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The RFC series. The collective wisdom and insights of the early Internet pioneers and those who came later has been preserved within the set of documents collectively known as the “Request for Comment” series, or, RFCs. RFCs.
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The RFC series The collective wisdom and insights of the early Internet pioneers and those who came later has been preserved within the set of documents collectively known as the “Request for Comment” series, or, RFCs.
RFCs They can be perused in (nearly) their entirety, from the first to the last. The evolution of most Internet-related protocols can be found there. Now numbering over 3,000 documents, each can be readily identified to indicate whether it represents a proposal, a draft, a standard, or a historic contribution.
The First RFC … … was written by Steve Crocker, addressing the issue of “Host Software”. It was issued on April 7, 1969. That it was circulated as a “request for comment”, rather than as an attempt to impose a particular view without further discussion, set the tone for all that followed. The second RFC followed two days later, in response to the first, and the dialogue was off and running.
RFC origins “Many of us worked very hard in the early days to establish the RFCs as the official set of technical notes for the development of the Internet. This was not an easy job. There were suggestions for many parallel efforts and splinter groups. There were naysayers all along the way because this was a new way of doing things, and the ARPANET was ‘coloring outside the lines’ so to speak.”
Origins … Jon (Postel), as Editor-in-Chief, was criticized because the RFCs were not issued by an ‘official’ standards body, and the NIC was criticized because it was not an ‘official’ document issuing agency. We both strived to marry the new way of doing business with the old, and fortunately were usually supported by our government sponsors, who themselves were breaking new ground. Jake Feinler, p. 12, RFC 2555 “30 Years of RFCs”.
Jon Postel … served as the editor of the RFC series for most of its existence. A nice tribute page can be found at: www.postel.org/remembrances and RFC 2468 (who do we appreciate?).
Postel … “Jon was the network’s Boswell, but it was his devotion to quality and his remarkable mix of technical and editing skills that permeate many of the more monumental RFCs that dealt with what we now consider the TCP/IP standards.”
The role of the editor … “Many bad design decisions were re-worked thanks to Jon’s stubborn determination that we all get it “right”—as the editor, he simply would not let something go out that didn’t meet his personal quality filter. There were times when we moaned and complained, hollered and harangued, but in the end, most of the time, Jon was right and we knew it.”  Vint Cerf, p. 6, RFC 2555 “30 Years of RFCs”.
RFC content While the series does present much technical information on many specialized topics—ranging from the latest networking protocols to maintaining the security of network traffic—it is also at times quite whimsical and accessible to a casually interested reader.
Content … For example, RFC 1118 is entitled “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Internet”. It was issued in 1989 (and is now a bit outdated) as a guide to a neophyte user of the Internet, and explains many of the basic terms and concepts.  A reference to the popular Douglas Adams book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
… and comedy RFC 1925, “The Twelve Networking Truths”, puts forth such important observations as: “in fact, with sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine!” And RFC 2324 presents the “Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol (HTCPCP/1.0)”.
The RFC archive The RFC Editor site at www.rfc-editor.org provides extensive information about the RFC series. It includes a searchable archive of RFCs, a set of Frequently Asked Questions, and instructions on the process for preparation and publication of an RFC document.