ‘slave‘ regarding computer hard drives, saying such terms are unacceptable and offensive. Additionally, the term ‘e-mail‘ will now be called ‘e-person letter‘, ‘dumb terminals‘ will now be ‘CPU-challenged monitors‘ and ‘Unix‘ will be referred to as ‘sexually dysfunctional operating system‘. Obviously, ‘fingering‘ is now banned entirely.”
— Kevin Fizz

“Reading, Pa., county controller Judith Kraines complained at a commissioners’ meeting in January about having to type letters and do other business on a typewriter because her computer was old and no one had been able to get it to work for two years. ‘If we had a computer‘, she said, ‘letters would go out faster‘. Three days later, she announced that the computer she was complaining about in fact had not been plugged in to any electrical outlet and that when the plug was inserted and the computer was turned on, it worked fine.”
— Anonymous

Wizards of the Internet: Packet Switching

Today’s topic is more technical than most of the others in this series. It is, however, a necessary exploration since packet switching is THE TECHNOLOGY that enabled ARPANet, the Internet, and our various Local Area Networks that allow us to connect the computers in our offices and homes together to share common resources. While Paul Barans has received most of the credit for this technique, Donald Davies (of the UK) also arrived at these principles at about the same time.

The interesting back story of on this development is found in Hafner and Lyons’ book, Where Wizards Stay Up Late. When ARPA was preparing to issues a Call for Proposals for ARPANet, all the major computer and telecommunications companies, including IBM, Burroughs, DEC, and At&T, were invited to a meeting to discuss the process. AT&T was the only company that showed up, but did so with about 100 of its best engineers. These technicians were there to tell ARPA how what they wanted, Packet Switching, was not technically possible.

The telephone companies, especially AT&T, had invested heavily in the Circuit Switching technologies that powered their nation-wide networks. These circuits, based upon a 64K “channel”, was dedicated to a single voice call. [We know that with today’s compression technologies, we can get equal or better quality from an 8K channel!] It was not about to abandon their investments in switches, wiring, or any other technologies to develop an alternative technology that could compete with them.

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that today the telecomm companies are, in fact, competing with Voice over IP (VOIP) — the precise situation that they feared! Just remember this every time that you use Vonage or Skype. Anyway, back to our story…

Just a final observation: This Packet Switching technology had to be combined with a second technology, Store and Forward, to make ARPANet work. In the coming days, we will explore this technology and the men behind it. So join me today in exploring Packet Switching…

packet-switching Packet switching is a digital network communications method that groups all transmitted data – irrespective of content, type, or structure – into suitably-sized blocks, called packets. Packet switching features delivery of variable-bit-rate data streams (sequences of packets) over a shared network. When traversing network adapters, switches, routers and other network nodes, packets are buffered and queued, resulting in variable delay and throughput depending on the traffic load in the network.

Packet switching contrasts with another principal networking paradigm, circuit switching, a method which sets up a limited number of dedicated connections of constant bit rate and constant delay between nodes for exclusive use during the communication session. In case of traffic fees, for example in cellular communication, circuit switching is characterized by a fee per time unit (per minute) of connection time, also when no data is transferred, while packet switching is characterized by a fee per unit of information (per Megabyte).

Two major packet switching modes exist; connectionless packet switching (also known as datagram switching) and connection-oriented packet switching (also known as virtual circuit switching). In the first case each packet includes complete addressing or routing information. The packets are routed individually, sometimes resulting in different paths and out-of-order delivery. In the second case a connection is defined and preallocated in each involved node before any packet is transfered. The packets includes a connection identifier rather than address information, and are delivered in order.

packet.switching Packet mode communication (or packet-oriented, packet-based) may be utilized with or without intermediate forwarding nodes (packet switches). In all packet mode communication, network resources are managed by statistical multiplexing or dynamic bandwidth allocation in which a communication channel is effectively divided into an arbitrary number of logical variable-bit-rate channels or data streams. Each logical stream consists of a sequence of packets, which normally are forwarded by the multiplexors and intermediate network nodes asynchronously using first-in, first-out buffering. Alternatively, the packets may be forwarded according to some scheduling discipline for fair queuing or for differentiated or guaranteed quality of service, such as pipeline forwarding or time-driven priority (TDP). Any buffering introduces varying latency and throughput in transmission. In case of a shared physical medium, the packets may be delivered according to some packet-mode multiple access scheme.


