Over at the New York Times site, Glenn Rifkin has an excellent obituary of Leo Beranek, who died on October 10 at his home in Massachusetts. Beranek was a distinguished acoustic engineer, but I bring him up here because the consulting company he cofounded, Bolt Beranek & Newman, got a U.S. Department of Defense contract in 1969 to build a network that would come to be called Arpanet—and, long after that, the internet.
BBN was among the most influential tech companies that never became a household name, and many of its alumni went on to do important work elsewhere. (In fact, I met with one of them earlier today, in conjunction with an article I can’t tell you about yet.)
Among the fascinating tidbits in Rifkin’s obit: BBN, which was founded in 1948, was originally devoted to acoustics work and branched into computers because Beranek thought it would become a bigger business—an early savvy example of a tech company pivoting. HM