[e2e] Port numbers, SRV records or...?

David P. Reed dpreed at reed.com
Wed Aug 16 20:20:52 PDT 2006

Greg Skinner wrote:
> Sometimes I think that computer networking lacks the luster of other
> areas of computer science.  It has its hardcore contributors (such as
> people who participate on this list), but the vast majority of people
> gravitate towards other areas, either out of necessity (money), or
> because they find the work more
> interesting/challenging/rewarding. You'll find no end of people who
> want to do information retrieval, or data mining, because they want to
> work for Google or some other search engine.  Are these the types of
> people the computer networking industry and research community need to
> create the next generation Internet?  What would compel them to do so?
> I don't know either.
I don't get this.   You honestly think those of us who got into 
networking in the 1960's and 1970's did it for the luster and money?   
There was no money in it, none of us had dreams of being rich that I 
know of.   Most of the folks a couple of years older than me were in 
grad school  because they liked playing with computers and gave them a 
draft deferment on top of that.  And my generation didn't get draft 
deferments, but we still loved playing with computers (which we couldn't 
afford to do because there were no microprocessors and no PCs). I could 
go on - but networking has never been about making lots of money for its 
inventors (though some were lucky to get hired into companies like 
Worldcom and Cisco, almost by accident).

Besides that, most of the people I knew in networking and PCs were 
primarily motivated by making people's lives better through better 
communications and better man-machine-symbiosis.   That was what you 
heard from Licklider, Roberts, Taylor, Kahn, Cerf, Kirstein, Pouzin, 
Farber, Kleinrock, ... and many, many others in the network arena, and 
also for all of the AI, PC, CHI, etc folks.   If you knew Jon Postel, 
you know it was about mankind for him.

That motivation is still there for anyone who finds it inspiring, and 
many still do.

But why *should* anyone care about a "next Internet" defined as just 
another packet network architecture that does the same thing in a new 
way?   The grand vision of the Internet was written down by Licklider 
and Taylor in 1967  or so in what became a Scientific American article 
that all should read.   The challenge is to create as profound a vision 
(one that will guide people for 30+ years), and if you read that 
article, it was not about "computer networking" it was about human 
potential.   That level of vision will be "the next Internet" in a 
purely metaphorical sense - but it won't be about the same aspects of 
people and machines, I'm sure.

The problem arises because some in academia want "computer networking" 
to be a discipline, just as some want "computer science" to be a 
discipline.   Disciplines are for the Divinity School to study.

There's no special discipline for *computer* networking, or even for 
networking.  There are just systems that get designed according to 
principles that are hard won and oft debated by folks who care to make 
things work and to make them work better and apply them to more and more 
important and meaningful things.

The idea that "data mining" could be thought to be in the same category 
as creating communications systems in that grand and interdisciplinary 
sense just suggests to me the poverty of thinking that pervades what 
used to be a great country like America.

Don't worry, this poverty of thinking has diminished DARPA and most of 
the rest of the government research establishment today.  (there are 
petty "crimes" in the way DARPA is run, but the biggest "crime" is that 
it has substituted for conceptual vision a notion that you can get 
creativity by running contests against a set of rules and 
requirements).  Those who "dance" listlessly to that tune also seem to 
think that being quoted in Wired magazine defines their technical 
worthiness, or that thoughts by blogging pundits written in an orgy of 
self-absorption represent profundity.

Follow a path with a heart - one that you and others resonate with.  
Stop looking to find external validation and "incentives" that will win 
you praise or make you rich.   Do what you can honestly say is worth the 

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