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BBN Technologies (originally Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc.) is an American research and development company, based next to Fresh Pond in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States. In 1966, the Franklin Institute awarded the firm the Frank P. Brown Medal, and on February 1, 2013, BBN was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honors that the U.S. government bestows upon scientists, engineers and inventors, by President Barack Obama.[1] It became a wholly owned subsidiary of Raytheon in 2009.

BBN Technologies
Founded1948; 71 years ago (1948)
FounderLeo Beranek and Richard Bolt
HeadquartersCambridge, Massachusetts, US



BBN has its roots in an initial partnership formed on October 15, 1948 between Leo Beranek and Richard Bolt, professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Bolt had won a commission to be an acoustic consultant for the new United Nations permanent headquarters to be built in New York City. Realizing the magnitude of the project at hand, Bolt had pulled in his MIT colleague Beranek for help and the partnership between the two was born. The firm, Bolt and Beranek, started out in two rented rooms on the MIT campus. Robert Newman would join the firm soon after in 1950, and the firm became Bolt Beranek Newman.[2]

J. C. R. Licklider joined BBN as vice president in Spring 1957.[3] Foreseeing the vast potential of digital computers, Licklider convinced the BBN leadership to purchase a then state-of-the-art Royal McBee LGP-30 digital computer at the price of $30,000, the most expensive piece of research equipment BBN had ever bought. Within a year of the computer's arrival, BBN had a visit from Ken Olsen, president of the newly formed Digital Equipment Corporation. DEC had just built a prototype of its first computer, the PDP-1, and Olsen persuaded BBN to test it out. After numerous suggestions from Licklider, engineer Ed Fredkin, and several others, DEC was able to begin production of the PDP-1.[2] The first produced PDP-1 was also purchased by BBN, and was delivered in November 1960.[4]

Once the PDP-1 arrived, BBN hired John McCarthy and Marvin Minsky as consultants. McCarthy had been unsuccessful in convincing MIT engineers to build time-sharing systems for computers. He had more success at BBN though, working with Ed Fredkin and Sheldon Boilen in implementing one of the first timesharing systems, the BBN Time-Sharing System.[5] In 1962, BBN would install one such time-shared information system at Massachusetts General Hospital where doctors and nurses could create and access patients' information at various nurses' stations connected to a central computer.[2]

In 1968, BBN was selected by ARPA to build an Interface Message Processor (IMP) for the ARPANET, the precursor to the modern internet. The IMPs were the very first generation of gateways, known today as routers. Under the leadership of Frank Heart and Bob Kahn, four IMPs were produced.[6] The first IMP was shipped to the University of California, Los Angeles and the second to the Stanford Research Institute. The first message between the two IMPs was "LO"— phonetically, “ello”.[2]

Notable achievementsEdit

Dilution refrigerator at BBN Technologies, used to create superconducting quantum computing devices

BBN is best known for its DARPA-sponsored research, but also known for its 1978 acoustical analysis for the House Select Committee on the assassination of John F. Kennedy.[7] BBN of the 1950s and 1960s has been referred to by two of its alumni as the "third university" of Cambridge, after MIT and Harvard,[8] but before Lesley University. It has made notable advances in a wide variety of fields, including acoustics, computer technologies, quantum information, and synthetic biology.

In recent years, BBN has led a wide range of research and development projects, including the standardization effort for the security extension to the Border Gateway Protocol (BGPsec), mobile ad hoc networks, advanced speech recognition, the military's Boomerang mobile shooter detection system, cognitive radio spectrum use via the DARPA XG program, and quantum cryptography (including the world's first fully operational prototype of a superconducting nanowire single-photon detector). BBN also led the Global Environment for Network Innovations (GENI) project for the National Science Foundation, which ultimately built out programmable "future Internet" infrastructure across approximately 60 university campuses.[9]


Well-known acoustics commissions include MIT's Kresge Auditorium (1954), Tanglewood's Koussevitzky Music Shed (1959), Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall (1962), the Cultural Center of the Philippines (1969) and Baltimore's Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (1978).[citation needed] Experts at the company examined the Richard Nixon tape with the 18.5 minutes erased during the Watergate scandal[10] and the Dictabelt evidence which was purportedly a recording of the JFK assassination.[citation needed]

The substantial calculations required for acoustics work led to an interest, and later business opportunities, in computing. BBN was a pioneer in developing computer models of roadway and aircraft noise, and in designing noise barriers near highways.[11] Some of this technology was used in landmark legal cases where BBN scientists were expert witnesses.[12]

Computer and networking technologiesEdit

BBN bought a number of computers in the late 1950s and early 1960s, notably the first production PDP-1 from Digital Equipment Corporation, on which it implemented the BBN Time-Sharing System (1962).[13] BBN was involved in building some of the earliest Internet networks, including the implementation and operation of the ARPANET and its Interface Message Processors;[14][note 1], as well as SATNET, PRNET, MILNET, SIMNET, CSNET, and NEARNET. In the course of these activities, BBN researchers invented the first link-state routing protocol.

