[ih] Re: internet-history digest, Vol 1 #45 - 11 msgs

David P. Reed dpreed at reed.com
Mon Aug 5 21:19:38 PDT 2002

Mike - as someone old enough to remember SRI's IMLAC's and NLS's, I think 
that the problem is not necessarily expanding the acronyms.  After all, it 
matters little that TCP was once called the Transmission Control Protocol, 
because that tells you no more than the acronym tells you about it.

What we are really needing in Internet history is the reconstruction of the 
context in which those terms were defined.

This is what is missing from much of the writings that survive.

I happen to have preserved a complete copy of the MSPM (i.e. the Multics 
Systems Programmers Manual), which was not actually what its title claims 
it to be, since most of the contents were conceptual design documents, 
rather than documents about what actually got built (as you know, since 
much of the excellent prose therein is yours).   Without the knowledge of 
its role, one might actually assume that all of the documents therein 
represent actual implementations.

But that historical context is really only extant in the memories of a few 
folks 50 years young like myself, or older.  It's too bad, because someday 
our memories will fail, without backup.

I think it is just fine to capture some of this context, at least for the 
Internet, in any form whatsoever, acronym-filled though it may be.

Especially the "whys" and "whens" that led to the "whats" - much of which 
is far more interesting than what actually got put into the RFCs and so forth.

If the 666 problem is merely a matter of scanning a paper document, I'd be 
happy to volunteer to put it in Google-space.   There's a whole pile of 
interesting stuff that I still lug around from those early Internet days 
waiting for me to sort through it in my dotage - probably much of it is 
duplicative, but most of it was not in the RFC series.   For example, I 
believe I did the first TCP/IP header compression, which is documented in 
an MIT LCS RFC that apparently came into play in some intellectual property 
discussion a few years ago.   And there is Steve Kent's design for 
end-to-end encryption in TCP that never found its way into the official RFC 
stream as I recall, for political reasons.  Lots of other stuff.

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