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Most algorithms for constructing minimal spanning trees are sequential in operation. Distributed algorithms for constructing these trees operate both concurrently and asynchronously, and are useful in store-and-forward packet-switching computer-communication networks where there is typically no single source of control. The difficulties in designing such algorithms arise from communication and synchronization problems. This paper discusses these problems and describes the first distributed algorithm for constructing minimal spanning trees. This algorithm and the principles and techniques underlying its design will find application in large communication networks and large multiprocessor computer systems.