by Darius Kazemi, Jan 8 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.

An attempt at synthesis

RFC-8 is the first RFC in the official archives that is only available in scanned form. It was never typeset. It is hand written.

At least the title page is typed on a typewriter, so we know without a doubt that it's called “ARPA Network Functional Specifications”, dated May 5th 1969, and authored by Gérard Deloche of UCLA, also the author of RFC-7. You'll recall that RFC-7 has a note apologizing for the fact that the handwriting is atrocious and it was very difficult to transcribe. This one is too, but this time we get to enjoy squinting at the handwriting ourselves.

For reference, this is what we're dealing with:

a bunch of squiggly hand writing

Not the worst it could be but... not great.

The technical content

The document spells out the math for HOST-to-HOST checksums (error checking). It mentions that IMP-to-IMP checksums exist but that it's a BB&N thing so not relevant to this working group right now.

It reiterates what was already said in RFC-1 and RFC-2 about the link system between hosts: 32 links, 0 is a control link, these are TTY-style connections.

There's a summary of the Decode-Encode Language as defined in RFC-5, and a repeat of a bunch of the information in RFC-7.


This seems to be a synthesis document: an attempt to lay out what a connection from UCLA to SRI using DEL to do interactive remote applications on SRI's cool graphical operating system NLS would look like. The only thing “new” I can find in here is the actual HOST-to-HOST checksum math. Plus a cool stick figure.

an actually totally normal looking stick figure

Further reading

This is an aside, but the scanned copy appears to be Jon Postel's copy of the RFC. Postel was the editor of the RFC series from almost the very beginning of the series until his untimely death in 1998. Postel was also in charge of top level domain assignment and IP addresses before ICANN was established right around the time of his death. For many years Postel essentially was the internet. There's a lot of information about him at USC's Postel Center and RFC-2468 is a remembrance of Postel by Vint Cerf.

How to follow this blog

You can subscribe to this blog's RSS feed or if you're on a federated ActivityPub social network like Mastodon or Pleroma you can search for the user “@365-rfcs@write.as” and follow it there.

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.