[ih] Origin of 'talk' command

Craig Partridge craig at aland.bbn.com
Thu Dec 19 12:47:52 PST 2002

In message < at mail.meer.net>, Brian Dear write

>Does anyone know the date that the Unix "talk" command originally appeared, 
>and on what version/platform of Unix, and also if there's an RFC on it 
>(I've not been able to locate one)?

I believe talk and the talkd daemon appeared in 4.1c -- my recollection is that
it was in the first SunOS software release, which came from 4.1c.  However,
the FreeBSD 4.6 talk man page say it arrived in 4.2 BSD.

It was a hack -- not a designed protocol.  Someone wanted to enable
interactive communications between machines.  One sign it was a hack -- it
didn't specify byte ordering, with the result that as soon as Sun shipped
talk and talkd, people promptly discovered that VAXen and Sun workstations
talkd daemons couldn't communicate with each other.

I can't recall if it was talk, or the networked version of write, that had
the incredible misfeature that if you said "[talk/write] all" it attempted
to contact all hosts in /etc/hosts -- that caused provoked an interesting
reaction from DARPA when someone accidentally did it with a full host
table, c. 1988.


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