[ih] Fwd: History of "accounts"

Jack Haverty jack at 3kitty.org
Tue Feb 11 16:40:32 PST 2014

On Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 1:29 PM, John R. Levine <johnl at iecc.com> wrote:

> There really is nothing new about job accounting for expensive equipment
> used for different jobs.

Very true.   Management is about using resources, and you can't manage what
you can't measure.  Fascinating discussion...   it got me thinking about
the Internet (this *is* the internet-history list).

In particular, is The Internet the first and only "infrastructure"
(widespread resource used by everybody) that has been developed with no
associated mechanism for accounting?   I can't recall a single protocol,
packet header, or such mechanism, at least from the early days of 70s/80s,
that had anything even resembling an "account" field to enable usage to be
associated back to some specific "account".

There were some attempts (I pushed on "usage accounting" back in the 80s
but it got pretty much ignored), but I think nothing much ever developed
ingrained in the Internet architecture.  The culture of the 60s/70s/80s was
simply against it, and the ARPANET started, and ended, with no accounting.
  Computers had accounting.  ARPANET, and the Internet, do not.  How come?

I also can't offhand think of any other infrastructure without some kind of
accounting or at least "feedback" mechanism to make usage visible to the
user.   Transportation, energy, etc., all have had such mechanisms from
their early days.   Anything that involves sharing a resource is likely to
have some kind of accounting.

I think this is changing now in The Internet, as usage skyrockets with
video, and cellular carriers notice the costs of provisioning for use of
such resources by masses of people as an everyday activity.    Millions of
devices that all seem to need their software upgraded daily is probably a
factor too.

Is this finally the beginning of Internet accounting?   Is it A Bad Idea?
And is the Internet the first or only infrastructure to make it this far
(approaching 1/2 of the world population!) without any such mechanism?

/Jack Haverty
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