by Darius Kazemi, June 17 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.

Air mail

RFC-168 is titled “Arpa Network Mailing Lists” and dated May 26th, 1971. It's authored by Jeanette B. North of the SRI Network Information Center.

The technical content

This RFC discusses how RFCs are to be mailed to the various ARPANET sites and related organizations.

If you wanted to send an RFC out to the Network Working Group, you needed to send a copy by the postal service to some 30 different organizations around the United States. These are the “usual suspects” of the NWG we have heard so much about: SRI, BBN, MIT, UCLA, UCSB, RAND, etc. These are all the “site” participants, aka the organizations that are actively connected to the ARPANET.

One of the organizations on that list is the NIC, who then make further copies of the document and mail them to a list of ten other organizations, such MERIT, EDUCOM, SUNY, and so on. These are all organizations that are interested in being on the ARPANET but are not actively connected.

There is a third list of “NIC Station Agents”. Some of these organizations overlap with above organizations, but the station agents themselves are usually information science professionals tasked with maintaining the libraries of documents at the various sites. So for example, while Dr. Lawrence Roberts at ARPA is a recipient of all RFC documents, Margaret Goering at ARPA also gets a copy. Goering's job is to keep the library up to date and she receives not just RFCs themselves but also a boatload of related reference material that she is tasked with making available as needed to people at ARPA.

All RFC correspondence should be sent via Air Mail.

Further reading

The mention of Air Mail reminds me that 1971 was the waning days of “air mail” as a thing separate from other mail. Starting in 1975 the United States Post Office simply used airplanes whenever convenient, making them no different from trucks or other forms of delivery.

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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 ActivityPub, including a Node.js reference implementation, an RSS-to-ActivityPub converter, and a fork of Mastodon, called Hometown. You can support my work via my Patreon.