Laugh Date: Wednesday, February 21, 2018

What's Inside

Best of RAH:
The Truth Behind Protocol Negotiation

by Dave Bealer

This commentary first appeared in the April 1993 issue of Random Access Humor.

Copyright © 1993 Dave Bealer, All Rights Reserved.

Modern high speed modems are capable of transmitting data at amazingly fast rates. The overall efficiency of these transfers is often less than optimal, especially for small transfers (under 100K). The reason for this is the time the modems spend negotiating the link, which must occur before actual data transfer can begin. In the case of V.32bis modems, it can actually take longer for the modems to perform the protocol negotiation than for the file transfer itself to complete.

The technical wizards at Industrial Smoke and Mirrors, Ltd. have developed a diagnostic tool which will translate certain types of analog data signals into something almost, but not quite, resembling English. The following is the transcript of an actual protocol negotiation session between two high speed modems as translated by the new device, the Jabberwonker.

On the actual tape produced by the Jabberwonker, the calling modem sounds like Charles Emerson Winchester III (CEW3) and the answering modem sounds like Chico Marx (CM). Dr. Hoo discounts this as irrelevant. In any event Random Access Humor is proud to present, for the first time anywhere, a look into what actually goes on when two high speed modems negotiate a connection.

{begin transcript}


CM: Ello?

CEW3: Hello. I am here to deliver a letter.

CM: A setter?

CEW3: No, a letter.

CM: What kind of setter?

CEW3: No...not a setter. A letter.

CM: Is it an Irish Setter? We don' allow no pets 'round here.

CEW3: It is not a setter. It is a letter. L, E, T, T...

CM: "Tea? Hang on."

CEW3: This is not about tea. Sir? Sir?...

CM: To someone else at his end, "You order any tea?" The non-committal honk of a horn can be heard in the background.

CEW3: ...Sir?

CM: Nah, we didn't order no tea.

CEW3 (Beginning to lose his patience): This is not about tea, you Mediterranean moron! I am trying to deliver a letter.

CM: A letter?

CEW3: Yes!

CM: Well, why you no say so?

CEW3: I...

CM: It's very confusing when you talk about dogs and tea if you want to deliver a letter.

CEW3: I never...

CM: I don't have time to waste talkin' to you about tea and dogs.

CEW3: Will you please shut up about the tea and dogs.

CM: S'Okay by me. You the one wanted to talk about tea and dogs.

CEW3: I did not!

CM: I got no time to waste talkin' about them anyway.

CEW3: Will you please shut up and take this letter?

CM: Oh, I can't take that letter.

CEW3: Why not?

CM: I'm not allowed to take no letters.

CEW3: Why not?

CM: It's against union rules.

CEW3 (in exasperation): What union?

CM: The Letter Takers Union.

CEW3 (in utter disbelief): The Letter Takers Union?

CM: Yeah, that's right. You no wanna mess with dose guys.

CEW3: I am not trying to mess with anyone. I...

CM: Oh...those guys are tough! You no wanna mess with them.

CEW3: Will you please listen to me very carefully. I just want to deliver a letter. I don't care who takes it.

CM: I can't take it. The union guy sittin' here would mess me up if I did that.

CEW3: Someone from the union is there right now?

CM: Yeah. There's always someone from the union here.

CEW3: May I speak with him?

CM: No.

CEW3 (incensed): No?

CM: No.

CEW3 (increasingly incensed): Why not?

CM: He can no talk.

CEW3 (stunned): What?

CM: I said, "He can no talk." What'sa matter? You got somethin' against handicapped people?

CEW3: No! I merely...

CM: You gonna have trouble with the union if you no respect handicapped people.

CEW3: Listen. I never said I did not respect handicapped people. I just want someone to take...this...stupid...letter so I can go about my business. Can the union member there take the letter from me?

CM: I dunno. Let me check.

{Muffled talking and honking are heard in the background.}

CM: Are you sure you wanna talk to da union member?

CEW3: Yes! Well...can he hear?

CM: Of course he can hear! What you think, the union is dumb or somethin'?

CEW3 (deliberately): In the interest of expediency I'll reserve comment. Please put him on the line now.

CM: Okay, if you're sure...

CEW3 (furiously): Yes! Put him on the line now, please!

CM: Alright, you hang on.

CEW3: Very well.

CEW3: Hello?


CEW3: Are you ready to take the letter?


CEW3: Does that mean "yes?"


CEW3 (slowly, deliberately): Please honk twice if you are ready to take the letter.

Honk. Honk.

CEW3: Good.

The sender tries to hand the letter to the union member.

CEW3: Hey, what is that you put in my hand?

The sender tries to hand the letter to the union member.

CEW3: What? Is that your knee? Stop that!

Honk. Honk.

CEW3 (infuriated): Will you please stop fooling around and take this letter.

Honk. Honk.

The sender tries to hand the letter to the union member.

The union member takes the letter from the sender.

The sender drops the union member's knee in disgust.

CEW3: Thank God! Goodbye.


No Carrier

Perspiring, the sender enters the delivery in his log book.

CEW3: What!?

CEW3 (apoplectically): No! I have a package for that address too! Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!

{end of transcript, mercifully}

Certain respected members of the scientific community remain skeptical about the validity, usefulness and sanity of both the Jabberwonker and Dr. Hoo. Meanwhile the good doctor, in his quiet, inscrutable way, predicts a bright future for the device.


Dave Bealer is a fifty-something mainframe systems programmer who works with CICS, z/OS and all manner of nasty acronyms at one of the largest heavy metal shops on the East Coast. He shares a waterfront townhome in Pasadena, MD. with a cat who annoys him endlessly as he assiduously avoids writing for and publishing Random Access Humor. Dave can be reached via e-mail at:


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