The concept of switching small blocks of data was first explored by Paul Baran in the early 1960s. Independently, Donald Davies at the National Physical Laboratory in the UK had developed the same ideas (Abbate, 2000).

Leonard Kleinrock conducted early research in queueing theory which would be important in packet switching, and published a book in the related field of digital message switching (without the packets) in 1961; he also later played a leading role in building and management of the world’s first packet switched network, the ARPANET.

Baran developed the concept of message block switching during his research at the RAND Corporation for the US Air Force into survivable communications networks, first presented to the Air Force in the summer of 1961 as briefing B-265 then published as RAND Paper P-2626 in 1962, and then including and expanding somewhat within a series of eleven papers titled On Distributed Communications in 1964. Baran’s P-2626 paper described a general architecture for a large-scale, distributed, survivable communications network. The paper focuses on three key ideas: first, use of a decentralized network with multiple paths between any two points; and second, dividing complete user messages into what he called message blocks (later called packets); then third, delivery of these messages by store and forward switching.

Baran’s study made its way to Robert Taylor and J.C.R. Licklider at the Information Processing Technology Office, both wide-area network evangelists, and it helped influence Lawrence Roberts to adopt the technology when Taylor put him in charge of development of the ARPANET.

Baran’s work was similar to the research performed independently by Donald Davies at the National Physical Laboratory, UK. In 1965, Davies developed the concept of packet-switched networks and proposed development of a UK wide network. He gave a talk on the proposal in 1966, after which a person from the Ministry of Defense told him about Baran’s work. A member of Davies’ team met Lawrence Roberts at the 1967 ACM Symposium on Operating System Principles, bringing the two groups together.

Interestingly, Davies had chosen some of the same parameters for his original network design as Baran, such as a packet size of 1024 bits. In 1966 Davies proposed that a network should be built at the laboratory to serve the needs of NPL and prove the feasibility of packet switching. The NPL Data Communications Network entered service in 1970. Roberts and the ARPANET team took the name “packet switching” itself from Davies’s work.

The first computer network and packet switching network deployed for computer resource sharing was the Octopus Network at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that began connecting four Control Data 6600 computers to several shared storage devices (including an IBM Data Cell (2321) in 1968 and an IBM Photostore in 1970) and to several hundred ASR-33 Teletype terminals for time sharing use starting in 1968

Connectionless and connection-oriented packet switching

packetheader The service actually provided to the user by networks using packet switching nodes can be either connectionless (based on datagram messages), or virtual circuit switching (also known as connection oriented). Some connectionless protocols are Ethernet, IP, and UDP; connection oriented packet-switching protocols include X.25, Frame relay, Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), and TCP.

In connection oriented networks, each packet is labeled with a connection ID rather than an address. Address information is only transferred to each node during a connection set-up phase, when an entry is added to each switching table in the network nodes.

In connectionless networks, each packet is labeled with a destination address, and may also be labeled with the sequence number of the packet. This precludes the need for a dedicated path to help the packet find its way to its destination. Each packet is dispatched and may go via different routes. At the destination, the original message/data is reassembled in the correct order, based on the packet sequence number. Thus a virtual connection, also known as a virtual circuit or byte stream is provided to the end-user by a transport layer protocol, although intermediate network nodes only provides a connectionless network layer service.

Packet switching in networks

4hosts2routers Packet switching is used to optimize the use of the channel capacity available in digital telecommunication networks such as computer networks, to minimize the transmission latency (i.e. the time it takes for data to pass across the network), and to increase robustness of communication.

The most well-known use of packet switching is the Internet and local area networks. The Internet uses the Internet protocol suite over a variety of Link Layer protocols. For example, Ethernet and frame relay are very common. Newer mobile phone technologies (e.g., GPRS, I-mode) also use packet switching.

