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Type: Public
Industry: ICT Industry
Founded: 1940
Founder(s): Richard Bolt
Leo Beranek
Robert Newman
Headquarters: 10 Moulton Street Cambridge, MA 02138
Country: USA
Key People
Robert G. Elmer, President
Ed Campbell, Executive Vice President
William C. Earle, Vice President of Finance
David Lintz, General Counsel
Steve Milligan, Chief Technologist
Jim O'Connor, Executive Vice President
Mark Sherman, Vice President of Technology Transition
Susan Wuellner, Vice President, Human Resources

BBN (Bolt, Beranek and Newman Inc.), now Raytheon BBN Technologies, is one of the leading Research and Development companies in the United States, dedicated to providing high-technology products and services to consumers. The company specializes in speech recognotion technologies, cyber security, advanced networking, sensor systems and information & knowledge technologies. BBN was one of the research companies involved in the development of ARPANET, which later evolved into the Internet. The company was known for developing the packet switching technology, the first network e-mail, and the first router.[1] Robert G. Elmer serves as president of the company and its main office is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


The Birth of BBN

BBN originated from an acoustics consulting firm founded by MIT professors Richard Bolt and Leo Beranek. At the time, Bolt and Beranek were in charge of the MIT Acoustical Laboratory, which was known as the leading leading research and teaching laboratory in acoustics. Wallace Harrison, the architect who designed the United Nations headquarters in New York City, asked MIT to provide consulting services for the acoustic design of the General Assembly Hall. The bidding request was passed down to Bolt and he won the contract. He figured that the job was too big to handle alone, and so he asked Beranek for help. At that time, the MIT administration was not interested in providing commercial consulting services but the institute allowed its employees to provide private consultancies during their free days. MIT rented out two rooms to Bolt and Beranek as their initial office and encouraged them to create a partnership, which was formed in November 1948. During the early years, along with working on the acoustical design of the UN General Assembly Hall, Bolt and Beranek also worked with General Radio Company and New York City movie theaters on jobs that were previously awarded to Beranek. They were also providing noise control consultancies for some establishments. In 1950, Robert Newman became a partner in the firm. The partnership became Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN) Inc., and from an acoustics consulting firm the partnership became an innovative research and development company.[2][3]

BBN grew in the 1950s. The partnership moved from the rented rooms at MIT to another office and eventually occupied a three story building in Cambridge. Because of the rapid growth of the partnership, BBN was incorporated in 1953. Beranek resigned from MIT and served as Chairman and CEO of the company. In 1957, J.C.R. Licklider joined the company as Vice President and Head of the Psychoacoustics, Engineering Psychology and Information Systems Research departments. In 1958, he encouraged Beranek to buy a computer; although at the time he doesn't know what to do with the computer, he told Beranek that the company needed to get into the computer business to become famous and needed to learn what they could do to the computer. BBN purchased its first computer (LPG-30), worth $30,000, from Royal McBee company. The company had five research divisions, including: Acoustics, Life and Information Sciences, Noise Control, and Applied Physics. Two of the division were involved in digital computing. Some of BBN's significant discoveries during the period include voice masking for privacy, a muffling system for Boeing aircrafts that reduced the noise caused by a propeller by 15 decibels, structural dumping, and the development of an artificial intelligence (AI) program for pattern recognition.[4][5]

BBN's Entry in Computing Research

In 1961, BBN suffered a major setback when their specifications for the acoustic design of the Philharmonic Hall at the Lincoln Center in New York were not implemented by the architect, after BBN had spent three years and millions of dollars to modify the hall's acoustic design. BBN's reputation in acoustical design was damaged by the contract. Beranek decided to redirect the company and engage it in other areas of research development, so Licklider took the opportunity to push his vision in computing research.[6] With Beranek's support, Licklider lead a group of computer researchers in pursuing time sharing, using his paper entitled "Man-Computer Symbiosis" (published in 1960) as a guide. His group developed and performed the first public demonstration of computer time sharing using the PDP-1 computer, which was purchased by BBN from Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). The development of time sharing led the company to pursue further research in network computing and created applications such as debugging, computer calculations, and text editing. BBN hired John Swets to take over the computer research projects when Licklider left the company to serve as Head of the Behavioral Sciences Office and Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) at the Advanced Projects Research Agency (ARPA) on October 1962. BBN's computer research department flourished, hiring more than 600 computer experts by 1968. During that time, the company's computer research department was working in three areas: artificial intelligence, computer graphics, and computer systems.[7] [8]


