The "name" in this context the host/network/gateway name such as SRI-NIC.ARPA.    3COM.COM would not have been legal back then.
Nowhere does it imply that any of the other fields are so restricted.

------ Original Message ------
From: "Bakul Shah" <>
To: "Ron Natalie" <>
Cc: "The Unix Heritage Society" <>; "Internet History" <>
Sent: 3/11/2021 4:02:50 PM
Subject: Re: [TUHS] [COFF] Pondering the hosts file

On Mar 11, 2021, at 12:32 PM, Ron Natalie <> wrote:

Amusingly one day we got an Imagen ethernet-connected laser printer.    Mike Muuss decided the thing should be named BRL-ZAP and since I didn't know what to put down as the machine type, and it did have a 68000 in it, I had Jake put 68000 in the entry in the host table.

The next day I got all kinds of hate mail from other BSD sites who assumed I had intentionally sabotaged the host table.   Apparently, the BSD systems used a YACC grammar to parse the NIC table into the Berkeley one.   The only problem is they got the grammar wrong and assumed the CPU type always began with a letter.    There parse blew up on my "ZAP" host and they assumed that was the desired effect.

This is understandable as
a) All the "official machine names" in various assigned numbers RFCs start with a letter.
b) the BNF syntax for the "host table specification" entries in RFC 952 or 810 are not precise enough.
	<cputype> ::= PDP-11/70 | DEC-1080 | C/30 | CDC-6400...etc.

NOTE:  See "Assigned Numbers" for specific options and acronyms
         for machine types, operating systems, and protocol/services.
         for machine types, operating systems, and protocol/services.
c) 68000 was not an official name!
:-) :-) :-)

I countered back that using a YACC grammar for this was rediculous.   There was already a real popular file on UNIX that had a bunch of fields separated by colons and commas (/etc/passwd anybody) that it was never necessary to use YACC to parse.

Can't argue with that! Though that doesn't mean a handwritten parser wouldn't have complained about 68000.