by Darius Kazemi, June 22 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.

Sharing, or management?

RFC-173 is titled “Network Data Management Committee Meeting Announcement” and authored by Peggy Karp of MITRE and Douglas B. McKay of IBM. It's dated June 4th, 1971.

The technical content

This is an announcement of a new committee, the Network Data Management Committee. During the Atlantic City meeting, there was enough disagreement around data management to cause an entire portion of the meeting to get derailed. So it makes sense that they decided the issues at hand should be taken into a committee for further discussion.

In fact, "an informal meeting was held Wednesday morning, 19 May", two days after the data management discussion was derailed, and taking advantage of the fact that lots of people were in Atlantic City anyway. This is actually noted in RFC-164 (the meeting minutes for Atlantic City) and those notes promised a forthcoming RFC with more information. Well, now we are here.

There will be a committee meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the offices of Computer Corporation of America. They will be structured after the Network Graphics Meeting outlined in RFC-87, and in particular, if you want to participate, you or someone in your organization needs to write and present a paper for the meeting.

This first meeting will simply be an accounting of the different opinions on data management/sharing on the network. Future meetings will attempt to figure out how to incorporate ideas from other areas of ARPANET work into data sharing, and then set up experiments in these various technologies and approaches.

The meeting will be held August 2 to August 4 at the CCA offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


This seems to entail a name change from “data sharing”. At first I thought it was because “data management” is a broader term than data sharing, and this committee could, in theory, also cover things like the Data Reconfiguration Service—but this doesn't seem to be the case here, as the document is very clear that the remit of the committee is “data sharing”!

It's interesting to me that “sharing” as a concept might be starting to be phased out from official language.

Further reading

Another fascinating thing to me is that the RFC says the meetings will be at the CCA offices in Technology Square. “Tech Square” is a big landmark in Cambridge, Massachusetts, right in the middle of Kendall Square and close to the MIT campus. I had always assumed that it was developed during the 1990s dot com boom but it turns out it was originally built during the Cold War technology boom, with the first building erected in 1963!

The venerable Multicians website has an article by Tom Van Vleck reminiscing about Tech Square. Project MAC was based there, at 545 Tech Square (the original building), and CCA was just a couple minutes' walk away at 565 Tech Square. I like reminding myself of how physically close a lot of these different organizations were to one another. I can only imagine it helped with cross-pollination between organizations, though I can't be sure! One claim from Van Vleck is that the CIA had an office in 545 building, which I am fully ready to believe since the it would give easy geographic proximity to an ARPANET IMP and also the many defense contractors like Draper Laboratory in the area.

I also enjoyed this history of Tech Square published by MIT.

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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.