Speed of Flight

Internet Protocol Looks for Its Wings.

On April 1, 1990, David Waitzman proposed what may have been the first experimental standard for wireless Internet Protocol (IP) networks.

The proposal, contained in a memo titled Request for Comments (RFC): 1149 (www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc1149.txt?number=1149), outlines a mechanism for transmitting IP data packets on avian carriers; in other words, taping printouts of individual packets to carrier pigeons. Waitzman released an updated memo (RFC: 2549) on April 1, 1999, addressing quality-of-service issues, but the proposal found little support and no efforts at implementation.

Until this year, that is. On April 28, the Bergen Linux User Group (BLUG) of Bergen, Norway, sent a total of nine "pings" via carrier pigeon, in the first known implementation of what the group refers to as the Carrier Pigeon Internet Protocol.

Network performance may have been less than ideal—only four of the nine "pings" survived the round-trip, which took between 50 minutes and one hour, 45 minutes—but the experiment was deemed a success by all involved (except the dead pigeons, we assume).

According to its Web site, BLUG is now "waiting for someone to write other implementations, so that we can do interoperability tests."

Some Linux fans have expressed interest in a penguin-based variant in RFC: 2549, but "that wont fly," Waitzman concludes.