Multics 12 Jan 2003


Home | Changes | Multicians | General | History | Features | Bibliography | Sites | Chronology
Stories | Glossary | Papers | Humor | Documents | Source | Links | About


0. Overview
1. Beginnings
2. Initial construction
3. Use at MIT
4. Use at RADC
5. Honeywell
6. Commercial announcement
7. The 70s
8. The 80s
9. Termination

Names of individuals are hyperlinked to their entries in the list of Multicians.

Terms are hyperlinked to the Multics Glossary.

Please post additions or corrections to alt.os.multics, or mail them to Tom Van Vleck.

The globe icon is used before materials available from other sites.

0. Overview

timeline 65-00
See the Site Timeline for a graphic display of sites by date.
For a concise list of significant Multics dates, see the Multics Chronology.

1. Beginnings

1.1. CTSS

The Compatible Timesharing System (CTSS) was one of the first timesharing systems. It was developed at the MIT Computation Center by a team led by Fernando J. Corbató. CTSS was first demonstrated in 1961 on the IBM 709, swapping to tape. In its mature form, CTSS ran on a modified IBM 7094 with a second 32K-word bank of memory, using two IBM 2301 drums for swapping and provided remote access to up to 30 users via an IBM 7750 communications controller connected to dialup modems.
Compatible Timesharing System (CTSS) は最初のタイムシェアリングシステムのうちの1つでした。それは MIT Computation Center で Fernando J. Corbató. の率いるチームによって開発されました。 CTSSは 1961年に 最初のデモンストレーションが行なわれ、 IBM 709 の上でテープにスワッピングしながら動作しました。 成熟した形態では CTSS は 第2の 32K word メモリバンクを追加した IBM 7094 の上で稼働しました。 スワッピングのために2台の IBM 2301 ドラムを使用し、 またダイアルアップモデムに接続した IBM 7750 コミュニケーションコントローラーを介して 30人までのユーザへのリモートアクセスが提供されました。

1.2. MIT Project MAC

Project MAC was suggested in November 1962 by J. C. R. Licklider; its founding director was MIT Prof. Robert M. Fano. MAC stood for Multiple Access Computers on the 5th floor of 545 Tech Square and Man and Computer on the 9th floor; the major efforts were Corbató's Multics development and Marvin Minsky's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. In 1963 Project MAC hosted a summer study, which brought many well-known computer scientists to Cambridge to use CTSS and to discuss the future of computing.
Project MAC は 1962 年 11 月に J. C. R. Licklider; によって提唱されました。 その設立時のディレクタは MIT 教授の Robert M. Fano. でした。 MAC とは 545 Tech Square の5階では Multiple Access Computers を、 9階では Man and Computer を意味しました。 主な活動は Corbató の Multics の開発と Marvin Minsky の人工知能研究所でした。 Project MAC は 1963 年に 夏期研修を主催しました。 (それは多くの有名なコンピューター科学者を Cambridge に招待し、 CTSS を利用させた上で、 将来のコンピューティングに関する議論を促すものでした)

Funding for Project MAC was provided by the Information Processing Techniques Office of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the US Department of Defense. According to the National Academy of Sciences report Academic Careers For Experimental Computer Scientists And Engineers, ARPA contributed $2 million per year to project MAC for eight years for Multics development (not sure if this includes other activities such as the AI Lab). During this time period, Bell Labs and GE/Honeywell contributed comparable resources.

1.3. Selection of vendor

Prof. Jack Dennis of MIT contributed some influential architectural ideas to the beginning of Multics, especially the idea of segmentation. The Multics specifications were developed and sent out to bid in 1963. When it came time to select a vendor for the computer that would support the new OS, the folklore is that IBM pitched the machine that would become the 360/65. They were not interested in the MAC team's ideas on paging and segmentation. Prof. Joseph Weizenbaum, then a lecturer at MIT, introduced the MAC team to former colleagues of his from GE Schenectady, who were receptive and enthusiastic, and proposed what became the GE-645. DEC also responded to the bid. The GE proposal was chosen and the contract signed in August 1964.