X.25 is a notable use of packet switching in that, despite being based on packet switching methods, it provided virtual circuits to the user. These virtual circuits carry variable-length packets. In 1978, X.25 was used to provide the first international and commercial packet switching network, the International Packet Switched Service (IPSS). Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) also is a virtual circuit technology, which uses fixed-length cell relay connection oriented packet switching.

Datagram packet switching is also called connectionless networking because no connections are established. Technologies such as Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and the Resource Reservation Protocol (RSVP) create virtual circuits on top of datagram networks. Virtual circuits are especially useful in building robust failover mechanisms and allocating bandwidth for delay-sensitive applications.

MPLS and its predecessors, as well as ATM, have been called “fast packet” technologies. MPLS, indeed, has been called “ATM without cells”. Modern routers, however, do not require these technologies to be able to forward variable-length packets at multigigabit speeds across the network.

X.25 vs. Frame Relay packet switching

packet-setup Both X.25 and Frame Relay provide connection-oriented packet switching, also known as virtual circuit switching. A major difference between X.25 and frame relay packet switching are that X.25 is a reliable protocol, based on node-to-node automatic repeat request, while Frame Relay is a non-reliable protocol, maximum packet length is 1000 bytes. Any retransmissions must be carried out by higher layer protocols. The X.25 protocol is a network layer protocol, and is part of the X.25 protocol suite, also known as the OSI protocol suite. It was widely used in relatively slow switching networks during the 1980s, for example as an alternative to circuit mode terminal switching, and for automated teller machines.

Frame relay is a further development of X.25. The simplicity of Frame relay made it considerably faster and more cost effective than X.25 packet switching. Frame relay is a data link layer protocol, and does not provide logical addresses and routing. It is only used for semi-permanent connections, while X.25 connections also can be established for each communication session. Frame relay was used to interconnect LANs or LAN segments, mainly in the 1990s by large companies that had a requirement to handle heavy telecommunications traffic across wide area networks. (O’Brien & Marakas, 2009, p. 250)

Despite the benefits of frame relay packet switching, many international companies are staying with the X.25 standard. In the United States, X.25 packet switching was used heavily in government and financial networks that use mainframe applications. Many companies did not intend to cross over to frame relay packet switching because it is more cost effective to use X.25 on slower networks. In certain parts of the world, particularly in Asia-Pacific and South America regions, X.25 was the only technology available.

Now, take a deep breath, count to ten, and exhale. You have made it through a progression of concepts that are challenging even for many graduate students. Tomorrow we continue our exploration of the developers of these technologies.



Katie Hafner & Matthew Lyon. (1998) Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet. Simon & Schuster

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

ARPANet can be found at…

The Internet can be found at…

Packet Switching can be found at…

Paul Baran can be found at…

Donald Davies can be found at…

Other Web Sites: What is… Packet Switching?

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Lincoln is known for his brilliant oratory. We all remember the brief, but powerful, Gettysburg Address. Today, we take a look at one of his speeches delivered in 1838 to a group of young men attending a lecture at the Young Men’s Lyceum: “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions”. In this speech, he supported the nation’s need to preserve a Reverence for the Law. He emphasized one of the keystones upon which this nation was founded. Let us reflect upon these principles anew; we need to constantly to hold these truths sacred.  GLB


“The way for a young man to rise, is to improve himself every way he can, never suspecting that any body wishes to hinder him.”
— Abraham Lincoln

“Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.”
— Abraham Lincoln

“With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently he who moulds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.”
— Abraham Lincoln

“The true rule, in determining to embrace, or reject any thing, is not whether it have any evil in it; but whether it have more of evil, than of good. There are few things wholly evil, or wholly good. Almost every thing, especially of governmental policy, is an inseparable compound of the two; so that our best judgment of the preponderance between them is continually demanded.”
— Abraham Lincoln

“Let us discard all this quibbling about this man and the other man, this race and that race and the other race being inferior and therefore they must be placed in an inferior position. Let us discard all these things, and unite as one people throughout this land, until we shall once more stand up declaring that all men are created equal.”
— Abraham Lincoln

