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John Heafner

Software engineer John Heafner gained his first experience in networking while at RAND, where he worked on connecting one of the first nodes to the Arpanet in early 1970. For this project Heafner contributed to programming the interface between RAND’s IBM 360 and their Interface Message Processor (IMP). As a member of Steve Crocker’s Network Working Group, Heafner also helped in the planning of the Arpanet Network Control Program (NCP).

At RAND, Heafner worked under Keith Uncapher, and in 1972, when Uncapher left RAND to form the Information Sciences Institute (ISI) at USC, Heafner followed to work with Uncapher and to pursue his PhD. After earning his PhD from USC, he briefly joined the faculty at Virginia Tech before taking a position at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) managing the System and Network Architecture Division.

In his first month with NBS Heafner attended meetings sponsored by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) on Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) networking standards then in development through the International Standards Organization (ISO). NBS eventually joined the efforts of the European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA) and ISO to formalize the OSI standards. The NBS agenda became, in Heafner’s words: ‘to sanitize the Department of Defense protocols through ISO’ in order to formalize the Federal Information Procurement Standard (FIPS) for local area networking.

In February, ’83 Heafner helped to organize the first NBS sponsored OSI implementors workshop in Boston, which led to the first public OSI demonstration at the June ’84 National Computer Conference in Las Vegas. This demonstration was a collective effort by NBS and marketing executives from vendors in the manufacturing and office automation industry to promote the use of OSI compliant products.

In December ’86, NBS organized the first Government OSI Profile (GOSIP) committee to create a standard OSI configuration so that US governments agencies, as well as other foreign governments, could ensure compliance and interoperability. This eventually led to the publication of the first version of GOSIP in August of ’88 and its adoption as a FIPS in February 1989.

In this interview Heafner describes the efforts of NBS to promote the adoption of OSI standards in cooperation with many industry representatives. Readers interested in the issue of OSI standards should also read the interview of Robert Rosenthal.

Keywords: RAND, Arpanet, Network Working Group (NWG), USC Information Sciences Institute (ISI), National Bureau of Standards (NBS), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Open Systems Interconnect (OSI), Government OSI Profile (GOSIP)

John Heafner Interviewed by James Pelkey 5/5/88