[TUHS] ISO, OSI, and DECnet (was Re: If not Linux, then what?)

Larry McVoy lm at mcvoy.com
Thu Aug 29 03:24:51 AEST 2019

On Wed, Aug 28, 2019 at 12:50:36PM -0400, Paul Winalski wrote:
> On 8/28/19, Clem Cole <clemc at ccc.com> wrote:
> > On Wed, Aug 28, 2019 at 2:46 AM Peter Jeremy <peter at rulingia.com> wrote:
> >
> > Tru64 talked to DECnet Phase X (I don't remember which one, maybe 4 or 5),
> > which had become an ISO/OSI stack by that point for political reasons
> > inside of Digital (the OSI vs TCP war reminded me of the Pascal vs C and
> > VMS vs UNIX wars - all very silly in retrospect, but I guess it was really
> > about who got which $s for development).
> It was DECnet Phase V that was based on the ISO/OSI stack.  IIRC, at
> the time the European telcos were pushing OSI, it had become an ISO
> standard, etc. etc.  It was also pretty easy to compatibly slide the
> legacy proprietary DECnet Phase IV adaptive routing and virtual
> circuit layers into the OSI stack.
> TCP won the war, of course.  The risk with international standards
> fashioned out of whole cloth by a committee (as opposed to being a
> regularization of existing practice) is that the marketplace may
> choose to ignore the "standard".  OSI and the Ada programming language
> are cases in point.

The great Mike Padlipski said "do you want protocols that look nice or
protocols that work nice?" in his fantastic book Elements of Networking
Style [*].

Maybe it's just that I read that book at the right time, I was porting
Lachman's STREAMS based TCP/IP stack, I had taken a networking class
where we built a stack, so I knew there was a state machine in there,
I had read Masscomp's networking primer and written some clients and
servers.  So I sort of knew a little but did not have the big picture.
I read Mike's book and it snapped everything into focus, which is in
part why I loved it.  The other part was all the less than subtle jabs
at OSI.  Mike couldn't stand the OSI model, another quote from the book
is "If you know what you are doing, 3 layers are enough.  If you don't,
7 layers won't help you".

I liked the book enough that I tracked down a phone number for Mike,
I think he was at UCLA or somewhere in LA but I might be wrong (the
number I have is 310-670-4288 which is a LA area code), and called him
and thanked him for the book.  We ended up becoming friendly with each
other and chatted from time to time about networking stuff.  I miss that
guy, he was great.

[*] The book is available here for $20.  Worth it.


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