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RFC 1607 - A VIEW FROM THE 21ST CENTURY


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Network Working Group                                           V. Cerf
Request for Comments: 1607                             Internet Society
Category: Informational                                    1 April 1994

                      A VIEW FROM THE 21ST CENTURY

Status of this Memo

   This memo provides information for the Internet community.  This memo
   does not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of
   this memo is unlimited.

A NOTE TO THE READER

   The letters below were discovered in September 1993 in a reverse
   time-capsule apparently sent from 2023. The author of this paper
   cannot vouch for the accuracy of the letter contents, but spectral
   and radiation analysis are consistent with origin later than 2020. It
   is not known what, if any, effect will arise if readers take actions
   based on the future history contained in these documents.  I trust
   you will be particularly careful with our collective futures!

THE LETTERS

   To: "Jonathan Bradel" <jbradel@astro.luna.edu>
   CC: "Therese Troisema" <ttroisema@inria.fr>
   From: "David Kenter" <dkenter@xob.isea.mr>
   Date: September 8, 2023 08:47.01 MT
   Subject:  Hello from the Exobiology Lab!

   Hi Jonathan!

   I just wanted to let you know that I have settled in my new
   offices at the Exobiology Lab at the Interplanetary Space
   Exploration Agency's base here on Mars. The trip out was
   uneventful and did let me get through an awful lot of
   reading in preparation for my three year term here. There
   is an excellent library of material here at the lab and
   reasonable communications back home, thanks to the CommRing
   satellites that were put up last year here. The transfer
   rates are only a few terabits per second, but this is
   usually adequate for the most part.

   We've been doing some simulation work to test various
   theories of bio-history on Mars and I have attached the
   output of one of the more interesting runs. The results are

   best viewed with a model VR-95HR/OS headset with the
   peripheral glove adapter. I would recommend finding an
   outdoor location if you activate the olfactory simulator
   since some of the outputs are pretty rank! You'll notice
   that atmospheric outgassing seriously interfered with any
   potential complex life form development.

   We tried a few runs to see what would happen if an
   atmospheric confinement/replenishment system had been in
   place, but the results are too speculative to be more than
   entertaining at this point. There has been some serious
   discussion of terra-forming options, but the economics are
   still very unclear, as are the time-frames for realizing
   any useful results.

   I have also been trying out some new exercises to recover
   from the effects of the long trip out. I've attached a
   sample neuroscan clip which will give you some feeling for
   the kinds of gymnastics that are possible in this gravity
   field. My timing is still pretty lousy, but I hope it will
   improve with practice.

   I'd appreciate it very much if you could track down the
   latest NanoConstructor ToolKit from MIT. I have need of
   some lab gear which isn't available here and which would be
   a lot easier to fabricate with the tool kit. The version I
   have is NTK-R5 (2020) and I know there has been a lot added
   since then.

   Therese,

   I wanted you to see the simulation runs, too. You may be
   able to coax better results from the EXAFLOP array at CERN,
   if you still have an account there. We're still limping
   along with the 50 PFLOP system that Danny Hillis donated to
   the agency a few years back.

   The attached HD video clip shows the greenhouse efforts
   here to grow grapes from the cuttings that were brought out
   five years ago. We're still a long ways from '82
   Beaucastel!

   Gotta get ready for a sampling trip to Olympus Mons, so
   will send this off for now.

   Warmest regards,

   David

   -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

   To: "David Kenter" <dkenter@xob.isea.mr>
   CC: "Therese Troisema" <ttroisema@inria.fr>
   From: "Jonathan Bradel" <jbradel@astro.luna.edu>
   Date: September 10, 2023 12:30:14 LT
   Subject: Re: Hello from the Exobiology Lab!

   David,

   Many thanks for your note and all its news and interesting
   data! Melanie and I are glad to know you are settled now
   and back at work. We've been making heavy use of the new
   darkside reflector telescope and, thanks to the new petabit
   fiber links that were introduced last year, we have very
   effective controls from Luna City. We've been able to run
   some really interesting synthetic aperture observations by
   linking the results from the darkside array and the Earth-
   orbiting telescopes, giving us an effective diameter of
   about 200,000 miles. I can hardly wait to see what we can
   make of some of the most distant Quasars with this set-up.

