I've started to do a bit of blogging at work related to my job as a Voice over IP Gateway Product Manager. My latest post may be of more general interest for people who follow developments in technology, particularly as it relates to the Internet. The topic is on the 40th anniversary of the 1st RFC (Request for Comments), which is the term the Internet Engineering Task Force uses for the documents it publishes.
You can read the post here.
I have a personal connection to the IETF that goes back to 1996. At that time, the fax community realized that the movement to IP networks was going to be big and we started discussing it among ourselves at the TR-29 fax standards committee of the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). There were a lot of ideas, but the energy level really lifted when Dave Crocker of the IETF visited our committee. Dave's older brother Steve actually wrote the first RFC (the one whose anniversary we are celebrating), but Dave was also very well known as an author of several key RFCs related to Internet Mail.
Dave invited members of the fax community to get involved in working at the IETF to figure out how to do fax over the Internet and many of us took him up on it. In my case, I volunteered to become a co-chair of the effort and officially took that position when the Internet Fax working group was chartered a couple of months later.
One method for encoding images in email messages is by using an image format known as TIFF. A couple of months into the standards effort, it became clear we needed to standardize this format, which had already been in use for many years and I joined Glenn Parsons of Nortel in attempting to edit the original TIFF-F document from Steve Campbell into a form that could be published as an RFC. Normally, chairs are encouraged NOT to get involved in writing or editing documents, and I soon learned why.
By the next meeting, there was already an alternative group that wanted to write their own TIFF standards document and include a whole bunch of brand new material. Needless to say, my position as both co-chair and document writer got tricky very fast. I can remember eating barbeque in Memphis as the six people involved tried to work out a compromise. Later at the meeting, the working group voted against the wishes of the chairs and asked us all to work together.
If you look on Google for TIFF and RFC, you'll find that we did somehow manage to work all of this out. The original TIFF RFCs were 2301, 2302 and 2306, and were published by the IETF in 1998. Later on, these RFCs were updated for a variety of reasons, so there are about 7 RFCs with my name as co-author, all on the topic of TIFF for facsimile.
There are many other stories to tell about how TIFF got standardized, but I'll leave them for another time.