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Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the TCP/IP Internet standards

Original IP Workbook
Original 1982 IP Workbook
Courtesy of D. Karrenberg

Read also: Vint Cerf's article

Two of the core protocols that define how data is transported over the Internet are now 25 years old. The Internet Protocol (IP) and the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), together known as TCP/IP, were formally standardized in September 1981 by the publication of RFC 791 and RFC 793.

Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn are widely credited with the design of TCP/IP, and many others involved in the ARPANET project made significant contributions.

The core of the documents was RFC 675, published in December 1974 by Cerf together with co-authors Carl Sunshine and Yogen Dalal. The subsequent sequence of documents leading up to RFC 791 and 793 benefited from the participation of many people including Dave Clark, Jon Postel, Bob Braden, Ray Tomlinson, Bill Plummer, and Jim Mathis, as well as other unnamed contributors to the definition and implementation of what became the Internet's core protocols.

Original IP Workbook
Original 1982 IP Workbook
Courtesy of Daniel Karrenberg

"We can't yet say that the Internet is mature," says Brian Carpenter, chair of the IETF, "but it's a great tribute to its pioneers that the two most basic specifications that were published a quarter of a century ago are still largely valid today. I hope the IP version 6 standard will do as well."

The RFC series, which was launched in 1969 with RFC 1 by Steve Crocker at UCLA (and edited for many years by the late Jon Postel), continues today as the public archive of the Internet's fundamental technology. Since 1977 it has been hosted by The University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute (ISI).

 

Stanford Plaque commemorating work on TCP/IP
Stanford Plaque
commemorating work on TCP/IP in 1973-1975
Courtesy of Vint Cerf

ARPA support ended in 1998, at which time the Internet Society (ISOC) took over providing funding for the publication of Internet standards. More recently, ISOC extended its support to include other areas critical to the open development of Internet standards.

The long-serving RFC Editor, Jon Postel, passed away in 1998. Joyce Reynolds, his close colleague throughout all these years, said: "Operating systems and computers have changed over the years, but Jon's perseverance about the consistency of the RFC style and quality of the documents remained true". Many of his friends and colleagues remember him at www.postel.org/remembrances.

More information about the history of the Internet.

Also see ISOC's press release.