[TUHS] Unix V8 Chaosnet, any takers?

Noel Chiappa jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu
Fri Jul 15 20:25:37 AEST 2022

    > From: Lars Brinkhoff

    > There is a small hobbyist Chaos network going

What encapsulation are they using to transmit CHAOS packets (over the
Internet, I assume)? I know there was an IP protocol number assigned for
CHAOS (16.), but I don't recall if there was ever a spec? (Which is kind of
amusing, since in 'Assigned Numbers', the person responsible for 16. is ....
me! :-)

There was a spec for encapsulating IP in CHAOS, and that actually _was_
implemented at MIT BITD; it was used for a while to get IP traffic to a Unix
machine (V7, IIRC) over on main campus, at a stage when only CHAOS hardware
(very confusing that the same name was applied to hardware, and a protocol
suite) ran across to main campus from Tech Square.

    > From: Grant Taylor

    > I wonder if there is an opportunity for something that pretends to be
    > the remote side locally, sends the data via some other
    > non-latency-sensitive protocol to a counter part where the counter part
    > pretends to be the near side.

Let's think through the details. The near-end 'invisibility box' (let's call
it) is going to have to send acks to the original source machine, otherwise
that will time out, abort the connection, etc. The originating machine is its
own thing, and this behaviour can't be controlled/stopped.

(This, BTW, shows a key difference between 'local' and 'across network'
modes, a recent topic here; in a situation where two distinct machines are
cooperating across a network, the other machine is its own entity, and can't
be expected/guaranteed to do anything in particular at all.)

In addition, the near-end invisibility box is going to have to keep a copy of
each packet, until the destination machine sends an ack to the invisibility
box - because if the packet is lost, the invisibility box is going to have to
retransmit it. (The original source is not going to - it's already gotten an
ack, so as far as it's concerned, that packet is done and dusted.) And the
near-end invisibility box is also going to have to have to have a time-out
timer, so that when the ack isn't seen, it will know to retransmit the packet.

There's no point to _also_ sending the acks on to the originating machine;
they won't do anything useful, and might just confuse it.

So, let's see now: the near-end invisibility box buffers the packet, looks
for an ack, times out when it doesn't see it, re-transmits the packet - that
sounds familiar? Oh, right, it's a reliable connection.

And presumably there's an invisibility box at the far end too, so the same
can happen for any data packets the destination machine sends.

The only question is whether, when doing the detailed design, there's any
point to having the destination machine's acks sent to the near-end
invisibility box - or just use them at the far-end invisibility box. (I.e.
create three reliable connections: i) a CHAOS connection originating
machine<->near-end invisibility box; ii) {whatever} near-end invisibility
ox<->far-end invisibility box; iii) CHAOS far-end invisibility box<->original
destination machine - and glue them together.)

That is in some sense simpler than creating an extra-ordinary mechanism to
have a 'helper' box in the middle of the connection (to terminate the CHAOS
connection from the original machine, and have another CHAOS connection, but
with an enhanced time-out mechanism which can cope with larger RTT's, from
there to the original destination); and the same in the other direction.

The amusing thing is that the CHAOS protocol stack actually already had
something very similar to this, BITD. If one were sitting at a machine that
only had CHAOS, and one wanted to (say) TELNET to an ARPANET host, there was
a CHAOS service which ARPANET hosts on the CHAOSNET provided: open a CHAOS
connection to that serrver, and it would open an NCP connection to one's
intended ultimate destination, and glue the byte streams together. (The
ultimate destination was passed as data over the CHAOS connection, when
opening it.)


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