Frank Heart

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Frank Heart
IMP Team.jpg
IMP Team (left to right): Truett Thatch, Bill Bartell, Dave Walden, Jim Geisman, Robert Kahn, Frank Heart, Ben Barker, Marty Thorpe, Will Crowther, and Severo Ornstein
Frank Evans Heart

(1929-05-15)May 15, 1929
DiedJune 24, 2018(2018-06-24) (aged 89)
Alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Occupation Computer engineer
Known forCo-designing the IMP
Jane Sundgaard
(m. 1959;died 2014)
Awards Internet Hall of Fame (2014)

Frank Evans Heart (May 15, 1929 – June 24, 2018) was an American computer engineer, who, along with a team of others, designed the first routing computer for the ARPANET, the predecessor to the Internet.

Computer engineering discipline integrating computer science and electrical engineering to develop computer hardware and software

Computer engineering is a branch of engineering that integrates several fields of computer science and electronic engineering required to develop computer hardware and software. Computer engineers usually have training in electronic engineering, software design, and hardware-software integration instead of only software engineering or electronic engineering. Computer engineers are involved in many hardware and software aspects of computing, from the design of individual microcontrollers, microprocessors, personal computers, and supercomputers, to circuit design. This field of engineering not only focuses on how computer systems themselves work but also how they integrate into the larger picture.

Routing is the process of selecting a path for traffic in a network or between or across multiple networks. Broadly, routing is performed in many types of networks, including circuit-switched networks, such as the public switched telephone network (PSTN), and computer networks, such as the Internet.

ARPANET Early packet switching network that was the first to implement the protocol suite TCP/IP

The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was an early packet-switching network and the first network to implement the TCP/IP protocol suite. Both technologies became the technical foundation of the Internet. The ARPANET was initially founded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the United States Department of Defense.



Heart was born to a Jewish family [1] in The Bronx, New York, and grew up in Yonkers. His father was an engineer at the Otis Elevator Company; his mother was an insurance agent. [2]

The Bronx Borough in New York City and county in New York, United States

The Bronx is the northernmost of the five boroughs of New York City, in the U.S. state of New York. It is south of Westchester County; northeast and east of Manhattan, across the Harlem River; and north of Queens, across the East River. Since 1914, the borough has had the same boundaries as Bronx County, the third-most densely populated county in the United States.

New York (state) State of the United States of America

New York is a state in the Northeastern United States. New York was one of the original thirteen colonies that formed the United States. With an estimated 19.54 million residents in 2018, it is the fourth most populous state. In order to distinguish the state from the city with the same name, it is sometimes referred to as New York State.

Yonkers, New York City in New York, United States

Yonkers is a city in Westchester County, New York. It is the fourth most populous city in the U.S. state of New York, behind New York City, Buffalo, and Rochester. The population of Yonkers was 195,976 as enumerated in the 2010 United States Census and is estimated to have increased by 2.5% to 200,807 in 2016. It is an inner suburb of New York City, directly to the north of the Bronx and approximately two miles (3 km) north of the northernmost point in Manhattan.

Heart enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1947, entering a five-year master's degree program in which he alternated semesters between work and school. In 1951, he enrolled in MIT's new computer programming course. He became fascinated with computers and worked at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, the university's military contractor. Heart received both bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering in 1952. [2]

Massachusetts Institute of Technology University in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Institute is a land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant university, with an urban campus that extends more than a mile alongside the Charles River. Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, MIT adopted a European polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction in applied science and engineering. It has since played a key role in the development of many aspects of modern science, engineering, mathematics, and technology, and is widely known for its innovation and academic strength, making it one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world.

The MIT Lincoln Laboratory, located in Lexington, Massachusetts, is a United States Department of Defense research and development center chartered to apply advanced technology to problems of national security. The Laboratory provides a technical base for military electronics ranging from radars to reentry physics. Research and development activities focus on long-term technology development as well as rapid system prototyping and demonstration. These efforts are aligned within key mission areas. The laboratory works with industry to transition new concepts and technology for system development and deployment. The laboratory also maintains several field sites around the world.


