by Darius Kazemi, Feb 13 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.

A word from SDC

RFC-44 is from System Development Corporation, a group I've mentioned before in the context of them being an ARPANET contributor and the first ever company dedicated entirely to the creation of computer software. We don't hear from them often in the RFC series. This one is authored by Arie Shoshani, Robert E. Long, and Abe S. Landsberg, titled “Comments on NWG/RFC 33 and 36”, and dated April 10th 1970.

The technical content

This document provides commentary on the new HOST-HOST protocol proposed by Crocker et al in RFC-33 and RFC-36.

First they propose simplifying the new dynamic reconnection mechanism (recall there was much dismay at how complex it was) by allowing it to work for reconnecting different sockets within the same physical HOST machine, but not for reconnecting sockets in different HOST machines. They claim the usefulness of the latter is in doubt but don't explain why (although I'll note that at least according to a SDC document I link in “Further reading” below, it wasn't until 1971 that “interprocess communication” between two separate HOSTs was fully tested).

They offer a few suggestions for streamlining the new protocol, mostly by removing what they consider to be redundant information.

They also highlight a few other protocol issues and that they would like people to at least agree on a date to resolve them, as the problems were brought up two weeks ago at the UCLA network meeting “but were put aside.” The most significant one is around encoding: they believe that ASCII-8 (USASCII, I presume) will not suffice for all applications, especially for transmitting graphics over the network. They propose that ARPANET keep using ASCII for now but that a Network Common Code should be phased in. They don't explain the details though.


The authors note that in “RFC#33 the term PORT was introduced.” I wonder then, was that the first usage of the term PORT in the context of computer networking?

Further reading

I found a 1971 System Development Corporation report summarizing six months of ARPA-funded computing research at SDC. (It's dated April 15 1970 on the cover page but has 1971 listed through the rest of the document.) It's from almost a year after this RFC but I'm including it anyway because it's a fascinating snapshot of the state of computing at the time. They use the word “data base” but not as a compound; incidentally E.F. Codd was essentially in the process of inventing relational databases in the period 1970 to 1972, and he also used the term “data base”. See his 1970 paper (PDF) if you're curious.

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About me

I'm Darius Kazemi. I'm a Mozilla Fellow and I do a lot of work on the decentralized web with both ActivityPub and the Dat Project.