[e2e] It's all my fault

Vadim Antonov avg at kotovnik.com
Wed May 16 19:33:03 PDT 2007

On Wed, 16 May 2007, Noel Chiappa wrote:

> Vadim, you ought to consider that all this neat packet networking stuff only
> exists now because for many years (during Baran's first RAND work ca. 1960-64,
> then during the ARPANet development in the late 60's-early-70's, and then the
> early internetwork work in the 1975-1982 time-frame) this stuff was all funded
> by "bureaucrats in DC".

You're making the common logical error known to economists as "What is 
seen and what is not seen" fallacy, first explained by Frederic Bastiat. 
Look it up.

The fact that government hired a bright person to do some work does not
mean that the very same person (or another person just as bright) wouldn't
do the same if hired by a private company for the same wage (if
govnernment didn't expropriate it earlier).  In fact, the principle of
storing and forwarding chunks of discrete data was in commercial use long
before Baran's work - it was common since Victorian times in telegraph
networks. The routers were people. (Well, so were the computers.)

In fact, the Internet was impossible without transistors and
minicomputers;  and their availability is what make Internet possible.  
Somebody would've (re)discovered the basic ideas of store-and-forward
networks anyway.

The real role of the government in the history of the Internet was
stalling, obfuscating, and supporting monopolism.  If not for the
government-propped monopoly of AT&T, we'd see widely available commercial
data networks in early 80s, not in 90s - the technology was there.
If you check the track record of DARPA's performance on other projects 
you'll see that nearly all of them were total disasters.

> There was *no* commercial market for any of this stuff back then,

Surely there was just as much demand for communications between people as
there is now. I do not think human nature radically changed in the last
half century.  In fact, the market for "the Internet" was created not by
availability of TCP/IP networks, but by the lowly BBSes, e-mail, and
USENET.  Neither of which depended on anything developed by DARPA-funded

> (A fact of which I am well aware, because
> I was one of the first people - maybe the first, actually - to make money
> selling IP routers commercially - and that was in 1984 or so, almost 10 years
> after the bureacrats starting putting money into TCP/IP.)

There was no market for IP routers... why?  May it be because there was no
Intel with 8086 and no IBM with PCs, and no Bill Gates with Windows, and
no Apple? Or because Ma Bell was sitting pretty enjoying monopoly it
grabbed by legal maneuvers starting in 1879 and culminating in Kingsbury
Commitment of 1913?
Surely, it is hard to sell a network boxes when there's nothing to 
connect, right? And when you're prohibited by law from laying your own 
cables and putting up microwave towers?

Claiming the impossibility of the Internet without the contribution of a
particular research based on the ideas which were known for over a hundred
years and only waited availaibility of technology to get implemented in
automated form is, well, stretching the truth very thinly.

> In fact, to add a nice topping of irony, many commercial communications people
> of the day (circa 1980) said much the same things about TCP/IP (which you seem
> to like) that you are now saying about other efforts: I distinctly recall the
> TCP/IP people being told to "roll up our toy academic network" (and yes, they
> explicitly and definitely used the work "academic") and go home.

For all I know, that could result in some better-designed networks. Or may
not. Or it could result in something totally different. What *is* a
well-established fact is that monopoly in every area of human endeavour
leads to stagnation.

In any case, the telcos now own the network. Not academic people. And it
is a vastly different network, too. With tons of band-aids and workarounds
and ugly hacks needed to keep it running despite short-sighted decisions
made by the original designers.

> So you might want to remember that when you dump on these new "academic"
> ideas.

I'm not dumping on ideas - ideas can be good, or bad, or whatever.  
They're harmless, mostly. I'm against people calling for what amounts to
armed robbery for the sake of grandioze communal projects.  And against 
the attendant mythology of the academic priesthood in the Temple of Ideas 
at the service of the Benevolent Shepherds of The People.


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