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RFC 2441 - Working with Jon, Tribute delivered at UCLA, October


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Network Working Group                                           D. Cohen
Request for Comments: 2441                                       Myricom
Category: Informational                                    November 1998

                            Working with Jon
              Tribute delivered at UCLA, October 30, 1998

Status of this Memo

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

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (1998).  All Rights Reserved.

Tribute

   In 1973, after doing interactive flight simulation over the ARPAnet,
   I joined ISI and applied that experience to interactive speech over
   the ARPAnet.

   The communication requirements for realtime speech were unique (more
   like UDP than like TCP).  This got me involved in the Network Working
   Group, and I started another project at ISI called "Internet
   Concepts".

   In 1977 Steve Crocker, who was then at ISI, told me that Jon was
   willing to join us, and that Jon will be a great addition to my
   Internet Concepts project.  Steve was right on both accounts.

   Jon and I worked together from 1977 until 1993 when I left ISI.
   According to ISI's management Jon worked for me for several years,
   and I worked for him for several years.  In reality we never worked
   for each other (nor for ISI), we always worked together, to advance
   the technology that we believed in.  Over most of those 16 years we
   had our offices together, and always worked with each other, even
   when we worked on totally different projects.

   Jon was always most pleasant to work with.  He was most caring both
   about the project, and about the individuals on the team.  He was
   always full of great intentions and humor.  Jon was always ready for
   mischiefs, one way or another.  He was always game to hack something.

   When I worked on the MOSIS project, in 1980, users submitted their
   VLSI designs to us by e-mail.  For several defense contractors,
   getting access to the ARPAnet was too complex.  We suggested that
   they would use a commercial e-mail service, like TELEmail, instead.

   Then we had the problem of getting all the e-mail systems to
   interoperate, since none of them was willing to interoperate with the
   others.  Jon and I solved this problem during one long night of
   hacking.  This hack later became the mail-tunnel that provided the
   service known as "InterMail", for passing e-mail between various
   non-cooperating systems, including systems like MCImail and IEEE's
   COMPmail.

   I'm sure that Jon was so enthusiastic to work with me on it for two
   reasons:

      * Such interoperability among heterogeneous e-mail systems
        was our religion, with no tolerance for separatism;

      * We definitely were not supposed to do it.

   Jon hated bureaucracy and silly rules, as Cary Thomas so well
   described.  Too bad that we lived in an environment with so many
   rules.

   We started Los-Nettos without lawyers and without formal contracts.
   Handshakes were good enough.  At that time several other regional
   networks started around the country.  Most of them were interested in
   expansion, in glory, and in fortune.  Jon was interested only in
   getting the problem solved.

   This was Jon's priority, both at work, and in his life.

   I find it funny to read in the papers that Jon was the director of
   IANA.  Jon was IANA.  Much more important, Jon was the corporate
   memory of the Internet, and also the corporate style and the
   technical taste of the Internet.

   Jon was an authority without bureaucracy.  No silly rules!  Jon's
   authority was not derived from any management structure.  It was due
   to his personality, his dedication, deep understanding, and demanding
   technical taste and style.

   Jon set the standards for both the Internet standards and for the
   Internet standardization process.  Jon turned the RFCs into a central
   piece of the standardization process.

   One can also read that Jon was the editor of the RFC, and may think
   that Jon checked only the grammar or the format of the RFCs.  Nothing
   could be further from the truth, not that he did not check it, but in
   addition, being the corporate memory, Jon had indicated many times to
   authors that earlier work had treated the same subject, and that
   their work would be improved by learning about that earlier work.

   For the benefits of those in the audience who are either too young or
   too old to remember let me recall some recent history:

   The Internet protocols (mainly IP, TCP, UDP, FTP, Telnet, FTP, and
   even SNMP) were defined and documented in their RFCs.  DoD adopted
   them and announced a date by which all of DoD units would have to use
   TCP/IP.  They even translated RFC791 from Jon's English to proper
   Militarese.