ARPANET, pre-cursor to the modern day Internet, was a project of the IPTO funded by the Defense Advance Research Agency (DARPA). The plan for ARPANET was developed by Licklider during his tenure as Director of the agency from 1962 to 1964. He envisioned a universal network.[9] Inspired by this vision, his successors Ivan Sutherland and Robert Taylor, who both served as IPTO Director, and Lawrence Roberts, who served as ARPANET Program Manager, pushed for the development of a wide area communications network.[10]

In 1968, the IPTO issued a Request for Quotation for the development of Interface Message Processors (IMP) for 140 companies. BBN submitted a detailed proposal for the project, and IPTO awarded the contract to the company. The BBN team was led by Frank Heart, with Bob Kahn, a communications theoretician expert responsible for error control and identifying problems related to sending data over the telephone lines; Severo Ornstein and Ben Barker, who were in-charge of hardware development; and Will Crowther, Bernie Cosell and Dave Walden, who were responsible for the software development.[11][12]

BBN collaborated with the research teams from the first four sites to be connected in the ARPANET, selected by Roberts: the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Stanford Research Institute (SRI), University of California at Santa Barbara, and University of Utah. The UCLA Team was composed of Vinton Cerf, Steve Crocker, Bill Naylor, Jon Postel, and Mike Wingfield, who were responsible for installing the first IMP, delivered by BBN to UCLA's Network Messaging Center, which created the first ARPANET node. The first message sent through the network was "Do it to it, Truett," as a tribute to BBN engineer Truett Thach, who brought the computer to UCLA from Cambridge. The exchange of communication was successful. When the succeeding BBN IMPs were connected to the other three sites in 1969, ARPANET was born. The growth of ARPANET was rapid and by 1975, the management of the military side of the ARPANET was handled by Defense Systems Information Agency (DISA) while the non-military network was managed by the National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET). The ARPANET ceased in 1990.[13]

The Invention of the First Network E-mail

In a 1971 experiment, BBN Principal Scientist Ray Tomlinson attempted to hack the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) CPYNET with two SNDMSG/READMAIL programs that had been developed for time sharing systems but did not not have the capability to transmit messages from one computer to another. Tomlinson's experiment was successful and he was able to transfer messages from his Cambridge lab computer to another computer. Via this process, he sent messages to his group announcing the development and instructions on how to use the first network e-mail.[14]

Further Developments in Computing Research

Over the years, BBN made significant developments in computing research including:

  • TENEX, the first virtual memory operating system for DEC computers
  • INTERLISP, a list-processing programming language important for their artificial intelligence research
  • Private Line Interface (PLI), an encryption developed that was used to secure the messages sent through a packet switch network such as the ARPANET. An advanced version, the Internet Private Line Interface (IPLI), was created to protect secret traffic across unsecured IP packet networks.
  • TELENET, launched as a subsidiary to provide commercial network services
  • TCP (Transmission Control Protocol)
  • Internet Routers
  • Black-Crypto-Red (BCR), the first IP-based network encryption system and packet encryption system used to implement remote re-keying and dynamic access control
  • Butterfly, the first parallel processor
  • SIMNET (Simulation Network), microcomputer-based combat vehicle simulators interconnected on a common network
  • New England Academic and Research Network (NEARnet), launched as a regional data communications network with a 10MB/s speed using microwave and leased communication links
  • Defense Simulation Internet for military intelligence, operations, planning, etc.
  • BBN Planet, which became the word's largest ISP provider
  • Multigigabit Router
  • Quantuam Network, the first metropolitan network protected by quantum cryptography
  • EveryZing, the first podcast search engine enabling users to easily search the full audio of multi-media podcasts.[15]

GTE/BBN Merger

In 1997, GTE Corporation (which later became Verizon Communications) acquired BBN for approximately $616 million. The transaction was approved by BBN stockholders and the company became part of the GTE Internetworking business unit. BBN CEO and President George Conrades was appointed Corporate Executive Vice-President and President of Internetworking.[16]

BBN Reestablished as Independent Company

On March 26, 2004, BBN was re-established as an independent company after the BBN Management, together with Accel Partners and General Catalyst Partners, acquired the company from Verizon Communications. Tad Elmer was named President and CEO of BBN.[17]

Raytheon Acquires BBN

In 2009, Raytheon, a company engaged in providing technological innovations for defense and homeland security, purchased BBN in a transaction estimated worth $350 million. According BBN President and CEO Tad Elmer, the merger will benefit the company business, its customers, and its employees. The combined company will be able to quickly transform advanced technologies into larger programs. At present, BBN operates as Raytheon BBN Technologies under Network Centric Systems.[18]

ICANN Involvement

Lyman Chapin, former Chief Scientist of BBN, was appointed by the ICANN Board to be Chairman of the Technical Standing Panel on New Registry Services on January 26, 2006. He is also a member of the Address Supporting Organization (ASO).[19][20]