by Darius Kazemi, July 1 2019
RFC-182 is titled “Compilation of List of Relevant Site Reports”. It's authored by Jeanne North of the SRI Network Information Center and dated June 25th, 1971.
The technical content
The Network Information Center (NIC) would like to collect any reports from ARPANET sites that may be of interest to any other ARPANET sites. Things like planning reports, hardware inventories, software manuals, and so on.
The NIC's first-pass attempt involved talking to the Station Agents, who are individuals at each ARPANET site who act as kind of the local librarian, collecting all documentation for the site.
NIC expects the demand for this material is only going to increase. They ask all sites for any relevant bibliographies they might have, and also ask to be placed on the distribution lists for future reports.
According to Elizabeth “Jake” Feinler, who would be the Director of the NIC for many years, in 1972 the NIC was sending out tens of thousands of documents each year. Eventually that number waned as electronic transfer overtook paper mailing. According to this interview with Feinler:
We were distributing, in those days, a lot of them in hardcopy, because the sites weren’t up and running yet; or if they were, they were real flaky. There wasn’t any email; there wasn’t any FTP; it was very basic.
According to this summary of the 1972 NIC operating year by Doug Englebart, the NIC had 132 addressees to whom they send “about five items a week”. This works out to about 34,000 documents a year. This doesn't include memos sent to special interest groups. From Englebart:
We maintain relatively comprehensive “ident” data for a total of 366 registered individuals, affiliation organizations, and working groups, and somehow have a telephone directory with 530 phone numbers. All of these data are accessible via DNLS and TNLS, and much of it with the very easily used QUERY subsystem. Updating these data is a religiously maintained activity. [...] Each Station Agent requires special introductory help; only a few have been sent to SRI to learn — most of them have a lot of telephone talk at first, and we try to call them regularly to check up on things.
How to follow this blog
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.