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Francois Flückiger's Secret Weapon

September 25, 2013

Humor can be a powerful force, sometimes capable even of swaying high-stakes debates. No one can provide better proof of that than Francois Flückiger.

Flückiger, who was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in August 2013 for his leadership in establishing the Internet in Europe, faced major opposition from government agencies, telecoms and other powerful European interests who wanted to maintain the profitable status quo of the early 1980s. Unfortunately, that involved continuing to use Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) protocols rather than TCP/IP for networking. Unlike the free and open TCP/IP model, the OSI protocols were complicated, inefficient and designed to perpetuate the telephone model of per-call charging.

Luckily, Flückiger had a secret weapon at his disposal: cartoons.

He had begun drawing cartoons as a teenager. Now, at gatherings of engineers and computer scientists throughout the continent and beyond, he put his talent to good use. His humorous drawings pointedly showed the errors -- and the ultimate futility -- of trying to hold back adoption of IP. The cartoons were eagerly collected by attendees, who passed them on to their peers and demanded more.

In this case, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Here, then, are reproductions of five of Flückiger’s influential cartoons, with captions underneath each one, provided by the artist himself.

Cartoon 1: Early on, European academic networking was ruled by politicians busy writing thick and obscure strategic reports. Researchers had simpler concerns.  Shown first at the EARN/RARE Joint Networking Conference: Killarney, Ireland, 15-17 May 1990

© Francois Fluckiger

Cartoon 2: European politicians had decided that Europe would speak OSI technology when the USA was speaking TCP/IP. How to communicate? “Simple, via Translating Gateways” they said. Shown first at the EARN/RARE Joint Networking Conference : Killarney, Ireland, 15-17 May 1990

Cartoon 2: European politicians had decided that Europe would speak OSI technology when the USA was speaking TCP/IP. How to communicate? “Simple, via Translating Gateways” they said.  Shown first at the EARN/RARE Joint Networking Conference: Killarney, Ireland, 15-17 May 1990

Cartoon 3: To promote OSI technology, European politicians built IXI in 1989, a pan-European network based on the X25 technology. Good idea, because with no use, there can be no traffic jam!  Shown first at the EARN/RARE Joint Networking Conference

Cartoon 4: On January 22, 1990, the European organization called RARE, an historical opponent of IP, made a public revision, painful for some: “RARE, without putting into question its OSI policy, recognizes the TCP/IP family of protocols as an open multi-vendor suite, well adapted to scientific and technical applications”. Without putting into question, really? Shown first at the EARN/RARE Joint Networking Conference : Killarney, Ireland, 15-17 May 1990

Cartoon 5: Auto-derision. CERN was sometimes prompted to give lessons on rationalized solutions , such as our chaotic external network in 1991. Shown first at the EARN/RARE Joint Networking Conference : Killarney, Ireland, 15-17 May 1990




 



 

 

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