Paul Garrin on Sun, 18 Oct 1998 10:21:44 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Remembering Jon Postel

From: (
Subject: Remembering Jon Postel

I just received this mail indicating that Dr. Jon Postel, controversial
head of the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Agency) died on October 17.  I
have not yet received details on the circumstances of his death but will
post them as soon as they come in. 

Although I disagreed with Dr. Postels actions of late, I have always had a
high degree of respect and admiration for his important contributions to
the internet.  His death is an untimely tragedy. 


>Forwarded-From: Dave Farber <>

I, and others I fear, have spent a sleepless night after hearing of the
death of Jon Postel last night. This morning there was a note in my mail
box from Vint Cerf that said many of the things I feel at this time. I
asked him for permission to send on which he granted. 

I also remember Jon. I was his primary thesis advisor along with Jerry
Estrin and I remember with fond memories the months spent closely working
with Jon while his eager mind developed the ideas in back of what was a
pioneering thesis that founded the area of protocol verification.  Since I
was at UC Irvine and Jon at UCLA we used to meet in the morning prior to
my ride to UCI at a Pancake House in Santa Monica for breakfast and the
hard work of developing a thesis. I gained a great respect for Jon then
and 10 pounds of weight. 

I will miss him greatly. Jon was my second Ph.D. student. The first,
Philip Merlin, also died way before his time.


 October 17, 1998


Vint Cerf

A long time ago, in a network, far far away, a great adventure took place

Out of the chaos of new ideas for communication, the experiments, the
tentative designs, and crucible of testing, there emerged a cornucopia of
networks. Beginning with the ARPANET, an endless stream of networks
evolved, and ultimately were interlinked to become the Internet. Someone
had to keep track of all the protocols, the identifiers, networks and
addresses and ultimately the names of all the things in the networked
universe. And someone had to keep track of all the information that
erupted with volcanic force from the intensity of the debates and
discussions and endless invention that has continued unabated for 30
years. That someone was Jonathan B. Postel, our Internet Assigned Numbers
Authority, friend, engineer, confidant, leader, icon, and now, first of
the giants to depart from our midst. 

Jon, our beloved IANA, is gone. Even as I write these words I cannot quite
grasp this stark fact. We had almost lost him once before in 1991. Surely
we knew he was at risk as are we all. But he had been our rock, the
foundation on which our every web search and email was built, always there
to mediate the random dispute, to remind us when our documentation did not
do justice to its subject, to make difficult decisions with apparent ease,
and to consult when careful consideration was needed. We will survive our
loss and we will remember. He has left a monumental legacy for all
Internauts to contemplate. Steadfast service for decades, moving when
others seemed paralyzed, always finding the right course in a complex
minefield of technical and sometimes political obstacles. 

Jon and I went to the same high school, Van Nuys High, in the San Fernando
Valley north of Los Angeles. But we were in different classes and I really
did not know him then. Our real meeting came at UCLA when we became a part
of a group of graduate students working for Prof. Leonard Kleinrock on the
ARPANET project. Steve Crocker was another of the Van Nuys crowd who was
part of the team and led the development of the first host-host protocols
for the ARPANET. When Steve invented the idea of the Request for Comments
series, Jon became the instant editor. When we needed to keep track of all
the hosts and protocol identifiers, Jon volunteered to be the Numbers Czar
and later the IANA once the Internet was in place. 

Jon was a founding member of the Internet Architecture Board and served
continuously from its founding to the present. He was the FIRST individual
member of the Internet Society I know, because he and Steve Wolff raced to
see who could fill out the application forms and make payment first and
Jon won. He served as a trustee of the Internet Society. He was the
custodian of the .US domain, a founder of the Los Nettos Internet service,
and, by the way, managed the networking research division of USC
Information Sciences Institute.

Jon loved the outdoors. I know he used to enjoy backpacking in the high
Sierras around Yosemite. Bearded and sandaled, Jon was our resident
hippie-patriarch at UCLA. He was a private person but fully capable of
engaging photon torpedoes and going to battle stations in a good
engineering argument. And he could be stubborn beyond all expectation. He
could have outwaited the Sphinx in a staring contest, I think. 

Jon inspired loyalty and steadfast devotion among his friends and his
colleagues. For me, he personified the words =93selfless service.=94 For
nearly 30 years, Jon has served us all, taken little in return, indeed
sometimes receiving abuse when he should have received our deepest
appreciation. It was particularly gratifying at the last Internet Society
meeting in Geneva to see Jon receive the Silver Medal of the International
Telecommunications Union. It is an award generally reserved for Heads of
State but I can think of no one more deserving of global recognition for
his contributions. 

While it seems almost impossible to avoid feeling an enormous sense of
loss, as if a yawning gap in our networked universe had opened up and
swallowed our friend, I must tell you that I am comforted as I contemplate
what Jon has wrought. He leaves a legacy of edited documents that tell our
collective Internet story, including not only the technical but also the
poetic and whimsical as well. He completed the incorporation of a
successor to his service as IANA and leaves a lasting legacy of service to
the community in that role. His memory is rich and vibrant and will not
fade from our collective consciousness. =93What would Jon have done?=94 we
will think, as we wrestle in the days ahead with the problems Jon kept so
well tamed for so many years. 

There will almost surely be many memorials to Jon=92s monumental service
to the Internet Community. As current chairman of the Internet Society, I
pledge to establish an award in Jon=92s name to recognize long-standing
service to the community, the Jonathan B. Postel Service Award, which is
awarded to Jon posthumously as its first recipient. 

If Jon were here, I am sure he would urge us not to mourn his passing but
to celebrate his life and his contributions. He would remind us that there
is still much work to be done and that we now have the responsibility and
the opportunity to do our part. I doubt that anyone could possibly
duplicate his record, but it stands as a measure of one man s
astonishing contribution to a community he knew and loved. 

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