James White graduated in ’69 from UCSB and started working at the UCSB Computer Research Lab under Glen Culler. White was responsible for programming the operating system for the Culler-Fried System, an early timesharing system. When UCSB was selected as one of the first four Arpanet nodes, White was chosen to program the interface to the Interface Message Processor (IMP). At this time, he joined the community of other graduate students tasked with connecting mainframes to the Arpanet IMPs. The group began gathering for regular meetings under Steve Crocker’s Network Working Group (NWG).
In ’72, White was recruited to work at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Douglas Engelbart’s Augmentation Research Center (ARC), another original Arpanet node and the Network Information Center for Arpanet. As electronic mail was becoming more popular over Arpanet, based on Ray Tomlinson’s SendMessage program for the TENEX operating system, Larry Roberts requested the formalization of rules for all email messaging on the network. White joined a group of developers to create those rules, which, among other things, established an early protocol for sending mail that would later become Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). At SRI, White also gained valuable experience in messaging software while working on the SRI internal email system called The Journal, an early hypertext record storage that catalogued Arpanet publications, including RFC’s.
In ’77, White was invited by Robert Metcalfe to join Xerox PARC. Metcalfe knew White from the NWG meetings and recruited him to manage the communications software group in the Systems Development Department (later, the Office Products Division). The group included influential software engineers Yogen Dalal and Will Crowther, among others, and was responsible for the development of the email system for the Xerox Alto, as well as the networking protocol suite, XNS.
In late ’78, Dave Liddle sent White to attend the first meeting of what would become the International Federation of Information Processing (IFIP) Working Group 6.5 in Montreal. The group began discussions to develop an international email messaging protocol. Later they moved their efforts to the CCITT, where White, along with Doug Steedman, were influential in providing the technical architecture for X.400, the OSI email messaging standard first published in 1984. After finishing work on X.400, White joined 3Com to work on their X.400 mail product, but development of the product was delayed several times and in ’86, White left to join Telenet. This interview took place at Telenet, where White was again involved in developing an X.400 mail product.
Keywords: UCSB Computer Research Lab, Culler-Fried System, Arpanet, Network Working Group (NWG), Stanford Research Institute (SRI), Augmentation Research Center (ARC), SMTP, Arpanet Journal, Xerox PARC, XNS, International Federation of Information Processing (IFIP) Working Group 6.5, X.400, 3Com, Telenet