1.4. MIT, Bell Labs, GE

Bell Labs decided to buy a GE-645 in early 1965 and joined the software development effort, and GE also agreed to contribute. The three organizations worked out a structure for cooperation. The Trinity made major policy decisions. There was one person from each organization:

The Triumvirate was in charge of actual management of the implementation:

Jerome H. Saltzer and Edward L. Glaser were consultants to the triumvirate.

1.5. Papers at 1965 FJCC

Six papers describing Multics were presented at a special session at the 1965 Fall Joint Computer Conference. At the time, some people thought the system's goals were too ambitious, and that it couldn't be built, for example H. R. J. Grosch, in DATAMATION, November 1, 1971:
Multicsについて記述する6つの論文が 1965 Fall Joint Computer Conference の特別セッションで講演されました。 その時に、何人かはシステムのゴールがあまりにも野心的過ぎて、 構築することができないと考えました。 例えば H.R.J.Grosch は DATAMATION の 1971 年 11 月 1 日の中でこのように述べています:

Inspect now the far end, the impossible end, of the feasibility spectrum. Here we find that hecatomb called SAGE, and the other (all the other) command and control projects. We find the great corporate MIS systems - the automated board room, the self-optimizing model, the realistic management game. And, pardon my chuckles, if we turn over a few flat stones we may even find MULTICS.
実現可能な残層の遠い結末 (あるいは不可能な結末) を、今検証すべきです。 私たちはここに SAGE と呼ばれる大量の犠牲と、 別の (その他全ての) コマンドコントロール・プロジェクトを見つけます。私たちは大きな企業のMISがシステム自動重役会議室、自己を最適化するモデル(現実的なマネージメントゲーム)と分かります。また、私たちがさらにMULTICSと分かる少数の水平な石をひっくり返す場合は、私の含み笑いを許してください。

Others argued with the idea of writing a system in a high level language or with the use of virtual memory.
他のものは 高水準言語の中でシステムを書くアイデアや 仮想記憶の使用について議論しました。

2. Initial construction

2.1. The MSPM

While waiting for the PL/I compiler to become available, the team wrote the Multics System Programmer's Manual (MSPM). It was about 3000 pages; every section went through serious review and many sections were rewritten or deeply revised several times.

The MSPM contained functional requirements, high-level design, and implementation plans for Multics. When we actually started building and integrating the system, we discovered that some of the MSPM designs were far too complex. Simpler, more efficient facilities were built instead, sometimes as interim measures intended to evolve into the full design eventually, and sometimes as recognition that the original plan attempted too much. The MSPM was updated to reflect some of the early redesigns, but quickly got behind. We did try to keep a particular section up to date, the one that documented the system module interfaces, i.e. the code that was actually in the system.

{See Development Documentation}

2.2. Compilers

PL/I was chosen as the programming language in 1964. {A detailed discussion of the history and features of Multics PL/I is on a separate page.}
PL/私は1964年にプログラミング言語に選ばれました。 歴史の{Aに詳細な議論およびMultics PL/私の特徴は、個別のページにあります。}

2.3. Management

In 1968-69 the system was late and under significant financial pressure and threat of cancellation. Maybe this helped esprit de corps (as opposed to surface morale). A review by a select ARPA committee in 1968 was one time we came close to cancellation; they recommended that we continue. (Who was on this besides Butler Lampson?) {See Multics -- the First Seven Years and A Mangerial View of the Multics System Development}.
1968-69のうち、システムが遅く取り消しの重要な金融圧力および脅威の下でありました。恐らくこの支援された団体精神(表面の士気に対立するものとしての)。1968年の選択したARPAの委員会による調査は私たちが取り消しに接近しているようになった1回でした;それらは、私たちが継続するように勧めました。(この人はバトラーLampsonに加えてこの上にあった?){、Multics--Multicsシステム開発}の最初の7年およびA Mangerial視界--を見ます。

