|The User-Developer Convergence: Innovation and Software Systems Development in the Apache Project|
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January 1986 the Internet Engineering Task Force (abbrev. IETF) started as a quarterly meeting of US government funded researchers. The IETF is responsible for developing and refining the basic technology of the Internet. The organization has never been incorporated as a legal entity, but has merely been an activity without legal substance. It is a membership organization without a defined membership. No criteria are required to partake in the organization's activities, but membership is only open to individuals not organizations or companies. Any individual who participates in an IETF mailing list or attends an IETF meeting can be said to be an IETF member. The IETF develops standards, not implementations, and it has set up a standardization process to support its activities [BRADNER1999](Bradner 1999).
Jane Abbate writes: "The ARPANET was born from an inspiration and a need" [ABBATE1999](Abbate 1999, p. 43). In 1960 Joseph C.R. Licklider had written a influential paper on human-machine interaction:
The hope is that, in not too many years, human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly, and that the resulting partnership will think as no human brain has ever thought and process data in a way not approached by the information-handling machines we know today … Those years should be intellectually the most creative and exciting in the history of mankind. [LICKLIDER1960](Licklider 1960, pp. 4-5)
Licklider was director of the Information Processing Techniques Office (abbrev. IPTO) by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (abbrev. ARPA) until 1966. When Licklider resigned in 1966, Robert Taylor assumed the position. By now the IPTO was funding research in projects such as time-sharing, artificial intelligence and graphics in research centers across the United States. While each research center had its own sense of community, Taylor felt they were digitally isolated from each other. Where Licklider had had the vision, Taylor had the need. In 1967 the IPTO stated funding work on a computer network that would connect and link ARPA's research centers and computing sites. The network was called the ARPA Net-work, or Arpanet for short.
Roberts envisioned the ARPANET as a way to bring researchers together. He stressed early on that "a network would foster the 'community' use of computers." "Cooperative programming," he continued, "would be stimulated, and in particular fields or disciplines it will be possible to achieve 'critical mass' of talent by allowing geographically separated people to work effectively in interaction with a system." [ABBATE1999](Abbate 1999, p. 46)
In 1968 the first four nodes of the Arpanet network was set up. It was hosted by educational institutions across the United States: the University of California at Santa Barbara, the Stanford Research Institute, the University of Utah, and the University of California at Los Angeles. Once the first four nodes was functioning smoothly, the IPTO expanded the Arpanet into fifteen nodes including MIT and the National Center of Super Computing Applications at Illinois. The fifteen node network was up an running in 1971. This connected the hackers at MIT's AI Lab with similar communities at Stanford and Berkeley. This was the first on-line hacker community, and as mentioned earlier in this chapter, the Jargon File was a result of.
The Stanford Research Institute was given a contract to create an online resource called the Network Information Center (abbrev. NIC). The NIC would maintain a directory of the network personnel at each site within the Arpanet. They would create an online archive of documents relating to the network, and provide information on resources available through the network. An informal networking group, named the Network Working Group (abbrev. NWG), was set up to develop software specifications for the host computers within Arpanet. The NWG would provide a forum for discussing early experiences and experiments within the network. As the Arpanet was centered around educational institutions, the members of the NWG were mainly researchers and graduate students by these institutions. "The NWG would gradually develop a culture of its own and a style of approaching problems based on the need and interests of its members" [ABBATE1999](Abbate 1999, p. 59).
Through the 1970s the Arpanet grew to include several other new networks. By 1979 many of the original Arpanet hosts were reaching the end of their useful lifetime and had to be replaced. The heaviest cost of replacement was the porting of the research software to the new machines. ARPA had also experienced a difficulty in sharing their software because of the diversities of hardware and operating systems. They decided to standardize on one operating system. As choosing a single hardware vendor was found impractical due to the widely varying computing needs of the Arpanet sites, ARPA chose to standardize at the operating systems level. Unix was the chosen operating system, linking Unix even closer to the on-line hacking communities [MCKUSICK1999](McKusick 1999). In the fall of that year, Bob Fabry responded to ARPA's interest in moving towards Unix by submitting a proposal for Berkeley to enhance 3BSD for use with the ARPA community. By the beginning of 1980 Fabry got a contract with ARPA to enhance BSD for the ARPA community, gaining wide distribution and visibility.
From the very start, the design decision behind the Arpanet had been to provide a means for any existing computer network to connect with the Arpanet. Contrary to contemporary competing technologies like the telecom industry's X.25 initiative that required even local networks to migrate to the X.25 recommendation, the Arpanet provided a gateway to connect an existing network infrastructure with the Arpanet's packet switched internet technology. As such the Arpanet was an internetwork, or an internet. Jane Abbate calls this the Arpanet's "embrace and extend philosophy" [ABBATE1999](Abbate 1999).
By the early 1980s the Arpanet was still under military control. Even though several educational organizations were connected with the network, the majority of educational organizations were not. Unhappy with the situation people from within the Arpanet community and the US research institutions worked together to provide more widespread access to the network. In 1983 the US Department of Defense split the Arpanet in two: MILnet for military sites, and ARPAnet for civilian research sites. The split was made to separate the military's operations from the research communities, and thereby allowing the research sites to manage the network according to their own needs. By the mid-1980s it was apparent that the old network infrastructure was becoming obsolete, and in 1987 the managers of ARPA's network program decided the network had to be retired. The entire network was moved from the obsolete networking backbone over to private, civilian networks that had been set up during the 1980s. This new network was called the Internet. The entire Arpanet community was moved over the Internet.
In 1984 leading contributors of the Network Working Group wrote a memo on Arpanet protocol policy, ARPA-Internet Protocol Policy [RFC902](Postel and Reynolds 1984). This document is the basis for forming the IETF in 1986. The task force would focus on long-range technical planning. Their work process is based around working groups and documents called Request For Comment, or RFC for short. The process is described in more detail by both Jane Abbate [ABBATE1999](1999), Eric Monteiro [MONTEIRO1998](1998), and Scott McKusick [MCKUSICK1999](1999), but originally defined in RFC 1310 [RFC1310](Chapin 1993) and revised in RFC 1602 [RFC1602](Huitema and Gross 1994).
Working groups within the IETF coordinates their activities through e-mail. The task force itself holds meetings several times a year. The principle is that standards for the Internet are developed through consensus, after discussion among all interested parties and after proposed protocols have been tested in practice. That any one individua can participate in the IETF's activities, is to ensure that all interested parties really do get to express their view. Throughout the process the proposals are to be published electronically as Requests For Comments.
Is the IETF a hacker community? They don't view themselves accordingly, but their culture is very similar to technical hacker communities. They share information freely, and cooperate to develop joint infrastructure. I would claim, along others, that the IETF fits within an understanding of hacking as a collective way of developing and exploring technology. Its ties with other hacker communities are clear, with similarities from both the MIT hackers and the Berkeley Unix hacking communities.