While at Lincoln Laboratory, Heart was a research assistant on Whirlwind I, a computer that controlled a radar defense system for tracking aircraft. He worked at Lincoln until 1966, when he was recruited by Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN), a research and development company. In 1969, BBN won a proposal from ARPA to build the first Interface Message Processor (IMP), known today as a router, and Heart was put in charge. [2]

Whirlwind I

Whirlwind I was a Cold War-era vacuum tube computer developed by the MIT Servomechanisms Laboratory for the U.S. Navy. It was among the first digital electronic computers that operated in real-time for output, and the first that was not simply an electronic replacement of older mechanical systems.

Radar object detection system based on radio waves

Radar is a detection system that uses radio waves to determine the range, angle, or velocity of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. A radar system consists of a transmitter producing electromagnetic waves in the radio or microwaves domain, a transmitting antenna, a receiving antenna and a receiver and processor to determine properties of the object(s). Radio waves from the transmitter reflect off the object and return to the receiver, giving information about the object's location and speed.

BBN Technologies 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. It became a wholly owned subsidiary of Raytheon in 2009.

Heart's team used a rugged Honeywell DDP-516 minicomputer to engineer the IMP, whose special function was to switch data among the computers on the ARPANET. The team also invented remote diagnostics for computers, allowing IMPs to run unattended as much as possible, including the ability to restart by themselves after a power failure or system crash. The first machines were installed at the University of California, Los Angeles and, a few weeks later, at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California. [2] Heart appeared in the 1972 ARPANET documentary Computer Networks: The Heralds of Resource Sharing .

A ruggedcomputer is a computer specifically designed to operate reliably in harsh usage environments and conditions, such as strong vibrations, extreme temperatures and wet or dusty conditions. They are designed from inception for the type of rough use typified by these conditions, not just in the external housing but in the internal components and cooling arrangements as well. In general, ruggedized and hardened computers share the same design robustness and frequently these terms are interchangeable.

Honeywell 316 minicomputer built by Honeywell

The Honeywell 316 was a popular 16-bit minicomputer built by Honeywell starting in 1969. It is part of the Series 16, which includes the Models 116, 316 (1969), 416 (1966), 516 (1966) and DDP-716 (1969). They were commonly used for data acquisition and control, remote message concentration, clinical laboratory systems, Remote Job Entry and time-sharing. The Series-16 computers are all based on the DDP-116 designed by Gardner Hendrie at Computer Control Company, Inc. (3C) in 1964.

Minicomputer class of smaller computers

A minicomputer, or colloquially mini, is a class of smaller computers that was developed in the mid-1960s and sold for much less than mainframe and mid-size computers from IBM and its direct competitors. In a 1970 survey, The New York Times suggested a consensus definition of a minicomputer as a machine costing less than US$25,000, with an input-output device such as a teleprinter and at least four thousand words of memory, that is capable of running programs in a higher level language, such as Fortran or BASIC. The class formed a distinct group with its own software architectures and operating systems. Minis were designed for control, instrumentation, human interaction, and communication switching as distinct from calculation and record keeping. Many were sold indirectly to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for final end use application. During the two decade lifetime of the minicomputer class (1965–1985), almost 100 companies formed and only a half dozen remained.

In 1989, the federal government decommissioned ARPANET. Most of the IMPs were disassembled; a few remain in museums and computer labs. However, many of Heart's core principles, such as reliability and error detection and correction, still exist within the Internet. [2]

In information theory and coding theory with applications in computer science and telecommunication, error detection and correction or error control are techniques that enable reliable delivery of digital data over unreliable communication channels. Many communication channels are subject to channel noise, and thus errors may be introduced during transmission from the source to a receiver. Error detection techniques allow detecting such errors, while error correction enables reconstruction of the original data in many cases.

In 2014, Heart was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame.

Personal life

While working at Lincoln Laboratory, Heart met Jane Sundgaard, one of the company's first women programmers. They married in 1959. She died in 2014. [3] He died of melanoma at age 89 in a retirement community in Lexington, Massachusetts. They are survived by three children. [2]

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  1. Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet, Simon and Schuster, 1999, page 87
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Hafner, Katie (June 25, 2018). "Frank Heart, Who Linked Computers Before the Internet, Dies at 89". The New York Times . Retrieved June 26, 2018.
  3. "Obituary: Jane Heart". May 7, 2014. Retrieved June 26, 2018.