Engineering humor: joke whitepapers

Engineering humor: joke whitepapers

The engineering profession is usually pretty dry, but engineers generally have a great sense of humor. From time to time, bored engineers working at major companies manage to slip a bit of humor out to the public in the form of fake whitepapers. Here are some favorites:



The canonical networking joke is probably RFC 1149, which was proposed by David Waitzman on April 1, 1990. In it, he describes a method of sending IP traffic over carrier pigeons, which could create a very low-speed, organic network:

Avian carriers can provide high delay, low throughput, and low altitude service. The connection topology is limited to a single point-to-point path for each carrier, used with standard carriers, but many carriers can be used without significant interference with each other, outside of early spring. This is because of the 3D ether space available to the carriers, in contrast to the 1D ether used by IEEE802.3. The carriers have an intrinsic collision avoidance system, which increases availability. Unlike some network technologies, such as packet radio, communication is not limited to line-of-sight distance. Connection oriented service is available in some cities, usually based upon a central hub topology.

Ridiculous as it may seem, a group from Germany actually tested the protocol in 2001, and were apparently able to send a ping command using birds. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has a longstanding tradition of releasing humorous RFC proposals on April fools day.

Write Only Memory


Another great joke is the datasheet for a ‘Fully Encoded, 9046xN, Random Access Write-Only-Memory’, published by electronics manufacturer Signetics. The part has some interesting features:

The Signetics 25000 Series 9046xN Random Access Write-Only-Memory employs both enhancement and depletion mode P-Channel, N-Channel, and neu channel MOS devices. Although a static device, a single TTL level clock phase is required to drive the on-board multi-port clock generator. Data refresh is accomplished during CB and LH periods. Quadri-state outputs (when applicable) allow expansion in many directions, depending on organization.

The whole setup is pretty funny, especially the ‘bit capacity vs temperature’ and ‘number of remaining pins vs number of socket insertions’ graph. (thanks, Mitch!)

Characterization of Organic Illumination Systems


A team of researches at digital must have gotten bored once after lunch, because they decided to experiment with producing light from foodstuffs. Their ‘research’ is summarized in the whitepaper Characterization of Organic Illumination Systems, which is apparently the definitive reference for using pickles as lamps:

There has been a great deal of interest of late in triboluminescence and electroluminescence in organic materials. Triboluminescence in wintergreen Life Savers® has been investigated by many over the years, while electroluminescence in organic thin films is an active area of current research both here and abroad.

In early December 1988, our attention was called to work by Bill Bidermann on electroluminescence in pickles. It was reported that inserting iron electrodes into a dill pickle and energizing with modest alternating currents caused the pickle to glow. Subsequent reports reached us in January 1989 regarding corroborating experiments. We decided to investigate the phenomenon with the aim of improving our understanding of the underlying mechanisms and examining the potential for commercial applications

If you’ve never seen a pickle electrocution, here is a video. (thanks, Galen!)

Know of any other funny examples? Share them in the comments!

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