“We hope there is no sufficient reason. We hope all dangers may be overcome; but to conclude that no danger may ever arise, would itself be extremely dangerous. There are now, and will hereafter be, many causes, dangerous in their tendency, which have not existed heretofore; and which are not too insignificant to merit attention. …”
— Abraham Lincoln

“…we had a society in Springfield, which contained and commanded all the culture and talent of the place. Unlike the other one its meetings were public, and reflected great credit on the community … The address was published in the Sangamon Journal and created for the young orator a reputation which soon extended beyond the limits of the locality in which he lived.”
— William Herndon, Lincoln’s law partner

“As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be take pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic].”
— Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln on Reverence for the Laws

AbrahamLincolnUltra Lincoln expected that America would become a nation doubtful about its heroes and its history. In his astonishing address to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Ill., on Jan. 27, 1838, on “the perpetuation of our political institutions,” the 28-year-old Lincoln foresaw the inevitable rise in a modern democracy like ours of skepticism and worldliness. Indeed, he worried about the fate of free institutions in a maturing nation no longer shaped by a youthful, instinctive and (mostly) healthy patriotism.

Such a patriotism is natural in the early years after a revolutionary struggle for independence. To the generation that experienced the Revolution and the children of that generation, Lincoln explained, the events of the Revolution remained “living history,” and those Americans retained an emotional attachment to the political institutions that had been created. But the living memories of the Revolution and the founding could no longer be counted on. Those memories “were a fortress of strength; but what invading foemen could never do, the silent artillery of time has done; the leveling of its walls.” So, Lincoln concluded, the once mighty “pillars of the temple of liberty” that supported our political institutions were gone.

Lincoln_GettysburgAddress Lincoln implored his fellow citizens in 1838 to replace those old pillars with new ones constructed by “reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason.” He knew that such a recommendation–such a hope–was problematic. In politics, cold, calculating reason has its limits. In the event, it was Lincoln’s foreboding of trouble, not his hope for renewal, that turned out to be correct. The nation held together for only one more generation. Twenty-three years after Lincoln’s speech, the South seceded, and civil war came.

Let every American, every lover of liberty every well-wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular the laws of the country, and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the Patriots of Seventy-six did to support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor. Let every man remember that to violate the law is to trample on the blood of his father,  and to tear the character of his own, and his children’s, liberty. Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother to the listing babe that prattles on her lap. Let it be written in primers, spelling books, and in almanacs. Let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its alters.

The complete text of this speech, “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions,” can be found on the Teaching American History web site ( cited below.

Disney’s Adaptation

In the Disney’s “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” exhibit at the Disneyland Parks features the following speech on Liberty and the Reverence for Laws:

lincoln signlng The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.

What constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence? It is not our frowning embattlements, our bristling sea coasts. These are not our reliance against tyranny. Our reliance is in the love of liberty, which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.

At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some trans-Atlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, [that] if it ever reach us, it must spring [from] amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we [ourselves must] be [the] author[s] and finisher[s]. As a nation of free men, we must live through all time[s], or die by suicide.

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland Let reverence for the [law] be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in primers, [in] spelling-books, and almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice.

And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay of all sexes and tongues and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly [at] its altars. [And] let us strive to deserve, as far as mortals may, the continued care of Divine Providence, trusting that, in future national emergencies, He will not fail to provide us the instruments of safety and security.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.

The complete text of this original speech, “Address at a Sanitary Fair,” made by Lincoln can be found on the Teaching American History web site ( cited below. (Note that the differences between Lincoln’s speech and that used by Disney is indicated by the [..].)

Other Events on this Day
  • In 1785…
    Georgia becomes the first state to charter a state-supported university, the University of Georgia.
  • In 1838…
    Abraham Lincoln addresses the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, Illinois
  • In 1880…
    Thomas Edison receives a patent for his electric incandescent lamp.
  • In 1888…
    The National Geographic Society is found in Washington, D.C.
  • In 1967…
    Astronauts Gus Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee die in a fire aboard their Apollo I spacecraft at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
  • In 1973…
    The Paris Peace Accords officially end the Vietnam War.

Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln can be found at…

Other Web Sites:

Time Magazine: Learning from Lincoln’s Wisdom can be found at…,9171,1630556,00.html#ixzz0dlxXS2n1

Lincoln’s Original “Address at a Sanitary Fair” can be found at…

Lincoln’s “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions” can be found at…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Today, we feature a photographer with a twist, literally. Warren Faidley is a “storm chaser”, a photographer who seeks out hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, and other weather occurrences. He started into this field after serving as a photojournalist and reporter for many newspapers. He happened upon the photography of storms almost be accident and discovered that it was a field that was basically not covered. He found a very creative outlet for his photography and filled a gap in the understanding of the storm phenomenon since the actual point at which lightning strikes. He is helping to fill this gap.  GLB


“It was like something out of The Wizard of Oz…”
— Warren Faidley

“Truckers can’t figure out what the hell we’re doing.”
— Warren Faidley

“The light blinded me. I smelled the Ozone and felt the shock wave from the electricity.”
— Warren Faidley

“Until the Life photo, I was an ex-newspaper photographer, eating Rice-a-Roni and bread for dinner. It really gave me a boost.”
— Warren Faidley

“The information is critical in getting us where we need to be. Once you get to the storm, it’s a visual thing. But first you need to get there.”
— Warren Faidley

“It was the first weather stuff I’d shot, and that’s when I learned nobody was shooting weather. I had houses collapsing into rivers and I thought, ‘This is fun.’ ”
— Warren Faidley

“The probability of seeing the actual point where the lightning strikes is small. I’ve seen maybe a half dozen such photos in 20 years. This was the most unusual.”
— Warren Faidley

“It was the most dangerous situation I’ve ever been in. Tornadoes were popping out all over the place. But this is my obsession, getting the ultimate tornado photograph–full-frame, tube on the ground.”
— Warren Faidley


The quotes included in this posting were taken from the public quotation site which does not indicate that they are covered by any special copyright restrictions. Likewise, the images included in this posting were obtained under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License from the web site which did not state any restrictions on their use. This blog makes every attempt to comply with the legal rights of copyright holders.

This posting is intended for the educational use of photographers and photography students and complies with the “educational fair use” provisions of copyright law. For readers who might wish to reuse some of these images should check out their compliance with copyright limitations that might apply to that use.



Warren Faidley

Warren Faidley Warren Faidley is an author, lecturer, journalist, photographer, cinematographer, corporate spokesperson, extreme weather adventurer and storm safety/survival consultant. Faidley was the first storm chaser (and accredited journalist) to create a full-time, professional occupation solely from pursuing severe weather. This is in contrast to the majority of "storm chasers" who are, in reality, hobbyists, scientists, students, thrill-seekers and part-timers who chase seasonal events.

Billed as "America’s top storm chaser" by MSNBC, Faidley has made a 20-year career out of pursuing some of the planet’s most extreme weather. He is one of the few individuals who has experienced and survived both a Category 5 hurricane (Hurricane Andrew) 1992 and an F-5 tornado. (Red Rock, Oklahoma, 1991).

Desert Botanical Gardens 3 Faidley’s interest in storm chasing can be traced to his childhood, when he spent his time riding his bicycle into dust devils. His very first tornado chase in 1987 landed him in Saragosa, Texas a small community that had been swept away by a violent tornado. His professional career was launched after he took a photograph of lightning hitting a light pole in an oil and gasoline tank farm in Tucson, AZ. The image was published in Life Magazine, billing him as a "Storm Chaser”. In 1997 the US Trademark Office recognized Faidley’s unique business enterprises by awarding him with a Service Mark for the term "Storm Chaser."

Desert Botanical Gardens 5 Faidley was an initial motion picture consultant for Twister. He has been featured on numerous television specials including National Geographic, The O’Reilly Factor and The Discovery Channel HD Theater and The Weather Channel. His images and footage have been used by clients including Paul McCartney, NASA, The New York Times, MTV, Sheryl Crow, Life Magazine, NASCAR and USA Today. He serves occasionally as a severe weather consultant and expert for major news cable channels including Fox News and CNN. Most recently, he provided live reports during Hurricane Katrina.

