Circuits, Packets, & Protocols is one of the most detailed accounts of the 1980s that I have seen… capturing the entrepreneurial color of one of the most interesting and prolific eras in Silicon Valley history.” – Audrey MacLean, Co-Founder of N.E.T. and Consulting Professor, Stanford University

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“Circuits, Packets, and Protocols:
Entrepreneurs and Computer Communications, 1968 – 1988″
James L. Pelkey, Andrew L. Russell, and Loring G. Robbins

Circuits, Packets, and Protocols tells the story of the engineers, entrepreneurs, investors, and visionaries who laid the groundwork and built the foundations of the Internet.

In the late 1960s, two American corporate behemoths were poised to dominate the rapidly converging industries of computing and communications—the computer giant, IBM, and the regulated telecommunications monopoly, AT&T. But in 1968, a key ruling by the Federal Communications Commission gave small businesses a doorway into an emerging market for communication devices that could transmit computer data over telephone lines.

In the two decades that followed, an industry of networking technology emerged that would impact human history in profound and unfathomable ways. Circuits, Packets, and Protocols is a groundbreaking study of the men and women in the engineering labs, board rooms, and regulatory agencies whose decisions determined the evolution of our modern digital communication networks.

Unlike histories that glorify the dominant players with the benefit of hindsight, this is a history of a pivotal era as it happened. Drawing on more than 80 interviews recorded in 1988, the book features insights from now-famous individuals such as Paul Baran, JCR Licklider, Vint Cerf, Louis Pouzin, and Robert Metcalfe.

Inspired by innovations from government-sponsored Cold War defense projects and the birth of the modern venture capital industry, these trailblazers and many others built the technologies and companies that became essential building blocks in the development of today’s Internet. Many of the companies and products failed, even while they helped propel the industry forward at breakneck speed.

Equal parts academic history and thrilling startup drama, Circuits, Packets, and Protocols gives the reader a vivid picture of what it was like to take part in one of the most exciting periods of technological advance in our time.

Advance Praise:

“If you wonder whether there was a one-time confluence of events that brought us to the Digital Age… this book will help you decide.”

Elizabeth (Jake) Feinler

Director of Network Information Systems Center, Stanford Research Institute, 1972-1989

“A marvelous and personal exploration of a poorly documented period in the history of data communication! I lived through it and re-lived it in these interviews and narrative.”

Vint Cerf

Internet Pioneer

“Circuits, Packets, & Protocols is full of revelations for me even though I was there. Never had it explained so clearly how my distributed computing strategy was the wrong one for 3Com in the 1980s.”

Bob Metcalfe

Internet pioneer, Ethernet inventor, 3Com founder, UT Austin Professor of Innovation