by Darius Kazemi, May 5 2019

In 2019 I'm reading one RFC a day in chronological order starting from the very first one. More on this project here. There is a table of contents for all my RFC posts.

A late reply from NASA

RFC-125 is titled “Response to RFC 86: Proposal for Network Standard Format for a Graphics Data Stream” and authored by John McConnell of the NASA Ames Research Center. It's dated April 18th, 1971.

The technical content

This document is a reply to RFC-86, which is a proposal for a network graphics language that is similar in a lot of ways to modern 2D HTML canvas API. This reply comes three months after that RFC was published.

The author likes the basic idea of that RFC, but wants more “mode primitives” that are separate from the drawing primitives. This way you can apply a “mode primitive” to a drawing which modifies the behavior of the drawing primitives, allowing you to take advantage of features unique to a given graphics device, and allowing for the flexibility to support any new features that don't even exist yet.

For example, you could provide a “dashed line mode” and if the graphics device doesn't support those, it would just default to a solid line. A blink primitive is proposed, which is amusing.

The author also takes “strong exception” to the fact that character rendering on the display system ignores characters like a newline. This is understandable: when I'm working with modern 2D canvas systems I always hate when I can't just send a \n to a text field and have it behave the way I expect. Instead I end up having to calculate where the next line should begin manually, which is pretty much the exact situation that the author of this RFC wants to avoid.

The author would also like control over character size and orientation.

He would also like a “display list pointer”, which is an iterator that always points to the next drawing primitive that needs to be rendered.

He also proposes some ideas for remote interaction with graphics, like the ability to send information such as “the mouse is pointing at X,Y right now and the user has clicked” over the network.

Further reading

This is the first appearance of NASA in the RFC series. The Ames Research Center was founded in 1939 for government aeronautics research under the auspices of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, but in 1958 it was transferred to NASA after NACA was dissolved. It remains a NASA research center to this day.

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About me

I'm Darius Kazemi. I'm an independent technologist and artist. I do a lot of work on the decentralized web with both ActivityPub and the Dat Project. You can support my work via my Patreon.