   We had quite a scare last month when Melanie complained of
   a recurring vertigo. None of the usual treatments seemed to
   help so a molecular-level brain bioscan was done. An
   unexpectedly high level of localized neuro-transmitter
   synthesis was discovered but has now been corrected by
   auto-gene therapy.

   As you requested, I have attached the latest
   NanoConstructor ToolKit from MIT.  This version integrates
   the Knowbot control subsystem which allows the NanoSystem
   to be fully linked to the Internet for control, data
   sharing and inter-system communication. By the way, the
   Internet Society has negotiated a nice discount for nano-
   fab services if you need something more elaborate than the
   ISEA folks have available at XOB. I could put the
   NanoSystem on the Solex Mars/Luna run and have it to you
   pretty quickly.

   Keep in touch!

   Jon and Melanie

   -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

   To: "David Kenter" <dkenter@xob.isea.mr>
   CC: "Jonathan Bradel" <jbradel@astro.luna.edu>
   CC: "Troisema" <rm1023@geosync.hyatt.com>
   From: "Therese Troisema" <ttroisema@inria.fr>
   Date: September 10, 2023 12:30:14 UT
   Subject: Re: Hello from the Exobiology Lab!

   Bon Jour, David!

   I am writing to you from the Hyatt Geosync where your email
   was forwarded to me from INRIA. Louis and I are here
   vacationing for two weeks. I have some time available and
   will set up a simulation run on my EXAFLOP account. They
   have the VR-95HR/OS headsets here for entertainment
   purposes, but they will work fine for examining the results
   of the simulation.

   I have been taking time to do some research on the
   development of the Interplanetary Internet and have found
   some rather interesting results. I guess this counts as a
   kind of paleo-networking effort, since some of the early
   days reach back to the 1960s. It's hard to believe that
   anyone even knew what a computer network was back then!

   Did you know that the original work on Internet was
   intended for military network use? One would never guess it
   from the current state of affairs, but a lot of the
   original packet switching work on ARPANET was done under
   the sponsorship of something called the Advanced Research
   Projects Agency of the US Department of Defense back in
   1968. During the 1970s, a number of packet networks were
   built by ARPA and others (including work by the predecessor
   to INRIA, IRIA, which developed a packet network called
   CIGALE on which the CYCLADES network operating system was
   built).  There was also work done by the French PTT on an
   experimental system called RCP that later became a
   commercial system called TRANSPAC. Some seminal work was
   done in the mid-late 1960s in England at the National
   Physical Laboratory on a single node switch that apparently
   served as the first local area network! It's very hard to
   believe that this all happened over 50 years ago.

   A radio-based network was developed in the same 1960s/early
   1970s time period called ALOHANET which featured use of a
   randomly-shared radio channel. This idea was later realized
   on a coaxial cable at XEROX PARC and called Ethernet. By
   1978, the Internet research effort had produced 4 versions
   of a set of protocols called "TCP/IP" (Transmission Control

   Protocol/Internet Protocol"). These were used in
   conjunction with devices called gateways, back then, but
   which became known as "routers". The gateways connected
   packet networks to each other.  The combination of gateways
   and TCP/IP software was implemented on a lot of different
   operating systems, especially something called UNIX. There
   was enough confidence in the resulting implementations that
   all the computers on the ARPANET and any networks linked to
   the ARPANET by gateways were required to switch over to use
   TCP/IP at the beginning of 1983. For many historians, 1983
   marks the start of global Internet growth although it had
   its origins in the research effort started at Stanford
   University in 1973, ten years earlier.

   I am going to read more about this and, if you are
   interested, I can report on what happened after 1983.

   I will leave any simulation results from the EXAFLOP runs
   in the private access directory in the CERN TERAFLEX
   archive.  It will be accessible using the JIT-ticket I have
   attached, protected with your public key.

   Au revoir, mon ami, Therese

   -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

   To: "Troisema" <rm1023@geosync.hyatt.com>
   CC: "Jonathan Bradel" <jbradel@astro.luna.edu>
   CC: "Therese Troisema" <ttroisema@inria.fr>
   From: "David Kenter" <dkenter@xob.isea.mr>
   Date: September 10, 2023 17:26:35 MT
   Subject: Internet History

   Dear Therese,

   I am so glad you have had a chance to take a short
   vacation; you and Louis work too hard! I changed the
   subject line to reflect the new thread this discussion
   seems to be leading in. It sounds as if the whole system
   started pretty small. How did it ever get to the size it is
   now?

