by Darius Kazemi, August 10 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.

Grueling workshop

RFC-222 is titled “System Programmer's Workshop” and authored by Bob Metcalfe of MIT Project MAC. It's dated September 13, 1971.

The technical content

This RFC describes the first two days of the next Network Working Group meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts in mid-October. These days are a System Programmer's Workshop.

The workshop is described as “grueling” and they want no more than a dozen dedicated participants. Participants should have working knowledge of the various protocols and the inner workings of their own site's Network Control Program and Telnet client and server. The first order of the workshop is to use the PDP-10 at Project MAC to connect to as many Telnet servers on the network as possible. Then by connecting to those sites, they can Telnet to other sites, and hopefully exhaust every possible Telnet connection to every possible server, debugging as they go.


“System programmer” is a term that came up a lot in older (late 1950s) computing documents that I've encountered in my research. Essentially, in the 1950s a “programmer” was considered a kind of code monkey, a sort of glorified typist. A “systems programmer” was a term used for someone who would design entire new systems from scratch, doing inventive computer science work, publishing papers, and so on. My sense is that this terminology was going out of style in 1971 but it's clearly still around enough that they named a whole workshop after it.

The workshop sounds really cool, actually. I like that the entire point is to get every computer on the network to Telnet to every other computer on the network!

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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.