October 20th, 2007

classic cylon

(no subject)

I think I was telling banazir about how people who had "inside" knowledge about how a technology worked were perceived as valuable until a replacement technology made things easier for everyone, but the "insiders" no longer possessed that edge. Such was the case with email during the 1980s. This was before the Internet matured (and was commercialized); before widespread adoption of domain names; when the Internet (such as it was) was the new kid on the block. There were lots of other "networks", such as BITNET and CSnet. Email wasn't often a simple case of user@domain; one needed to invoke "magic incantations" to get mail through. One might need to send mail through a "gateway" to another "network" (user%site@gateway, user.site@gateway); through a "chain" of machines (hop1!hop2!desthop@gateway); possibly even "transiting" a network to address someone on a host via a transit network's gateway (localgateway!host%user@transitgateway). This was rather messy, especially when precedence rules were not uniformly applied, even if parts of addresses were quoted or put in parentheses. Also note the lack of domain names; there might be a machine with the same name on your network as on a remote network, in which case your mail might bounce. (Not to mention there was a huge file called hosts.txt that mapped Internet host names to IP(v4) addresses that was impossible to maintain. DNS made all of these problems go away. Life was much simpler. But the email wizards of the past who could cleverly navigate these treacherous paths were no longer called upon for those tasks.

Well, the world may become like that again, with the coming of IPv6. For machines that don't have dual IPv4/v6 capability (or even those that do, but can't necessarily reach all destinations with both protocols), special conventions may be required to reach certain sites. If you're on an IPv6-only system, you might have to use something like the SixXS gateway that I described earlier to get to an IPv4 site by appending the gateway name to the destination (e.g. http://www.yahoo.com.ipv6.sixxs.org). If you're on an IPv6 site but for some reason domain names aren't resolving, you might have to remember a more complicated IPv6 address such as http://[2001:610:240:0:a843::8] (the IPv6 address of www.ripe.net). So, during the transition time, there may yet arise a new breed of wizards whose magic bridges the old and new networks.
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