   David

   -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

   To: "David Kenter" <dkenter@xob.isea.mr>
   CC: "Therese Troisema" <ttroisema@inria.fr>
   CC: "Troisema" <rm1023@geosync.hyatt.com>
   From: "Jonathan Bradel" <jbradel@astro.luna.edu>
   Date: September 11, 2023 09:45:26 LT
   Subject: Re: Internet History

   Hello everyone! I have been following the discussion with
   great interest. I seem to remember that there was an effort
   to connect what people thought were "super computers" back
   in the mid-1980's and that had something to do with the way
   in which the system evolved. Therese, did your research
   tell you anything about that?

   Jon

   -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

   To: "Jonathan Bradel" <jbradel@astro.luna.edu>
   CC: "David Kenter" <dkenter@xob.isea.mr>
   CC: "Troisema" <rm1023@geosync.hyatt.com>
   From: "Therese Troisema" <ttroisema@inria.fr>
   Date: September 12, 2023 16:05:02 UT
   Subject: Re: Internet History

   Jon,

   Yes, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) set up 5
   super computer centers around the US and also provided some
   seed funding for what they called "intermediate level"
   packet networks which were, in turn, connected to a
   national backbone network they called "NSFNET." The
   intermediate level nets connected the user community
   networks (mostly in research labs and universities at that
   time) to the backbone to which the super computer sites
   were linked. According to my notes, NSF planned to reduce
   funding for the various networking activities over time on
   the presumption that they could become self-sustaining.
   Many of the intermediate level networks sought to create a
   larger market by turning to industry, which NSF permitted.
   There was a rapid growth in the equipment market during the
   last half of the 1980s, for routers (the new name for
   gateways), work stations, network servers, and local area
   networks.  The penetration of the equipment market led to a
   new market in commercial Internet services. Some of the
   intermediate networks became commercial services, joining
   others that were created to meet a growing demand for
   Internet access.

   By mid-1993, the system had grown to include over 15,000
   networks, world-wide, and over 2 million computers. They
   must have thought this was a pretty big system, back then.
   Actually, it was, at the time, the largest collection of
   networks and computers ever interconnected. Looking back
   from our perspective, though, this sounds like a very
   modest beginning, doesn't it? Nobody knew, at the time,
   just how many users there were, but the system was doubling
   annually and that attracted a lot of attention in many
   different quarters.

   There was an interesting report produced by the US National
   Academy of Science about something they called

   "Collaboratories" which was intended to convey the idea
   that people and computers could carry out various kinds of
   collaborative work if they had the right kinds of networks
   to link their computer systems and the right kinds of
   applications to deal with distributed applications. Of
   course, we take that sort of thing for granted now, but it
   was new and often complicated 30 years ago.

   I am going to try to find out how they dealt with the
   problem of explosive growth.

   Louis and I will be leaving shortly for a three-day
   excursion to the new vari-grav habitat but I will let you
   know what I find out about the 1990s period in Internet
   history when we get back.

   Therese

   -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

   To: "Troisema" <rm1023@geosync.hyatt.com>
   CC: "David Kenter" <dkenter@xob.isea.mr>
   CC: "Therese Troisema" <ttroisema@inria.fr>
   From: "Jonathan Bradel" <jbradel@astro.luna.edu>
   Date: September 13, 2023 10:34:05 LT
   Subject: Re: Internet History

   Therese,

   I sent a few Knowbot programs out looking for Internet
   background and found an interesting archive at the Postel
   Historical Institute in Pacific Palisades, California.
   These folks have an incredible collection of old documents,
   some of them actually still on paper, dating as far back as
   1962! This stuff gets addicting after a while.

   Postel apparently edited a series of reports called
   "Request for Comments" or "RFC" for short. These seem to be
   one of the principal means by which the technology of the
   Internet has been documented, and also, as nearly as I can
   tell, a lot of its culture. The Institute also has a
   phenomenal archive of electronic mail going back to about
   1970 (do you believe it? Email from over 50 years ago!). I
   don't have time to set up a really good automatic analysis
   of the contents, but I did leave a couple of Knowbots
   running to find things related to growth, scaling, and

   increased capacity of the Internet.

