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The THINK Protocols site is designed for networking students and researchers, who have an interest in understanding where the field of networking has been in order to more effectively understand the present and design networks of the future.  (Currently, these web pages are in the prototype phase, and have been written by CS seniors as a semester-long research experience.) The materials range from mildly technical to quite technical.

This project is very much a networking community effort, with contributions ranging:

  • from authors, designers, and implementors of early (1960's and 70's) network architectures 
  • to current day network faculty and researchers who share an interest in history
  • to CS undergraduate and graduate students.
Here are the resources created for you:
  • Read or search the THINK Protocols digital library, that contains key original network design documents, which have not been previously published or widely available. Read amazing 30 year old predictions of future networks, and study the design goals and debates over technical issues. 
  • Browse a specific historic network architecture from the 60's and 70's that preceded the Internet as we know it today.  You will find 30 year old features that are either quite similar or quite distinct from today's protocols.  The overviews and timelines will give you the context and brief descriptions of the design of each network architecture.
  • Tour a specific network architecture's packet-switched layer, host-to-host layer, and application layer.  Which routing protocol was used and why?  How did the 3 way connection establishment protocol evolve?  Did the packet-switched network provide reliable delivery or was that the role of the host-to-host protocol.
  • Read our favorite stories about a specific design (such as the design of ARPANET's file transfer protocol), historic events, and interviews with original contributors.
  • Study a topic in detail:  using the tour, the stories, the annotated bibliography.  These will provide perspective and will guide you to specific original source materials (many of which are in our digital library), including specs, papers, minutes of meetings, e-mail archives, technical interviews, implementation tools, drafts, momentos and maps.

Specific Network Architectures

All of the following descriptions are prototypes of what will eventually be developed, plus the list will eventually be expanded to other network architectures.

  • RAND's Distributed Communications led by Paul Baran
1960-1964: While at RAND Corporation in California, Paul Baran and others designed a distributed digital data communications network. A far-reaching design goal was that the network should withstand heavy enemy attacks. While his solution is now known as a packet switched network, he named it "distributed adaptive message block switching".
  • NPL network led by Donald Davies 
1966-1970: At the National Physics Laboratory in the UK, Donald Davies and others designed and built a packet switched network, independent of the work by Baran. Davies' original design introduced the now familiar term: packet. The team then went on to build one of the first local area networks and to design the classic error control protocol: the alternating bit protocol.
1967-198?: Initiated by ARPA project managers Bob Taylor and Larry Roberts, and designed and built by a Boston firm BBN (Bolt Beranek and Newman) and a large community of software designers known as the NWG (Network working group), the ARPANET was definitively the first large-scale example of a packet switched network. A high point for the ARPANET was a 1972 public demonstration of the ARPANET that also proved to the networking community that packet switched networks (versus telephone style circuit switched networks) were truly viable. The ARPANET design drew upon some of the work by RAND and NPL, but the ARPANET differs in that its routers (called IMPs) were additionally responsible for reliable delivery between the original source IMP and the final destination IMP.
Given the success of ARPANET, a rich history of network protocols starts here (from the application layer to the host-to-host layer, to the packet switched layer).
  • Cyclades network led by Louis Pouzin
1972-197?: ... 
  • TCP/IP

1973-1980: Initially designed to be a network of heterogeneous
packet switched networks, the TCP and IP protocols were strongly
influenced by all of the above network architectures.... 


Written by the THINK Protocols team, CS Dept., UT Austin
Please direct comments to Chris Edmondson-Yurkanan.
This document was last modified on Thursday, 26-Jul-2001 17:22:52 CDT.