Roel Roscam Abbing and Martino Morandi


Title: X.25 – A Legacy Network

The term “legacy” can take two different meanings. In computing, it
is used as an adjective to refer to methods, software and hardware
considered obsolete. The term is used normatively to point at the burden
of maintaining older systems. These legacy technologies can not be
removed from a system without breaking support for or compatibility with
older versions, thus requiring extra work and care. As such, in the
contemporary dominant “tech” culture, legacy is something to get rid of,
as it stands in the way of innovation.

Generally speaking, legacy is used as a noun, defined as an inheritance,
or as the outcomes of past events. The latter meaning of the word
suggests a way to understand the long-term relations between
technological systems that are decades apart from each other. Legacy
protocols, formats and systems are reluctantly dragged along into the
present together with shiny new interfaces and packaging. This assures a
continuity in which structures inherited from the past appear next to
those of the present. As a result, this legacy implicitly questions
current paradigms and returns technological artifacts to their complex
historical dimension.

One of these legacies is that of X.25, which before TCP/IP was the most
used protocol for world wide computer networks. Today it is considered
obsolete, even though it did not disappear completely. During the
residency this protocol and its legacy will be treated as a device to
open up new histories and critical understandings of the internet. A
close reading of the protocol specifications and a practical experience
of it on both old and new machines will be the starting points to
attempt an archeology of the X.25 protocol.Focusing on the protocol
rather than on the medium will also test the boundaries of media
archeology as a framework through which to understand our contemporary
technological condition.

Roel Roscam Abbing (1990, NL) is an artist and researcher whose work
engages with the issues and cultures surrounding networked computation.
In an often collaborative practice he has worked on projects exploring
the internet’s infrastructure, diy communications systems and the
politics of the radio spectrum. He holds an MA Networked Media from the
Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam and a Fine Arts BA (Hon) from the
Willem De Kooning Academy. Currently he teaches at the Digital Craft
department of the Willem de Kooning Academy.

Martino Morandi researches at the intersections between technology,
politics and art. His interests and projects articulate around the material conditions of
technologies and their genealogies, using non-hegemonic paradigms like
conviviality, semi-efficiency, dys-functioning. He collaborates with LAG
in Amsterdam and Constant VZW in Bruxelles.

Onsite: Yes

Duration: May 1 to June 1 2016

Equipment: x.25 compatible machines, modems, PADS, technical reference,
protocol documentations

Documentation: ASCII plain text printed on a Teletype Model 43 and
duplicated with a Heyer Conqueror stenciling machine.