Athenian Mouse

The Clout Project: How did it come about?

The Clout Project started long ago; its genesis dates to 1988. This was early--Eudora was written that year.  Lotus Notes wouldn't be released for another year.  And Internet access was still a sometime thing.  One of the greatest problems was actually getting tied into the network to allow sending and receiving E-Mail.  It was a pretty brute force thing--mail was generally delivered by Unix UUCP, and you had to know the entire path from your machine to the destination.  A typical E-Mail address would be something like "ihnp4!homebru!ignatz" for a short path.  The UUCP Mapping Project tried to automate this, but to even play the game you had to have access to a machine that was already "known" to other systems.  Delivery of an E-Mail message generally relied on dial-up communications between each individual machine; paths of 8-10 or more machines weren't uncommon.  A message could take days to arrive at its destination.

Some sites volunteered to be hubs--well-connected sites that would accept E-Mail from individual machines and would then forward this on to intermediate machines.  In the Midwest, one of the key hubs was the machine ihnp4 at Bell Telephone Laboratories (BTL).  And in 1988, BTL decided the costs associated with providing this service was outside its operational mandate, and it directed BTL IT to terminate the service.

This was potentially catastrophic; ihnp4, by that time, was the main connection point for much of the Midwest.  A conference was conceived and convened under the auspices of /usr/group/chicago (now Uniforum Chicago) to discuss the issue and attempt to devise a solution.  From this starting point evolved the Clout Project.

Naturally, there were documents generated surrounding the genesis of the Clout Project.  Unfortunately, these were written before the Internet had reached the point that on-line archival of such information was common, and in the intervening years they fell from sight.  Thus, much of the genesis of the Clout Project has fallen by the wayside in the past 30 years.

Until recently.  Dave Ihnat found a moldering archive of documents--particularly, several of the seminal memoranda that described the initial problem, the original design proposal for the Clout Project, and some supporting documents.  Resurrecting these was a somewhat painful task--most were originally written in nroff with the BTL memorandum macros.  Some were only available as formatted output for dot-matrix printers.  However, at this point several have been reformatted and converted to PDF documents.  These are presented here for anyone who wants a look at the early days.

The following documents are now available (listed in chronological order except for the Introduction):

        A document written by Dave Ihnat on April 15, 2017 as an overview to the recovery effort.


        A description of E-Mail as of July 13, 1988, and the impending problem.

        The proposed design that became the Clout Project, November 18, 1988.

        A status report of the progress made in the first year of the Clout Project, April 24, 1989.

        A document provided to potential participants in the operational Clout Project, December 01, 2000.

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