[LEAPSECS] LEAPSECS Digest, Vol 48, Issue 12

Joe Gwinn joegwinn at comcast.net
Thu Dec 16 23:43:00 EST 2010

At 7:14 AM +0000 12/16/10, Ian Batten wrote:

> >

>> ISO is not a governmental organization. It does not enforce and it

>> cannot mandate any of its standards.


>No, but it exerts an almost magnetic effect on public sector

>organisations in the UK and what one might loosely refer to as

>German-influenced countries (Holland, Germany, Scandinavia, and to

>an extent France) who, when it suits them, like to pretend that ISO

>is mandatory. Or, at least, that refusal to recognise its writ

>would be shameful and humiliating, in the way that --- as a rough

>analogy --- European countries _can_ derogate from sections of the

>Human Rights Convention, but have to buy their own drinks at the

>next meeting of the premiers' club if they do.


>We saw this during the OSI networking debacle. Perfectly sensible

>people from universities and technical facilities in those countries

>stood up at meetings and said words to the effect of "well, we know

>this is a pile of poo, and we know that attempting to replace Usenet

>News with X.400(88) Distribution Lists or NFS with FTAM (I saw both

>proposed) is a horrible car crash, but compliance is mandatory so

>what can we do?" It was a strange situation: ISO couldn't mandate

>to governments and governments couldn't (and wouldn't) mandate to

>the technical community, but nonetheless members of those technical

>communities convinced themselves that in fact they had no choice

>other than to comply. The private sector largely ignored it unless

>there was money on the table, but between about 1986 and 1992 the US

>was able to make huge strides ahead of Europe in wide-area

>networking because the US wasn't paying lip-service (and often

>Europe was doing a lot more than paying lip-service) to second-rate

>proposals ratified by third-rate people doing fourth-rate "research"

>work involving writing down the first thing that came into their

>head and pretending it was the state of the art.

This matches my experience too. I worked in Air Traffic Control back
in the day, and the only customers asking for ISO-OSI were European
governments. What we suspected before and soon verified was that
computer platforms that claimed compliance were technically correct,
but the resulting implementation did not work well at all. It was a
check-the-box implementation only. But it worked, at least in the
business sense.

It was many years before the bright-eyed look of conviction in
customers' eyes had extinguished, had transformed into resignation.
The mandate soon passed into history.

Joe Gwinn

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