You may not have heard of the “Spanning Tree Algorithm,” but it’s the backbone of the Ethernet technology we enjoy and rely upon today. The algorithm, also known as the “Spanning Tree Protocol” or STP, was the brainchild of Radia Perlman. Perlman was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2014 for her work.

Perlman developed STP in 1985 while working for Digital Equipment Corporation. A supervisor asked her to develop a means for computers to share data more reliably, so she created STP to provide redundancy between network points. Essentially, if one link fails, a backup is always available. Only one link is every active, but there’s always a link available. This “tree” of links became standard protocol and enabled the creation of massive networks.

Perlman doesn’t rest

Like any good tech pioneer, however, Perlman didn’t stop there. In fact, she holds more than 100 patents and improved STP through development of TRILL (TRansparent Interconnection of Lots of Links), which allows for improved bandwidth. Her textbook Interconnections is a networking classic, and she’s the co-author of Network Security.

Despite her foundational contributions to the internet as we know it today, resist the temptation to call Perlman the “Mother of the Internet.” In a 2014 interview with The Atlantic, Perlman said:

“The Internet was not invented by any individual. There are lots of people who like to take credit for it, and it drives them crazy when anyone other than them seems to want credit, so it seems best to just stay out of their way. I did indeed make some fundamental contributions to the underlying infrastructure, but no single technology really caused the Internet to succeed.”

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Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

One Comment

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    Yo rock in my book, thx for all you’ve done.


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