   However, all the other countries (i.e., their governments and PTTs)
   in the world joined the ISO wagon, the X.25 based suite of OSI
   protocols.  The US government joined them and defined GOSIP. All the
   large computer companies (from IBM and DEC down) announced their
   future plans to join the GOSIP bandwagon.  DoD totally capitulated
   and denounced the "DoD unique protocols" and was seeking ways to
   forget all about them, spending million of dollars on GOSIP and
   X.500.

   Against them, on the Internet side, there was a very small group of
   young Davids.  The OSI camp had its prestige, but we had working
   systems, a large community of devotees, and properly documented
   protocols that allowed integration of the TCP/IP suite into every
   UNIX system, such as in every SUN workstation.

   Against the strict laws in Europe, their universities developed an
   underground of Internet connections.  One could get from California
   to the university in Rome, for example, for example, by going first
   over the Internet across the US to the east coast, then to the UK,
   then using some private lines to France, then to CERN in Switzerland,
   and from there to Rome - while breaking the laws of all those
   countries with every packet.

   Meanwhile, in the states, Academia, and the research communities,
   never knew about GOSIP.

   The Internet, against all the conventional wisdom, grew without
   anyone being in charge, without central control, and without any
   central planning.

   The war between the ISO and the TCP/IP camps never took place.  One
   camp turned out to be a no show.

   What made it all possible was the wise selection of what to
   standardize and what not to, and the high quality of the standards in
   a series of living documents.

   Our foundation and infrastructure of standards was the secret weapon
   that won the war.  Jon created it, using the RFC mechanism initiated
   by Steve Crocker.  It was Jon who immediately realized their
   importance, and the need for someone to act as the curator, and
   volunteered.

   The lightning speed with which Microsoft joined the Internet was not
   possible without the quality of the existing standards that were so
   well documented.

   During the transition from ARPA, through the NSF, to the commercial
   world there was a point in which the trivial funding required for the
   smooth operation of editing and distributing the RFCs was in doubt.
   At that time the prospect of not having funds to run this operation
   was very real.  Finally the problem was solved and the process
   suffered no interruption.

   What most of the involved agencies and managers did not know is that
   there was never a danger of any interruption.  Jon would have done it
   even with no external funding.  If they did not pay him to do it, he
   would have paid them to let him do it.  For him it was not a job, it
   was labor of love.

   Jon never joined the PowerPoint generation.  Jon always believed that
   the content was the only thing that matters.  Hand written slides
   were good enough.  Color and logos were distractions, a necessary
   evil in certain occasions, not the style of choice.

   Jon defined quality by counting interesting ideas, not points per
   inch.

   When fancy formatting creeped into the Internet community, Jon
   resisted the temptation to allow fancy formats for RFCs.  Instead, he
   insisted on them being in ASCII, easy to e-mail, guaranteed to be
   readable anywhere in the world.  The instant availability and
   usability of RFCs was much more important to him than how fancy they
   looked.

   The Internet was not just a job for Jon.  It was his hobby and his
   mission in life.

   We will miss Jon, who was for the Internet its corporate memory, its
   corporate style, and its corporate taste.

   I will miss him even more as a colleague and a friend.

In Summary:

   * Jon was pleasant, fun/funny, and unselfish.
     He was full of  mischief, adventure, humor, and caring.
     He was devoted to his work, to the Internet, and to the
     people who worked with him.

   * It was great working together and having neighboring
     offices for 16 years.

   * Jon set the standards for the Internet standards.

   * Jon was the Internet's corporate memory, the corporate taste,
     and the corporate style.

   * Jon was an authority without bureaucracy.

   * Jon was an Internet Missionary.

   * Jon was a great friend that I will miss for ever.

Security Considerations

   Security issues are not relevant to this Tribute.

Author's Address

   Danny Cohen
   Myricom

   EMail: cohen@myri.com

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