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Re: Mandarins, Lifers, and Talents

On Thu, 16 Nov 1995 16:02:09 -0500,
[email protected] (Robert Hettinga) wrote:
} One of my messier theories about the internet is that it was invented by
} mandarins. Now the talents, the people you call pioneers, have moved in,
} and they're much more pragmatic, and have little patience for crystalline
} perfection, because inefficiency and chaos is where they find beauty, joy,
} and all those other nasty imprecise concepts. When thing settle down a bit,
} the lifers will come.  They're trying to do it now, by building sites like
} www.time.com, or buying into sites like www.wired.com.

Waitaminute, I still remember the Old Days. 
I helped run one corner of the MERIT network, back when it only offered
proto-telnet interactive connections to three mainframes total.  
The network ran on PDP-11s lashed crudely to our mainframes and connected 
to each other on 4800 baud leased lines (half-duplex).

Mandarins were involved in the genesis, certainly, both of our little 
college network, and of the military's arpanet.  The mandarins provided
our subsidies, and some of them found ways to use the net in doing their
academic work.  Very many of them ignored us.  Among us paid computer staff,
the mandarins held occasional blue-sky meetings to plot the future and
standards for the future; the lifers went about their business of feeding
hollerith cards to the mainframes; and the talents immediately set about
exploring this orthogonal new quirk of their machine.  All the edges were
rough in the beginning, and for a long time after the beginning.  Network
code arrived in huge inspired chunks from our eccentric talents.  Other
talents, staff and user alike, would go out to play on the network and
find little suggestions for the eccentric talents responsible.

I think the early networks were less than satisfying for the mandarins.
It required arcane mandarin accounting schemes to rationalize our
perpetual defecits, even in a 'funny money' accounting world.
Policies and standards were strained by the sudden accessibility of 
the foreign operations, under alien chains of command.  The networks
were immediately untidy and required compromise from the user.

The biggest contribution from the mandarins, and I mean this with 
all gratitude, is that they chose, again and again, not to shut us down.

ObCrypto: we were still getting the bugs out of rot13 back then.

::   Lou Poppler  <[email protected]>    |    http://www.msen.com/~lwp/   ::
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