Desert Botanical Gardens 7 Faidley is an advocate for extreme weather and disaster education. He is an international lecturer and severe weather survival expert. He is the founder and Chairperson of the Storm Angel Foundation a charity that educates children about severe weather. He has received numerous awards for his photography, journalism, educational and public service contributions, including certificates from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a William Randolph Hearst Foundation Journalism Award. He has written two books and collaborated on over 20 literary projects. His 1996 book Storm Chaser was a best-selling nature and science book. Amazon. In 2009 the book was re-released as an eBook. In 2006 his popular safety guide "The Ultimate Storm Survival Handbook" was released. The handbook includes severe weather and disaster survival tips based on Faidley’s first-hand experiences.

Desert Botanical Gardens 10 Warren’s photographs and footage are frequently used for educational and safety projects, including those of the National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross. Faidley is the CEO of Weatherstock Inc., a stock picture and footage agency and Storm Risk, a severe weather consulting company. He has consulted and/or appeared as a corporate spokesperson for clients including DuPont, SureFire and Johnson & Johnson.

Faidley is a graduate of the University of Arizona and Pima Community College. He is a pilot, and has received EMT-B and Arizona State Land Wildland firefighter certifications. He resides in Tucson, Arizona.

Faidley has worked on and/or contributed to over 60 literary projects including magazines and children’s books/publications. He is the subject of Stephen Kramer’s book Eye of the Storm.

From Warren Faidley’s Blog

Desert Botanical Gardens 2The best I can do is try and provide a realistic point of view of what chasing is actually about and how most storm chasers behave.

  1. In a single average year, there are actually only 2 or 3 good chase days that actually offer the potential (never guaranteed) to witness a tornado. The odds go down if you want to be close enough to film it. The media often distorts this reality to make it seem like all hell is breaking loose every day in Tornado Alley. Production companies sometimes acquire footage or pictures from other sources (not from the chasers seen in the actual productions or stories), or use archived clips / pictures, to add drama and fill to a story. Because chasing is 95 percent boring reality, even the most benign moment is often milked to its sensational death.
  2. Desert Botanical Gardens 4 Despite Herculean efforts to legitimize the purpose of “tornado proof vehicles,” there is no such thing as a truly “tornado proof vehicle.” Most of these vehicles are designed for publicity stunts, publicity and camera crews. Remember, no vehicle can withstand a strong tornado.
  3. The media sometimes does little to research their sources, experts or expose the actual purpose behind a person or groups chasing. False and misleading authority claims run rampant in the storm chasing community. Some chasers place weather instruments, light bars or decals on/in their vehicles to mimic researchers, media or rescue and / or fire personnel. Authentic scientists and meteorologists actually use the data they gain from chasing for “real” research, not for some loosely contrived project to legitimize a fuzzy science project that will never actually contribute anything to mankind.
  4. Desert Botanical Gardens 8 The media often portrays hazardous and irresponsible chasing behavior in a glamorous or adventurous light. They rarely disclose or show the hazards irresponsible chasers pose to others on the road, or to the rescue personnel who might be needed to assist them because of their antics. Furthermore, when is the last time you saw one of the buffoons take a moment to call in and report the “obviously very dangerous twister” heading towards someone’s home or a city?
  5. The idiots you see on TV speeding down rural highways, running red lights, breaking multiple traffic laws, preying for destruction and screaming like schoolgirls do not represent the majority of storm chasers. There are many chasers, e.g., scientists, storm spotters, media personnel, hurricane hunters and even “hobbyist” chasers who conduct their adventures in a responsible manner. This is not to say that responsible chasers do not have close calls and excitement worthy of prime time TV. The difference is between the reality of unplanned, natural events (news) vs. those events where the media alters reality (fiction) by encouraging (or subliminally suggesting) reckless and sensational behavior just to put people on TV and sell a story.


