by Darius Kazemi, August 11 2019
Nine to five
RFC-223 is titled “Network Information Center Schedule for Network Users”. It's authored by John Melvin and Richard Watson of SRI-ARC. It's dated September 14, 1971.
The technical content
Something we take for granted on the modern internet is the idea that services will be online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This was not the case for the early ARPANET. Servers would be online at various times of day; sometimes during working hours as you might expect, sometimes only during off-hours as that was when the teams would be allowed to do network experiments with a given computer!
This RFC is a declaration that the Network Information Center (NIC) at Stanford Research Institute is ready provide regular service Monday through Friday for about 13 hours a day. Weekend availability will be “
on an irreguar basis”.
When a user connects to the NIC via Telnet, “
the system herald will be printed”, along with a message from the adminisrator. A “system herald” is an identifier for the server you're connected to. The following is an example I am making up of a herald (the first line) followed by a prompt asking for a user name:
YOYODYNE SYSTEMS INC REMOTE SERVICES STATION USER NAME?
Over the next several decades heralds evolved to be pretty complex, sometimes including ASCII art.
A user should log in to the NIC using their host site identifier as their username. The password is
ARPA. Then you enter an account number consisting of your host site identifier and your last name, like `ucsb-white.
There are telephone numbers provided for support if you're having trouble connecting to their services. The RFC closes with a list of host site identifiers.
I love the plain communication of an access password in an RFC! This would not have been a huge security problem at the time, since RFCs were distributed to trusted parties.
There is at least one website I know of that has limited operating hours. It's an energy-efficient website that is only online when its server has sufficient solar energy stored up. Check out this page on Low Tech Magazine for more—that is, if it's been sunny in Barcelona!
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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.