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Treorchy Celebrates Internet Pioneer

Treorchy celebrated the global achievements of its largely “forgotten” son with the unveiling of a Blue Plaque in his honour.

Family and friends travelled from as far as Adelaide, Australia to see the Deputy Mayor of Rhondda Cynon Taf unveil the plaque on Treorchy Library to commemorate the achievements of Donald Watts Davies, a pioneer of the Internet. 

Mr Davies’s twin sister and his son were amongst the large group of relatives who made the pilgrimage to Treorchy for this very special event. 

Deputy Mayor Cllr John Watts said, “It was an honour and delight to welcome so many of Mr Davies’s family to his hometown of Treorchy, some of whom literally came from the other side of the world to mark this momentous occasion. 

“Although Mr Davies is recognized as a pioneer in establishing the Internet, few people realise he was born in the mining community of Treorchy. It is fitting that he is remembered in his hometown for the massive contribution he has made to the rest of the world. 

We already take for granted much of what modern technology and communication offer us and yet only 20 years ago, the internet was something used by business and academics with use in the home not particularly common. 

“It is thanks to the work of pioneers like Mr Davies that our lives have been transformed and will doubtless continue to be so as technology progresses.” 

In the bright sunshine the family applauded as the Blue Plaque was unveiled and were able to spend time visiting Treorchy Library and the town itself before spending the evening in the company of the Treorchy Male Choir at their rehearsal room.The son of a miner, Donald Davies was one of the inventors of packet switching computer networking. He coined the term 'packet' and today’s Internet can be traced back directly to this origin.  

Born in nearby Dumfries Street before the family moved to West Wales and later Portsmouth,  studied at Imperial College, London and gained BSc degrees in physics in 1943 and mathematics in 1947.  

In 1947, after learning about the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) he joined the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) laboratory as a member of the small team, which was led by Alan Turing of Bletchley Park fame. The group's work, based on Turing's design, eventually led to the Pilot ACE computer.  

It was one of the first four or five electronic stored-program digital computers in the world. Davies had played an important part in the detailed design and development of the machine, and its successor, the full-scale ACE.  

In 1966, he returned to NPL and became involved in the development of an idea to achieve communication between computers. 

Davies received the British Computer Society Aware in 1974. His books included Communication Networks for Computers in 1973, Computer Networks and their Protocols in 1979, and Security for Computer Networks in 1984. He died on May 28 at the age of 75.