Computer scientists and their... unique sense of humour


Well-known member
Staff member
24 May 2022
730 (3.74/day)
So I mentioned in the Uranus thread that computer scientists have a sense of humour too.

First, a little context. Every technology the internet works on is published by the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) as a series of technical documents that are written, peer-reviewed and eventually circulated as 'request for comments' documents, which end up as the final standards. Everything from how HTTP actually works (RFC1945, RFC2616 and friends) through the underlying agreed protocol for email (RFC822 and subsequent revisions), it's all there.

But 1 April usually brings some... interesting... suggestions. These are real technical documents, published by the IETF and are considered technical standards that should be adhered to just as much as a browser should follow the rules of HTTP when sending things.

There are enough of these that they're collected on a Wikipedia page but I'll pick out a few highlights.

RFC1149: A Standard for the Transmission of IP Datagrams on Avian Carriers - a technical specification for carrier pigeons carrying data. There are examples of this being used in the wild to demonstrate particularly bad internet connections, e.g. sending an 8GB SD card with a carrier pigeon versus a terminally slow broadband. Later updated as RFC2549 to include quality of service management.

RFC2324: Hypertext Coffee Pot Control Protocol, a new protocol alongside HTTP to manage internet-connected coffee pots. Most notably this introduces a new error code in the 400 range for HTTP (similar to 403 Forbidden or 404 Not Found), where error code 418 has been largely adopted as "I'm a teapot" as a valid error response code.

RFC3091: Pi Digit Generation Protocol, specifies a protocol for how a server must calculate, send and receive individual digits of pi, in the correct order.

RFC3514: The Security Flag in the IPv4 Header, a method for marking requests you make online as 'evil' and thus should be excluded from going through firewalls. As the standard explains, any packet that is not evil should be indicating that it contains no evil when it is sent. Note that bad actors are required to identify themselves as such.

There are others but they're a lot more obscure and require some more context as to why they're in context funny, like the legitimate (and working) protocol specifications for UTF-9 and UTF-18 specifically to make it easier to send and receive emoji and accented letters on devices such as the PDP-11.


Staff member
4 Jun 2021
2,074 (3.77/day)
That was full nerd and then some, love it. :cool:

The pi gen one is my favourite.
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