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Robert Rosenthal

Robert Rosenthal joined the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in 1969 after graduating from the University of Maryland. His first job at NBS was connecting their Terminal Interface Processor (TIP) to the Arpanet and then performing studies on network traffic from the Arpanet end users to the subnet IMP or TIP processors.

In ’75-’76 NBS built an early 1Mbps CSMA/CD network for terminal access to its mainframe computers. It serviced over 1,000 nodes at NBS facilities in Gaithersburg, MD and Boulder, CO. Based on the success of NBSNET, in the winter of ’77, Rosenthal and other NBS staff invited influential researchers and innovators in the field of networking to a meeting at NBS. Other informal workshops took place as NBS tried to determine how to facilitate access to evolving networking technology for government agencies. The culmination of this effort, The Local Area Computer Networking (LACN) symposium in May of ’79 in Boston, sponsored by NBS and MITRE Corporation, was chaired by Rosenthal and Norman Meisner of MITRE. The event was a watershed in the emerging technology of local area networking as it was clear evidence to early researchers, engineers, and entrepreneurs that the market for LAN products was real.

Through his acquaintance with Maris Graube, Rosenthal became chairman of the IEEE Technical Committee on Computer Communications. Graube and Rosenthal, both interested in the prospect of creating voluntary standards for networking technology, proposed and received authorization for IEEE project 802 and in February of 1980, they held the first meeting of the 802 committee at the Jack Tar hotel in San Francisco.

Rosenthal’s goal was to use the IEEE 802 committee as a vehicle to get industry to agree on voluntary standards so that NBS could create a Federal Information Processing Standard. The NBS strategy was to work with international organizations on the development of OSI compliant standards. In ’82 & ’83 NBS sponsored the OSI implementors workgroups. These workgroups led to a demonstration the following year at the 1984 National Computer Conference in Las Vegas.

In October ’84, NBS published FIPS 107, providing a standard for all government agencies procuring networking products for CSMA/CD networks. By January of ’88, the Government OSI Profile (GOSIP) was established, specifying a series of OSI implementation agreements as the basis for federal OSI standards. (It would be followed by a more comprehensive FIPS 146-1 in 1990.) Readers interested in 802 standards should also read the interview of Maris Graube.

Keywords: National Bureau of Standards (NBS), Arpanet, Local Area Computer Networking Symposium, IEEE 802 Committee, Government OSI Profile (GOSIP)

Robert Rosenthal Interviewed by James Pelkey 5/4/88