Another for the computer history geeks

A decade or more before Clive Sinclair and his rivals were working on home computers, some other British inventors were developing technological ideas which are an integral part of the computers and networks that we use today.  Donald Davies and Derek Barber were among the pioneers of ‘packet switching’, the technique where information is divided up into ‘packets’ to be routed over a network, and one of the innovations that made the Internet possible.  In contrast to Sinclair’s flambouyant entrepreneurship, they were the most unassuming of pioneers – after all their role was essentially as scientific civil servants with the NPL (National Physical Laboratory) in Teddington, west London.  At there’s a transcript of an interview with Davies and Barber from the 1990s (when widespread use of the web was just starting) which raises some points that I found interesting.  One is how much collaboration there was between the different pioneers of this technology in Britain, France, and the US; another is how important the ‘scrapbook’ system used internally within the NPL was, in developing switchingtechnology that was eventually very widely used.


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