   It turns out that the technical committee called the
   Internet Engineering Task Force was very pre-occupied in
   the 1991-1994 period with the whole problem of
   accommodating exponential growth in the size of the
   Internet. They had a bunch of different options for re-
   placing the then-existing IP layer with something that
   could support a larger address space. There were a lot of
   arguments about how soon they would run out of addresses
   and a lot of uncertainty about how much functionality to
   add on while solving the primary growth problem. Some folks
   thought the scaling problem was so critical that it should
   take priority while others thought there was still some
   time and that new functionality would help motivate the
   massive effort needed to replace the then-current version 4
   IP.

   As it happens, they were able to achieve multiple
   objectives, as we now know. They found a way to increase
   the space for identifying logical end-points in the system
   as well increasing the address space needed to identify
   physical end-points. That gave them a hook on which to base
   the mobile, dynamic addressing capability that we now rely
   on so heavily in the Internet. According to the notes I
   have seen, they were also experimenting with new kinds of
   applications that required different kinds of service than
   the usual "best efforts" they were able to obtain from the
   conventional router systems.

   I found an absolutely hilarious "packet video clip" in one
   of the archives. It's a black-and-white, 6 frame per second
   shot of some guy taking off his coat, shirt and tie at one
   of the engineering committee meetings. His T-shirt says "IP
   on everything" which must have been some kind of slogan for
   Internet expansion back then. Right at the end, some big
   bearded guy comes up and stuffs some paper money in the
   other guy's waistband. Apparently, there are quite a few
   other archives of the early packet video squirreled away at
   the PHI. I can't believe how primitive all this stuff
   looks. I have attached a sample for you to enjoy. They
   didn't have TDV back then, so you can't move the point of
   view around the room or anything. You just have to watch
   the figures move jerkily across the screen.

   You can dig into this stuff if you send a Knowbot program
   to concierge@phi.pacpal.ca.us. This Postel character must
   have never thrown anything away!!

   Jon

   -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

   To: "Jonathan Bradel" <jbradel@astro.luna.edu>
   CC: "David Kenter" <dkenter@xob.isea.mr>
   CC: "Troisema" <rm1023@geosync.hyatt.com>
   From: "Therese Troisema" <ttroisema@inria.fr>
   Date: September 15, 2023 07:55:45 UT
   Subject: Re: Internet History

   Jon,

   thanks for the pointer. I pulled up a lot of very useful
   material from PHI. You're right, they did manage to solve a
   lot of problems at once with the new IP. Once they got the
   bugs out of the prototype implementations, it spread very
   quickly from the transit service companies outward towards
   all the host computers in the system. I also discovered
   that they were doing research on primitive gigabit-per-
   second networks at that same general time. They had been
   relying on unbelievably slow transmission systems around
   100 megabits-per-second and below. Can you imagine how long
   it would take to send a typical 3DV image at those glacial
   speeds?

   According to the notes I found, a lot of the wide-area
   system was moved over to operate on top of something they
   called Asynchronous Transfer Mode Cell Switching or ATM for
   short. Towards the end of the decade, they managed to get
   end to end transfer rates on the order of a gigabyte per
   second which was fairly respectable, given the technology
   they had at the time. Of course, the telecommunications
   business had been turned totally upside down in the process
   of getting to that point.

   It used to be the case that broadcast and cable television,
   telephone and publishing were different businesses. In some
   countries, television and telephone were monopolies
   operated by the government or operated in the private
   sector with government regulation. That started changing
   drastically as the 1990s unfolded, especially in the United
   States where telephone companies bought cable companies,
   publishers owned various communication companies and it got
   to be very hard to figure out just what kind of company it

   was that should or could be regulated. There grew up an
   amazing number of competing ways to deliver information in
   digital form. The same company might offer a variety of
   information and communication services.

   With regard to the Internet, it was possible to reach it
   through mobile digital radio, satellite, conventional wire
   line access (quaintly called "dial-up") using Integrated
   Services Digital Networking, specially-designed modems,
   special data services on television cable, and new fiber-
   based services that eventually made it even into
   residential settings. All the bulletin board systems got
   connected to the Internet and surprised everyone, including
   themselves, when the linkage created a new kind of
   publishing environment in which authors took direct re-
   sponsibility for making their work accessible.

