by Darius Kazemi, August 29 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.

Use a computer at your own risk

RFC-241 is titled “Connecting Computers to MLC Ports”. It's authored by Alex McKenzie of BBN and dated September 29, 1971.

The technical content

Apparently BBN gets asked a lot if people can connect a computer to a Terminal IMP (TIP) rather than a connecting a terminal to a Terminal IMP. Because the TIP has no error correction built in, BBN strongly recommends not doing this. It's one thing when there's a human in the middle, slowly typing, who can check every transmission for an error. That's in fact what the TIP was designed for. But once you have computers talking to computers, errors can quickly compound, and thus error correction is needed! (I talk about this in my post about RFC-230, and I suspect that this RFC is a reply to RFC-230 without naming it explicitly.)

The RFC closes by saying, essentially: connect a computer up to a TIP at your own risk. Interestingly they also note that “we would be extremely interested in hearing about actual experience with this type of network connection”. They just doubt anything of use will come of it.


Amusingly this RFC's header lists obsoleted documents as “Our Previous Verbal Comments”.

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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.