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   a standards story

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Sometimes I find things outside the XML world that seem to have messages
worth considering.

Work was done on the approach over a period of some three years, but it
fell apart.  A document was produced, getting gradually more and more
complex as additional (pretty ad hoc) rules were added concerning what
could and could not be deleted from a BER encoding, and went for
international ballot.  An editing meeting was convened just outside New
York (around 1990), and the comments from National Bodies were faxed to
participants only at the start of the meeting.

Imagine the consternation when the dozen or so participants realized
that EVERY National Body had voted "NO", and, moreover, with NO
constructive comments!  The approach was seen as too complex, too ad
hoc, and (because it still left everything requiring an integral number
of octets) insufficient to produce efficient encodings of things like
"SEQUENCE OF BOOLEAN".  It was quite clearly dead in the water.

Many people had prebooked flights that could not be changed without
considerable expense, but it was clear that what had been planned as a
week-long meeting was over.  The meeting broke early at about 11am for
lunch (and eventually reconvened late at 4pm).  Over the lunch-break
much beer was consumed, and the proverbial back-of-a-cigarette pack
recorded the discussions (actually, I think it was a paper napkin - long
since lost!).  PER as we know it today was born!  The rest of that week
put some flesh on the bones, and the next two years produced the final
text for what was eventually accepted as the PER specification. 
Implementation of tools supporting it came a year or so later.

(from John Larmouth's excellent _ASN.1 Complete_ (Morgan-Kaufmann, 1999,
page 287.)

Just something to think about as we consider the nature of standards
development today.

Simon St.Laurent
Ring around the content, a pocket full of brackets
Errors, errors, all fall down!


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