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David Walden, Computer Scientist at Dawn of Internet, Dies at 79

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David Walden, third from left, with an Interface Message Processor and the group of engineers who helped build it.

Credit: Raytheon BBN Technologies

David Walden, a computer scientist who helped develop a machine that would evolve to become the backbone of the internet for decades, died on April 27 at his home in East Sandwich, Mass. He was 79.

The cause was complications of mantle cell lymphoma, his wife, Sara Walden, said.

In 1969, Mr. Walden was part of a small team of talented young engineers whose mission was to build the Interface Message Processor. Its function was to switch data among computers linked to the nascent Arpanet, the precursor to the internet. The first I.M.P. was installed that year at the University of California, Los Angeles. The I.M.P.s would be crucial to the internet until the Arpanet was decommissioned in 1989.

Mr. Walden was the first computer programmer to work with the team. "The I.M.P. guys," as they came to call themselves, developed the computer in nine frenetic months under a contract secured by Bolt Beranek and Newman (now Raytheon BBN), a technology company in Cambridge, Mass.

From The New York Times
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