[TUHS] core

Noel Chiappa jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu
Sat Jun 16 23:37:16 AEST 2018

    > From: Dave Horsfall

    > idiots keep repeating those "quotes" ... in some sort of an effort to
    > make the so-called "experts" look silly; a form of reverse
    > jealousy/snobbery or something?  It really pisses me off

You've just managed to hit one of my hot buttons.

I can't speak to the motivations of everyone who repeats these stories, but my
professional career has been littered with examples of poor vision from
technical colleagues (some of whom should have known better), against which I
(in my role as an architect, which is necessarily somewhere where long-range
thinking is - or should be - a requirement) have struggled again and again -
sometimes successfully, more often, not.

So I chose those two only because they are well-known examples - but, as you
correctly point out, they are poor examples, for a variety of reasons. But
they perfectly illustrate something I am _all_ too familiar with, and which
happens _a lot_. And the original situation I was describing (the MIT core
patent) really happened - see "Memories that Shaped an Industry", page 211.

Examples of poor vision are legion - and more importantly, often/usually seen
to be such _at the time_ by some people - who were not listened to.

Let's start with the UNIBUS. Why does it have only 18 address lines? (I have
this vague memory of a quote from Gordon Bell admitting that was a mistake,
but I don't recall exactly where I saw it.) That very quickly became a major
limitation. I'm not sure why they did it (the number of contact on a standard
DEC connector probably had something do with it, connected to the fact that
the first PDP-11 had only 16-bit addressing anyway), but it should have been
obvious that it was not enough.

And a major one from the very start of my career: the decision to remove the
variable-length addresses from IPv3 and substitute the 32-bit addresses of
IPv4. Alas, I was too junior to be in the room that day (I was just down the
hall), but I've wished forever since that I was there to propose an alternate
path (the details of which I will skip) - that would have saved us all
countless billions (no, I am not exaggerating) spent on IPv6. Dave Reed was
pretty disgusted with that at the time, and history shows he was right.

Dave also tried to get a better checksum algorithm into TCP/UDP (I helped him
write the PDP-11 code to prove that it was plausible) but again, it got turned
down. (As did his wonderful idea for bottom-up address allocation, instead of
top-down. Oh well.) People have since discussed issues with the TCP/IP
checksum, but it's too late now to change it.

One place where I _did_ manage to win was in adding subnetting support to
hosts (in the Host Requirements WG); it was done the way I wanted, with the
result that when CIDR came along, even though it hadn't been forseen at the
time we did subnetting, it required _no_ hosts changes of any kind. But
mostly I lost. :-(

So, is poor vision common? All too common.


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