Jonathan Bruce Postel
August 6, 1943 - October 16, 1998

The best way to describe how Jon looked is that of a kindly geek Santa Claus... big white scruffy beard with fading hints of brown... balding from the front, but with long gray hair loosely kept... coke bottle glasses that caught a glint in the eye.

Jon's appearance (and that of most computer types) was made light of in an April Fools' RFC in 1998 - IETF Identification and Security Guidelines (RFC 2323)

4. Mistaken Identification Syndrome (or "Are you --jon. or Scott?")

I was speaking to a very well-known network researcher, I'll call him --jon., who tells me that he is often mistaken for a SOBbing Harvard person. --jon. says, "People tell someone to look for me or him and say that I'm about so-tall with a big white beard, and suddenly people are coming up to me and saying, 'Hi Scott' and he often tells me that he is mistakenly hailed as, '--jon.'. Often the mistake is made solely on the appearance of our facial hair."

Another story --jon. told me is that once a woman called looking for a computer researcher but only having a first name and physical description. The receptionist asked for the description and the woman said she was looking for an older Caucasian man with a beard. The receptionist reportedly blurted out, "they all have beards!!!!"

On a more personal note, two researchers who were both employed at USC/ISI shaved their very famous facial hair and were both unrecognizable to friends and co-workers alike. If it weren't for B.M.'s Grateful Dead T-shirts and lack of shoes, or R.V.M.'s voice I would have never recognized them.

A photo collage of Jon Postel can be found at

Looking through the old standards and research done on the Internet, there are few places where Jon's signature is not found - from the basics of IP that allow hosts to communicate, to mail, time keeping, DNS, FTP and countless others. Many of these protocols were first tested on "Los Nettos" (, a regional network for the Los Angeles network, which Jon was very involved with.

Jon volunteered time working with the IETF as an RFC editor - many consider him the RFC editor. Part of his belief in the Internet and its continued growth was public documentation (the RFCs), free software for popular machines (the programs he wrote to implement the protocols are freely available) and vendor independence.

Jon Postel was one of the key people in building the Internet as we know it today. Without his work and leadership, it is likely that the Internet would have been little more than scattered networks without any way of working together. We owe him a debt of gratitude.

In the memory of Jon Postel and in recognition for his work, the Internet Society's board of trustees created the Jonathan B. Postel Service Award, for which he was the first recipient (posthumously).

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