Locked in Tour Europe


Author: John Day (Follow on Twitter: @JeanJour)

How many people can you get in a Citroën Deux-Chevaux?

I’ll tell you: Seven.

Empirical evidence for this comes from the first OSI (Open Source Initiative) Working Group meetings in October 1978, taking place in the AFNOR Tour Europe building in La Defense, Paris.

john day fun blog 3 - John Aschenbrenner’s first draft of the Hour-Glass Model as it appeared in N117.We had been meeting all week and it had come time to produce the first real draft the OSI Reference Model, TC97/SC16/N117. The document with the first drawing of the hour glass model, only it was a martini glass. This was my first standards meeting. It was going to be quite an education, but I got a huge surprise that first morning, when I walked in to find an old friend, Kenji Naemura, one of the Japanese delegates, sitting across the table from me.  Kenji had gotten his PhD working on Illiac IV!

John Aschenbrenner’s first draft
of the Hour-Glass Model as it
appeared in N117.

I was staying out in Versailles with one of the CYCLADES guys, Michel Gien. We were putting in long hours all week.  Meeting well past 6 with lots of homework in the evenings. That Thursday, most of us were working on producing that final draft.  Although the meetings were in the basement in Oceanie (Over the years I grew to have a real love-hate relation with that room!), Michel and I were upstairs in the AFNOR offices editing sections of the documents on computers at IRIA to be reproduced for the Plenary in the morning. This was quite a problem for me, who spoke little French. I was using an editor that I knew had all the usual commands, just not in English! And the keyboard wasn’t quite the same either. At some time after midnight, Michel and I realized that nothing more we edit could be reproduced and collated in time for the meeting in the morning.  So we bagged it and went home to get some sleep.

A devoted cadre of 7 people stayed, including Charlie Bachman (US, it was his 7 layers), Hubert Zimmermann (France, WG1 Chair), Kenji Naemura (Japan), Don Shepherd (Canada), Tilly Bayard (AFNOR WG1 Secretariat), John Aschenbrenner and Jerry Foley (both US). Poor Tilly had just been hired two weeks before. This was her introduction to standards.

In those days, copiers just copied.  They would run off the number of copies of a page. Lay them out on a table. And then each person would go around picking up a page to make a complete copy. They finished at 4:30 AM, only to find themselves locked in Tour Europe. Zim found a way out by climbing through a transom and opening the door from the other side.

They then piled everyone into Zim’s green Deux-Chevaux. How they did it I will never know. Charlie and Don were not small guys! I heard Kenji was sitting on Charlie’s lap. Zim dropped everyone at their hotel and headed to his place for very little sleep.  We re-convened at 8:30 that morning, and we did not look good!  But the document was ready for review.

For the next meeting in June 1979 in London, I re-organized the document to more or less the structure it ended up with and file transferred it to UCL over the ARPANET so we would have it for the meeting. So far so good!

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