Hopeless, hopeless nerds know all about the RFCs (Request For Comments) documents that the Internet Engineering Task Force has been publishing for decades. It’s in these technical documents that the internals of the Internet – all of its collected technologies – are first proposed and circulated, including a whole bunch of proposals that were conceived and written less as serious proposals than as humorous exercises in communications engineering.
One such RFC published in 1990 was RFC 1149, which proposed a means to carry internet traffic (IP traffic) over carrier pigeon. The protocol was called IPoAC – Internet Protocol over Avian Carrier, and it proposed a means to deliver data formatted for the internet over not data cable but by way of pigeon. The general idea was to take data stored on storage devices, attach them to homing sewer falcons and let them fly to their destinations. IPoAC warned about high levels of data loss inherent in its design.
Fast forward nineteen years. Today, we find that wags in South Africa, fed up with slow aDSL connections in their neighborhoods have in fact utilized IPoAC to successfully upload 4GB of data to a destination using homing pigeons – and that the scheme worked faster than the DSL connection in question. Surely much of this success is owed to the advent of lightweight and tiny smart card storage devices – suitable for pigeon feet where the floppies of 1990 would not be.
Worthy of applause, to be sure – but with the caveat that if telcos or ISPs get new network expansion ideas from the experiment, it’s our own fault for publicizing it.