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[ih] Impact of history on today's technology [was: why did CC happen at all?]

> *What, in general, is the impact of historical technological**issues on
> current protocols and practices?*

Based on my own research and work in this field, there's a real disconnect
between what's observed and what people discuss on this list. What I mean
is that all technical decisions are in their own way political, and are
influenced by a kind of internal politics surrounding their engineering.
Those politics change over time, as they are used and adjusted, as do the
ways people think about the given technology.

The example I will use is DNS and domain names, because that's what I've
written about. While in the early 80s there was a need for a naming system
do deal with several pressing issues (email header nightmares, for one),
the system that was eventually put in place was neither obvious nor
inevitable. There are ccTLDs and gTLDs. They both exist in the system
because some people thought that recognizing international domains would be
important not just from a basic geographic standpoint, but because OSI
would eventually subsume or operate on top of whatever ARPA implemented,
and so might as well have ccTLDs for that forthcoming future. On the
opposite end, gTLDs were intended to be a fixed set containing everything
else, a set with global (in the geographic sense) applicability.

It wasn't some logical or semantic epiphany, for example, that led Canadian
universities to abandon .edu en masse later in the 1980s. Instead, it was
the perception that the gTLDs were for US based entities because the NIC
was funded by the US government. And they weren't alone -- this became a
widespread perception and then pretty much a reality.

Of course, the strong cyber-libertarian strain that runs through a lot of
the culture eventually helped contribute to a situation where domains are
put to the free-market. As we all know this has manifested itself in the
"innovations" of ICANN and the ability to pay to create new TLDs (which is
contrary to the original idea of a limited, fixed set that are
"semantically neutral"). Similarly, ccTLDs don't really mean much. They
certainly weren't subsumed by OSI to any great extent, as we all know. You
can buy space under a lot of them. I'm sure the tech companies buying .io
and .co subdomains have little official contact with the governments of
Colombia or the British Indian Territories.

So to get back to your original question, the ways people perceive a given
technical problem influence the design of the solution. But then
perceptions of that solution can also change over time.

On Thu, Sep 4, 2014 at 3:41 PM, Brian E Carpenter <
brian.e.carpenter at gmail.com> wrote:

> I think there is a rather philosophical history question here,
> all the same.
> What, in general, is the impact of historical technological
> issues on current protocols and practices? To take a completely
> different example, there was a considerable period when handling
> larger than 16 bit quantities in minicomputers was awkward and
> slow, so there was a tendency to design stuff around that constraint.
> Or consider the cost of electronics and cabling in the token ring vs
> Ethernet argument. I'm sure there are a dozen examples of tech issues
> from the 1960s and 1970s that still have significant impact today.
> Regards
>    Brian Carpenter

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