   Interestingly, this didn't do away either with the need for
   traditional publishers, who filter and evaluate material
   prior to publication, nor for a continuing interest in
   paper and CD-ROM. As display technology got better and more
   portable, though, paper became much more of a specialty
   item. Most documents were published on-line or on high-
   density digital storage media.  The basic publishing
   process retained a heavy emphasis on editorial selection,
   but the mechanics shifted largely in the direction of the
   author - with help from experts in layout and
   accessibility. Of course, it helped to have a universal
   reference numbering plan which allowed authors to register
   documents in permanent archives. References could be made
   to these from any other on-line context and the documents
   retrieved readily, possiblyat some cost for copying rights.

   By the end of the decade, "multimedia" was no longer a
   buzz-word but a normal way of preparing and presenting
   information. One unexpected angle: multimedia had been
   thought to be confined to presentation in visual and
   audible forms for human consumption, but it turned out that
   including computers as senders and recipients of these
   messages allowed them to use the digital email medium as an
   enabling technology for deferred, inter-computer
   interaction.

   Just based on what I have been reading, one of the toughest
   technical problems was finding good standards to represent
   all these different modalities. Copyright questions, which
   had been thought to be what they called "show-stoppers,"
   turned out to be susceptible to largely-established case

   law. Abusing access to digital information was impeded in
   large degree by wrapping publications in software shields,
   but in the end, abuses were still possible and abusers were
   prosecuted.

   On the policy side, there was a strong need to apply
   cryptography for authentication and for privacy. This was a
   big struggle for many governments, including ours here in
   France,  where there are very strong views and laws on this
   subject, but ultimately, the need for commonality on a
   global basis outweighed many of the considerations that
   inhibited the use of this valuable technology.

   Well, that takes us up to about 20 years ago, which still
   seems a far cry from our current state of technology. With
   over a billion computers in the system and most of the
   populations of information-intensive countries fully
   linked, some of the more technically-astute back at the
   turn of the millennium may have had some inkling of what
   was in store for the next two decades.

   Therese

   -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

   To: "Therese Troisema" <ttroisema@inria.fr>
   CC: "Jonathan Bradel" <jbradel@astro.luna.edu>
   From: "David Kenter" <dkenter@xob.isea.mr>
   Date: September 17, 2023 06:43:13 MT
   Subject: Re: Internet History

   Therese and Jon,

   This is really fascinating! I found some more material,
   thanks to the Internet Society, which summarizes the
   technical developments over the last 20 years. Apparently
   one of the key events was the development of all-optical
   transmission, switching and computing in a cost-effective
   way.  For a long time, this technology involved rather
   bulky equipment - some of the early 3DV clips from 2000-
   2005 showed rooms full of gear required to steer beams
   around. A very interesting combination of fiber optics and
   three-dimensional electro-optical integrated circuits
   collapsed a lot of this to sizes more like what we are
   accustomed to today. Using pico- and femto- molecular
   fabrication methods, it has been possible to build very
   compact, extremely high speed computing and communication

   devices.

   I guess those guys at Xerox PARC who imagined that there
   might be hundreds of millions of computers in the world,
   hundreds or even thousands of them for each person, would
   be pleased to see how clear their vision was. The only
   really bad thing, as I see it, is that those guys who were
   trying to figure out how to deal with Internet expansion
   really blew it when they picked a measly 64 bit address
   space. I hear we are running really tight again. I wonder
   why they didn't have enough sense just to allocate at least
   1024 bits to make sure we'd have enough room for the
   obvious applications we can see we want, now?

   David

   -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Final Comments

   The letters end here, so we are left to speculate about many of the
   loose ends not tied up in this informal exchange. Obviously, our
   current struggles ultimately will be resolved and a very different,
   information-intensive world will evolve from the present. There are a
   great many policy, technical and economic questions that remain to be
   answered to guide our progress towards the environment described in
   part in these messages. It will be an interesting two or three
   decades ahead!

Security Considerations

   Security issues are not discussed in this memo.

Author's Address

   Vinton Cerf
   President, Internet Society
   12020 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 270
   Reston, VA 22091

   EMail: +1 703 648 9888
   Fax: +1 703 648 9887
   EMail: vcerf@isoc.org

   or

   Vinton Cerf
   Sr. VP Data Architecture
   MCI Data Services Division
   2100 Reston Parkway, Room 6001
   Reston, VA 22091

   Phone: +1 703 715 7432
   Fax: +1 703 715 7436
   EMail: vinton_cerf@mcimail.com

 

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