Ray Tomlinson of BBN is widely credited as having invented the first person-to-person network email in 1971[16] and the use of the @ sign in an email address.[17].[18][19].

BBN was a key participant in the creation of the Internet. It was the first organization to receive an Autonomous System Number (AS1) for network identification.[20] ASNs are an essential identification element used for Internet Backbone Routing; lower numbers generally indicate a longer established presence on the Internet. AS1 is now operated by Level 3 Communications following their acquisition of BBN's Genuity internet service provider. BBN registered the domain on April 24, 1985, making it the second oldest domain name on the internet.[21][22] In addition, BBN researchers participated in the development of TCP, created the Voice Funnel, an early predecessor of voice over IP, helped lead the creation of the first email security standard, Privacy Enhanced Mail (PEM), chaired development of the "core" Internet Protocol security suite (IPsec) standards, and performed extensive work to secure the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP).

BBN also created a series of mobile ad hoc networks starting in the 1970s with DARPA's experimental PRNET and SURAN systems. Later BBN efforts included the networking portions of the Near-term digital radio (NTDR) and High-capacity data radio (HCDR), the Wideband Networking Software in the Joint Tactical Radio System and the Wireless Network after Next (WNaN). It also created the networking portions of the US Army's Mobile Subscriber Equipment (MSE) and Canada's IRIS digital communications system.

Dr. Talib Hussain, senior scientist at BBN Technologies, looks over the shoulder of a recruit during a training session on the Virtual Environments for Ship and Shore Experiential Learning system at Recruit Training Command.

BBN has had a very distinguished career in natural-language understanding[23][24], ranging from speech recognition through machine translation and more recently machine understanding of the causality of events and accurate forecasts for the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).[25]

Other well-known BBN computer-related innovations include the LOGO and Interlisp programming languages, the TENEX operating system, and the Colossal Cave Adventure game. BBN also is well known for its parallel computing systems, including the Pluribus, and the BBN Butterfly computers, which have been used for such tasks as warfare simulation for the U.S. Navy.[26] BBN also developed the RS/1, RS/Explore, RS/Discover and the Cornerstone statistical software systems, and played a pioneering role in the development of today's semantic web, including participating in the DARPA Agent Markup Language project and chairing Web Ontology Language standardization.

Notable BBNersEdit

A number of well-known computer luminaries have worked at BBN, including Daniel Bobrow, Ron Brachman, John Seely Brown, Jerry Burchfiel, Richard Burton, Edmund Clarke, Allan Collins, Bernie Cosell, William Crowther, John Curran, Wally Feurzeig, Ed Fredkin, Bob Kahn, Stephen Kent,[27] J. C. R. Licklider, John Makhoul, John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, Dan Murphy, Severo Ornstein, Seymour Papert, Oliver Selfridge, Cynthia Solomon, Bob Thomas, Ray Tomlinson, and Peiter "Mudge" Zatko. Former board members include Jim Breyer, Anita K. Jones and Gilman Louie.

Spin-offs and mergersEdit

  • In the 1970s, BBN created Telenet, Inc., to run the first public packet-switched network.
  • In 1989, BBN's acoustical consulting business was spun off into a new corporation, Acentech Incorporated, located across the street from BBN headquarters in Cambridge.[28]
  • BBN formed an early Internet service provider in 1994 as its BBN Planet division.[29] Previously traded as "BBN" on the stock market, the company was purchased by GTE in 1997 as a wholly owned subsidiary.[30] BBN Planet was joined with GTE's national fiber network to become GTE Internetworking, "powered by BBN". When GTE and Bell Atlantic merged to become Verizon in 2000, the Internet service provider division of BBN was included in assets spun off as Genuity to satisfy Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirements, leaving behind the remainder of BBN Technologies. Genuity was later acquired out of bankruptcy by Level 3 Communications in 2003.[31] In March 2004, Verizon sold the remainder of the company, by then known as BBNT Solutions LLC, to a group of private investors from Accel Partners, General Catalyst Partners, In-Q-Tel and BBN's own management,[32] making BBN an independent company for the next five years.
  • In September 2009, Raytheon entered into an agreement to acquire BBN as a wholly owned subsidiary.[33] The acquisition was completed on October 29, 2009[34] and the company was valued at approximately $350 million.[35] From December 2014, the domain name, the second oldest currently registered domain name on the Internet, is redirected to
  • Digital Force Technologies (DFT) of San Diego, California was a wholly owned BBN subsidiary, purchased in June 2008, and spun out in 2018.[36]
  • Former BBN employees have formed about a hundred startup companies with varying levels of official involvement, including Parlance Corporation and EveryZing.[37]

