Geek Trivia

Internet Engineering Task Force Document RFC2321 Details Network Troubleshooting Via?

Dowsing Rod
Rubber Chicken
Sledge Hammer
Killer Whales Are Not Actually Whales But?

Answer: Rubber Chicken

Normally RFC documents are pretty straight-laced. RFCs, or Request For Comments, are publications put out by the Internet Engineering Task Force and Internet Society. These memorandums are used to describe new research, methods, innovations, and otherwise spread information among the vast community of people who work to improve and secure the Internet. Many of the modern Internet standards and protocols we use today started life as RFC documents (and in fact the original RFC was created by Steve Crocker, an early Internet pioneer, to help record notes on the development of ARPANET, the precursor to the modern Internet).

Not all RFC documents are so important and serious, however, and since 1978 engineers have routinely published April Fool’s Day RFC documents with a humorous bent. The first of such documents was a parody of the TCP/IP standards entitled “TELNET RANDOMLY-LOSE Option” in 1978 and over the years there have been many funny entries into the catalog like 1990’s “Standard for the transmission of IP datagrams on Avian Carriers” for, you guessed it, IP communication via pigeons.

In 1998, one of the April Fool’s Day submissions came courtesy of A. Bressen with the innocent enough name “RITA — The Reliable Internetwork Troubleshooting Agent“. The abstract of the document was equally innocent and, in fact, until you get well into the body of RFC 2321 you don’t realize that the RITA is a, well, rubber chicken and only because of the handsome ASCII graphics included in the document (at no point does the author ever identify the RITA as an actual rubber chicken other than by describing what a rubber chicken looks like). Here’s one passage from the “corrective” section detailing how to fix Internet problems with the rubber chicken:

RITA units enhance normal corrective measures of these problems, methods such as rebooting, reseating of components and connectors, changing tabs to spaces or vice-versa in configuration files, blaming third-party vendors, and use of ballistic implements to effect wholesale displacement of systems and software, to at least 100% of their normal efficacy.

For those of you who don’t routinely read dense technical documents, allow us to translate: “Beat everything with the rubber chicken until things are working like normal.”