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Warren Faidley can be found at…

Also see…

Blog Article: Warren Faidley…

Storm Trooper: Warren Faidley…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Ivan Sutherland was there at the founding of ARPANet. But before that, he was a pioneering computer scientist who “invented” the field of computer graphics. While Englebart invented the mouse, Sutherland created the “Sketchpad” to create graphic images and display them on a CRT. And this was the day when the slow, loud, and limited Teletype 33 was the primary output device for most computers. He was a creative thinker and a great teacher of many young computer students in the early day of the industry. Given the dominance of GUI interfaces on our Macs and Windows computers today, we owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Sutherland!  GLB


“It’s not an idea until you write it down.”
— Ivan Sutherland

“Without the fun, none of us would go on!”
— Ivan Sutherland

“I just need to figure out how things work.”
— Ivan Sutherland

“… if I can picture possible solutions, I have a much better chance of finding the right one.”
— Ivan Sutherland

“It’s very satisfying to take a problem we thought difficult and find a simple solution. The best solutions are always simple.”
— Ivan Sutherland

“A display connected to a digital computer gives us a chance to gain familiarity with concepts not realizable in the physical world. It is a looking glass into a mathematical wonderland.”
— Ivan Sutherland

When asked, ‘How could you possibly have done the first interactive graphics program, the first non-procedural programming language, the first object oriented software system, all in one year?’ Ivan replied: ‘Well, I didn’t know it was hard.’ ”
— Ivan Sutherland

“The ultimate display would, of course, be a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter. A chair displayed in such a room would be good enough to sit in. Handcuffs displayed in such a room would be confining, and a bullet displayed in such a room would be fatal.”
— Ivan Sutherland


Wizards of the Internet: Ivan Sutherland

Ivan_Sutherland_at_CHM Ivan Edward Sutherland (Born: 1938) is an American computer scientist and Internet pioneer. He received the Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery in 1988 for the invention of Sketchpad, an early predecessor to the sort of graphical user interface that has become ubiquitous in personal computers.

Ivan Sutherland is considered by many to be the creator of Computer Graphics.  Starting with his Ph.D. thesis, Sketchpad, Sutherland has contributed numerous ideas to the study of Computer Graphics and Computer Interaction.  Ivan introduced concepts such as 3-D computer modeling, visual simulations, computer aided design (CAD) and virtual reality.

Sutherland earned his Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), his Master’s degree from Caltech, and his Ph.D. from MIT in EECS in 1963. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, as well as the National Academy of Sciences among many other major awards.

Sketchpad project at MIT He invented Sketchpad, an innovative program that influenced alternative forms of interaction with computers. Sketchpad could accept constraints and specified relationships among segments and arcs, including the diameter of arcs. It could draw both horizontal and vertical lines and combine them into figures and shapes. Figures could be copied, moved, rotated, or resized, retaining their basic properties. Sketchpad also had the first window-drawing program and clipping algorithm, which allowed zooming. Sketchpad ran on the Lincoln TX-2 computer and influenced Douglas Engelbart’s oN-Line System. Sketchpad, in turn, was influenced by the conceptual Memex as envisioned by Vannevar Bush in his famous paper "As We May Think."

The CADAZZ web site (CAD Software — the History of CAD/CAM) summarizes Sketchpad’s importance as:

Sketchpad’s most incredible breakthroughs were in the way that it allowed the user to interact with the computer:

  • the light pen was used to draw directly on the computer’s monitor and incorporated graphical user interface techniques such as rubber-banding of lines and zooming,
  • rubber-banded lines could be constrained to always intersect at a precise angle,
  • an advanced memory architecture was developed that allowed the creation of master objects and "instances" which were very memory efficient copies of the masters,
  • the master-instance concept allowed the creation of a master drawing and then duplicates to be created which would inherit properties of the objects in the master drawing unless they were locally changed,
  • if the master drawing was changed then the changes would automatically be propogated through the instances in any duplicates.

Sutherland replaced J. C. R. Licklider as the head of ARPA’s (now known as DARPA) Information Processing Technology Office (IPTO), when Licklider returned to MIT in 1964.

tch1l-75 From 1965 to 1968 he was an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Harvard University. With the help of his student Bob Sproull he created what is widely considered to be the first virtual reality and augmented reality head-mounted display system in 1968. It was primitive both in terms of user interface and realism, and the head-mounted display to be worn by the user was so heavy it had to be suspended from the ceiling, and the graphics comprising the virtual environment were simple wireframe model rooms. The formidable appearance of the device inspired its name, The Sword of Damocles.

