by Darius Kazemi, October 5 2019
Electronic mail: potentially useful
RFC-278 is titled “Revision of the Mail Box Protocol”. It's authored by Bhushan, Braden, Harslem, Heafner, McKenzie, Melvin, Sundberg, Watson, and White. (This is mostly the same committee in charge of the Data Transfer Protocol and the File Tranfer Protocol.) It's dated November 17, 1971.
The technical content
The committee met to discuss the Mail Box Protocol and the “
potential utility for the mechanism was confirmed”.
The commitee has decided that the protocol needs to be limited to ASCII characters formatted for printers. Previously it allowed any kind of file attachment.
The protocol will make use of the new Attach With Create method outlined in RFC-265.
There's a new mail addressing format that lets you specify if you want to send your message directly to the printer at a site, or if there is a mailbox on the computer that you simply want to append your message to.
Terminal IMP users are not going to be able to use this protocol for a while, at least not for receiving mail messages.
Just for context, before this there had been many electronic mail implementations within institutions, so for example a user of a Multics machine at MIT in the 1960s could send mail messages to other users of that machine. This is different because it's a mail protocol that lets you send messages from one institution to another, no matter what kind of computer or operating system you happen to be using.
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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.