Locations and subsidiariesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The same idea had earlier been independently developed by Donald Davies who was the first to implement packet switching in the local area NPL network.[15]


  1. ^ "President Obama Honors Nation's Top Scientists and Innovators". 2012-12-21. Retrieved 2013-02-11.
  2. ^ a b c d Beranek, Leo (2005). "BBN's earliest days: founding a culture of engineering creativity". IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. 27 (2): 6–14. doi:10.1109/MAHC.2005.20.
  3. ^ Waldrop, Mitchell (2001). The dream machine: JCR Licklider and the revolution that made computing personal. Viking Penguin.
  4. ^ "Digital Computing Timeline".
  5. ^ Aspray, William (2 March 1989). "An Interview with John McCarthy" (PDF).
  6. ^ "Dave Walden, Looking back at the ARPANET effort, 34 years later - Internet History". Retrieved 2018-12-22.
  7. ^ "DARPA funded grants 2005-2010" (PDF). Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  8. ^ "40 Years After Sparking the Internet, BBN's Long Search for a Home Ends…At Home". 2009-09-02. Retrieved 2013-01-03., quoting Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon (1998)
  9. ^ "GENI Project Office at BBN Technologies Announces $115.M in NSF Funding". Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  10. ^ Hafner, Katie; Lyon, Matthew (2001). Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet. New York: Touchstone. p. 83. ISBN 978-0684872162.
  11. ^ Technologies, AVOKE Analytics by Raytheon BBN. "History". Retrieved 2018-02-02.
  12. ^ Reilly, Edwin D. (2003). Milestones in Computer Science and Information Technology. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9781573565219.
  13. ^ Hafner, Katie; Lyon, Matthew (2001). Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet. New York: Touchstone. pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-0684872162.
  14. ^ The Computer History Museum, SRI International, and BBN Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of First ARPANET Transmission, Precursor to Today's Internet | SRI International. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  15. ^ Roberts, Dr. Lawrence G. (May 1995). "The ARPANET & Computer Networks". Retrieved 13 April 2016. Then in June 1966, Davies wrote a second internal paper, "Proposal for a Digital Communication Network" In which he coined the word packet,- a small sub part of the message the user wants to send, and also introduced the concept of an "Interface computer" to sit between the user equipment and the packet network.
  16. ^ Tomlinson, Ray (1971). "The First Email: "A Neat Idea"". corporate website. BBN.
  17. ^ Tomlinson, Ray (1971). "The @ Sign: Icon for the Digital Age". corporate website. BBN.
  18. ^ "The Father of Email".
  19. ^ "Official Biography: Raymond Tomlinson".
  20. ^ Postel, Jon; Jim Vernon (January 1983). Assigned Numbers. IETF. doi:10.17487/RFC0820. RFC 820. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  21. ^ "Whois Record for".
  22. ^ "Then And Now: 5 Oldest Domain Names".
  23. ^ Ralph Weischedel et al, "Research and Development in Natural Language Processing at BBN Laboratories in the Strategic Computing Program", 1986. [1]
  24. ^ R. Weischedel, "Natural-language understanding at BBN", IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 28 , no. 1 , Jan.-March 2006, pages 46-55.
  25. ^ "Raytheon BBN-Led Team to Develop Event Prediction System Under IARPA Program", press release, July 31, 2018. [2]
  26. ^ Technology Services | Raytheon BBN Technologies. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  27. ^ "Internet Hall of Fame Inducts Raytheon Cybersecurity Expert". Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  28. ^ "Acentech Acoustic Solutions: Company Overview & Acoustical Services". Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  29. ^ Timeline – About Us | Raytheon BBN Technologies. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  30. ^ "GTE-BBN merger complete". 1997-08-15. Retrieved 2013-01-03.
  31. ^ "Level 3's Acquisition of Genuity Earns Court Approval". 2003-01-27. Archived from the original on 2013-07-28. Retrieved 2013-01-03.
  32. ^ "BBNT Solutions Acquisition Finalized". 2004-03-01. Retrieved 2012-01-03.
  33. ^ "Raytheon Announces Agreement to Purchase BBN Technologies". Waltham, Mass.: PR Newswire. 1 September 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2009.
  34. ^ "Raytheon Completes Acquisition of BBN Technologies". McKinney, Texas: PR Newswire. 26 October 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2009.
  35. ^ "Raytheon buys BBN for 'about $350m'". The Register. 27 October 2009. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  36. ^ "BBN Technologies and Digital Force Technologies Partner for Growth". 2008-06-24. Archived from the original on 2012-12-25. Retrieved 2013-01-03.
  37. ^ "BBN, birthplace of 100 startups, focuses on game tech". 2009-07-16. Retrieved 2013-01-23.
  38. ^ Contact – Utility | Raytheon BBN Technologies. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  39. ^ BBN Technologies. RIEDC. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.

External linksEdit