Another of his Harvard students, Danny Cohen (engineer), was the first to run a visual flight simulator across the ARPANet after pioneering visual real-time interactive flight simulation on general purpose computers, and also pioneering real-time radar simulation. In 1967, Danny Cohen’s flight simulation work lead to the development of the Cohen-Sutherland computer graphics three dimensional line clipping algorithm, with Ivan Sutherland. For more, read Principles of Interactive Computer Graphics, by Bob Sproull and William M. Newman (1973 and 1979).

From 1968 to 1974, Sutherland was a professor at the University of Utah. Among his students there were Alan Kay, inventor of the Smalltalk language, Henri Gouraud who devised the Gouraud shading technique, and Frank Crow, who went on to develop antialiasing methods.

tch3l-75In 1968 he co-founded Evans and Sutherland with his friend and colleague David Evans. The company has done pioneering work in the field of real-time hardware, accelerated 3D computer graphics, and printer languages. Former employees of Evans and Sutherland included the future founders of Adobe (John Warnock) and Silicon Graphics (Jim Clark).

From 1974 to 1978 he was the Fletcher Jones Professor of Computer Science at California Institute of Technology, where he was the founding head of that school’s Computer Science department. He then founded a consulting firm, Sutherland, Sproull and Associates, which was purchased by Sun Microsystems to form the seed of its research division, Sun Labs.

Dr. Sutherland is currently a Fellow and Vice President emeritus at Sun Microsystems and is a visiting scholar in the Computer Science Division at University of California, Berkeley (Fall 2005 – Spring 2008). Currently, Dr. Sutherland is also leading the research in Asynchronous Systems at Portland State University and has founded Asynchronous Research Center (ARC) at Portland State University. He has two children, Juliet and Dean, and four grandchildren, Belle, Robert, William and Rose.

On May 28, 2006, Ivan Sutherland married Marly Roncken.

Ivan’s elder brother, Bert Sutherland, is also a prominent computer science researcher.

A Testimonial to his Role as a Teacher

Telle Whitney was a graduate student under Ivan Sutherland at CalTech. She is now the CEO of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. Telle is a senior technical woman who is dedicated to the recruitment, retention and advancement of technical women in high tech and academia. She wrote the following in 2008 after attending a celebration of Sutherland’s 70th birthday:

I just returned from a party at the Computer History Museum for Ivan Sutherland. Ivan is considered by many to be the father of Computer Graphics, and was my master’s thesis advisor at Caltech.

It was an evening of memories for me as I remembered my early graduate student days. I was at Caltech to work with Ivan because a professor at the University of Utah Richard Riesenfeld believed in me, and introduced me to Ivan. As a 22 year old undergraduate student with no clear idea of what a Computer Science degree meant, or what my options were, the interest and advice of a professor changed my life, something I am often reminded of by the students who attend the Hopper conference and learn from others what is possible.

I arrived at Caltech and joined Ivan and a small research group working on a hierarchical design rule checker, a hot topic in the VLSI field at the time. Ivan challenged my thinking and pushed me, and it was one of the most rewarding years of my life, resulting in two conference papers, no small feat for a first year student.

Ivan left Caltech after my first year, and when I protested, he politely reminded me that he had not made a commitment to be my PhD advisor. In the long run, it worked out, I worked with Carver Mead, an extraordinary man who I consider a friend and mentor to this day, who was also at the party tonight.

Both Ivan and Carver had characteristics of many great mentors – they challenged me, and pushed me hard. But they really believed in me, and let me know it.



Katie Hafner & Matthew Lyon. (1998) Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet. Simon & Schuster

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

ARPANet can be found at…

The Internet can be found at…

Ivan Sutherland can be found at…

Other Web Sites:

Biography of Ivan Sutherland…

Telle Whitney’s Tech Her blog: On Sutherland’s 70th Birthday…

CADAZZ: CAD Software — the History of CAD/CAM… Sketchpad