In Memoriam: Danny Cohen, Distinguished Computer Scientist and Long-time ISI Staff Member, Dies at 81

August 21, 2019

Distinguished computer scientist Danny Cohen, a long-time ISI researcher whose work paved the way for voice over IP (VOIP) technology, has died aged 81.

Writes the LA Times

In the mid-1970s, while he was a staff member at USC — where he worked for 20 years at its Marina del Rey Information Sciences Institute — Cohen was approached by the Advanced Research Projects Agency, a government organization that develops new technology for the military.

They asked if he could figure out how to send voice communication through ARPANET, a predecessor to the internet.

“They wanted a secure, fast way to send encrypted messages,” Cohen told Wired. With the help of other researchers from across the country, they designed the first teleconferencing and internet telephony in the late 1970s. By 1978, they held their first conference call.

“He realized that for real-time communication it can be better to lose some data than to have a delay — that is, when you’re doing a Skype call you’d rather hear a little static than have the call stop for a minute and then resume with what your interlocutor said a minute ago,” his son wrote in an email.

In time, this early version of voice-over IP evolved into the ability to send voice and video through cyberspace.

“My dad was making things that he thought were useful, fun and interesting,” he said.

Read Cohen’s full obituary in the LA Times and the New York Times