Here are two e-mail messages that give a feel for the state of remote E-mail under MTS and in the larger world in the fall of 1983.
These messages are part of a much longer collection of messages from header-people@MIT-MC.ARPA during this time period that are available at:
Date: Wed, 28 Sep 83 11:11:46 EDT From: "Gavin Eadie"@UMich-MTS.Mailnet To: Mishkin@MIT-Multics.ARPA, header-people@MIT-MC.ARPA Message-ID: <239238@UMich-MTS.Mailnet> Subject: A Random Gripe For what it's worth, I'll add to Nat's plea for quoting names containing period characters. Our mail system allows names of the form he described which contain all sorts of strange things: Dr. Ding D'Ong Sr. We occasionally get incoming mail with names un-delimited and my RFC822 parser would have to be a lot smarter to deal with all the illegal possibilities!
Date: Sat, 15 Oct 83 00:02:16 EDT From: "Gavin Eadie"@UMich-MTS.Mailnet To: Header-People@MIT-MC.ARPA Message-ID: <249874@UMich-MTS.Mailnet> Subject: Puzzled thoughts from a non-Internetter This is a message displayed in the MTS (Michigan Terminal System) conference system FORUM for comment from the various people who are interested in such things. It follows on from (not coincidentally) recent discussions in this group. I implemented an RFC821/822 system recently and, though I would call myself a skilled and experienced programmer, I feel it is a small miracle that it works. I based my entire implementation on the RFCs, my header parser *IS* the grammar taken from 822, the MTS implementation of SMTP follows 821 slavishly ... The results of this are two: 1. The only SMTP code that I communicate with (other than copies of my own at other MTS sites) is that at MIT-Multics - which, sad to relate, doesn't quite manage to accept: RCPT TO:<@MIT-MULTICS:"John Doe"@RPI-MTS> and generates many wonderful variations on the headers in 822! Assuming that people in this business longer than me had got it right wasted lots of my time! 2. I never heard of the use of "%" till after my implementation was complete. Now (as you will read below) I have to decide to retrofit it - ugh. But wait, all this sounds like a complaint -- it is not, I've had lots of fun sorting this stuff out and appreciate all the help I had from the MIT folk and people in this group. All I'm trying to illustrate is how a newcomer sees some of this. ---------- U-M is a member of two mail networks (MAILNET and the 'MTSnet') and some other MTS sites are contemplating doing the same. This raises a few technical problems which I'd like to raise for discussion here between the mail-wizards. We could have this discussion via $MESSAGE but that means everyone keeps a wasteful archive. FORUM also helps to organise a single thread discussion. The mail protocols we use in Mailnet and MTSnet were developed and are used within the ARPA community. They are called RFC821 and RFC822 and, unlike most 'standards', were written as attempts to make a good summary of what everyone was already doing - rather than as a rulebook. The MTSnet (composed now of seven MTS installations) could happily use these protocols within a closed community with no problems. So could a closed Mailnet community and so, obviously, does the closed ARPA community. Severe problems arise as soon as mail has to move between any of these communities. The protocols include mechanisms for operating across 'community' borders, but (i) the 'powers that be' within ARPA do not recognise non-ARPA communities and (ii) few mailers have implemented the new scheme. The result is ad hoc mechanisms. There are no formal descriptions of these - they are strictly folk-lore. As one who is speaking from experience, implementing an ARPA mailer from only the protocol descriptions is impossible. We (the MTS folks) need to resolve this for ourselves. We cannot be too inventive, since several ad hoc schemes already exist, but we have to do something because we are moving rapidly towards needing some solution. The problem arises both as MTSnet communicates with Mailnet and as Mailnet communicates with ARPA. (It is compounded by needs for MTSnet to talk with CSnet, BITNET, UUCP, the UK mail net and (undoubtedly) others. The most popular ad hoc scheme involves the use of the percent (%) symbol to indicate explicit routing of mail - this kluge is used so widely that (i) some people think it is official and (ii) the UK mail net had adopted it in their standard. Let me draw one of my famous pictures: +------------------+ |community 'A' | | | | +----+ | | |X | +------|-----------+ | |fred| |+----+| | | +----+ ||Y || | | ||joan|| +----+ | | |+----+| |Z | | +------------------+ |rich| | | +----+ | | | | community 'B'| +------------------+ (((NB: In everything that follows my use of the prime (') is as a delimiter in my writing - it is never part of an address.))) We have three sites in two communities (the site 'Y' is a gateway). Within the 'A' community 'X' and 'Y' can exchange mail using the ARPA protocols. They refer to each other as 'X.A' and 'Y.A' (using their complete formal names) or just as 'X' and 'Y' (since all the host names in a community are known to the other hosts). A user at 'X' would send mail to 'joan@Y' or 'joan@Y.A' and when it arrived it would be from 'fred@X' or 'fred@X.A'. We would see an analogous process in the 'B' community. Now consider a message which must travel from 'X' to 'Z'. We assume that 'Z' is not known to the 'X' mail software (otherwise this is a silly example) and that the user must explicity tell the 'X' mailer to get the mail to 'Z' via 'Y'. One option is to change that assumption by extending the knowledge of site names so EVERY site in the universe knows the name of EVERY other one. We reject this as impractical! The next option is to use the protocol. This may seem obvious, but remember that virtually nobody does - if they did, a user at 'X' would send to '@Y.A:rich@Z.B' and it would turn up at 'Z' marked as being from '@Y.B:fred@Z.A'. In fact, what we often see is the use of the percent kluge, so the mail is sent to 'rich%Z.B@Y'. This is the popular solution - it is actually the formal solution in the UK - so we ought to adopt it. This need is most urgent for the RPI people - they are members of Mailnet but not MTSnet so they can get mail to UM (also in Mailnet) but no further becuase the NETMAIL program doesn't process the '%' kluge. As I've written this, I've become more convinced that my only 'out' is to implement the percent-kluge. I'm posting this here so that anyone has an change to comment. I'm posting it on the ARPAnet too so they can see the pickle I'm in. ---------- Due to the fact that my mailer isn't generating names with "%" in them, I've no idea what the 'From:' field on this will look like when you read this. I know at least one person who I upset when every message I send him has to be manually edited before he can reply ... I am: Gavin_Eadie%UMICH-MTS@MIT-MULTICS