3. Use at MIT

3.1. Bell labs withdraws (4/69)

"Over time, hope was replaced by frustration as the group effort initially failed to produce an economically useful system. Bell Labs withdrew from the effort in 1969 but a small band of users at Bell Labs Computing Science Research Center in Murray Hill -- Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Doug McIlroy, and J. F. Ossanna -- continued to seek the Holy Grail." -- Lucent web page

"... the problem was the increasing obviousness of the failure of Multics to deliver promptly any sort of usable system, let alone the panacea envisioned earlier." -- Dennis Ritchie, "The Evolution of the Unix Time-sharing System"


3.2. TOSS summer study (7/69)

The Cambridge Project was an ARPA-funded political science computing project. (Given the nature of the research, the funds probably came from one of the security agencies, and were channeled through ARPA.) They worked on stuff like survey analysis and simulation, led by Prof. Ithiel de Sola Pool, J. C. R. Licklider and Douwe B. Yntema. Yntema had done a system on the MIT Lincoln Labs TX-2 called the Lincoln Reckoner, and in the summer of 1969 led a Cambridge Project team in the construction of an experiment called TOSS (terminal oriented social science? anyway it was intentionally a throwaway system). TOSS was sort of like Logo, with matrix operators. Its big feature was multiple levels of undo, back to the level of the login session. This feature was cheap on the Lincoln Reckoner, but absurdly expensive on Multics. This project provided some much-needed revenue to keep the 645 going until it could go public, and was a precursor to the Consistent System (see below).

(get info from Art Evans on Programming Linguistics, 6.231)

3.3. MIT usage (10/69)

The system was finally opened for paying customers in October 1969, several years late. Pioneer users of the system put up with a lot: crashes, poor response, constant change, arrogance from developers, and inexplicably missing features. The Multics developers and the MIT Information Processing Center management worked furiously to fix problems and make good on overdue promises, and to stave off abandonment of the system by ARPA, GE, or large MIT users.

[John Klensin] The Cambridge Project was a major user and revenue source. It built an application called the Consistent System, the largest application ever built on Multics and the most comprehensive data analysis modeling and analysis system ever built. Consistent System developers and users pressed for better function, reliability, and performance and contributed important code and ideas to Multics. Applications built on the CS or its components became a major portion of the workload at several customer sites and contributed to the length of time a few of those systems stayed in operation. AFDSC comes particularly to mind here, although the Human Resources databases at EDS and some of the applications at Credit Lyonnais are probably also candidates.

GE CISL's language team under Axel Kvilekval and Bob Freiburghouse produced the version 1 PL/I compiler and the system was recompiled and in many cases rewritten to take advantage of the much better code produced by the new compiler.

4. Use at RADC (8/70)

The second Multics site was at Rome Air Development Center, Griffiss AFB, Rome, New York. Some research done at this site was classified intelligence studies. RADC also studied software engineering and software tools. They attached an associative processor, a Goodyear Staran, 1000 1-bit processors, to their Multics and did pattern recognition work. The Staran daemon was assigned a load of 1.5.

[RFC 208] RADC was added to the ARPANet as host 18 as of 10/5/71.

5. Honeywell (1970)

GE sold its computer business to Honeywell in 1970. This is referred to as the "merger." (See Jean Bellec's story of Shangri-La.)

6. Commercial announcement (1/73)

multics logo pin There were several commercial announcements. The Honeywell 6180 was announced in January 1973 at the Boston Museum of Science. 6180 processors were about 1 MIPS each. A two-CPU system with 768KB of memory, 8MB of bulk store, 1.6GB of disk, 8 tape drives, and two DN355s, like MIT's system, had a purchase price of about $7 million.

7. The 70s

7.1. New Storage System (28.0, 2/76)

A major project during the 1970s was the implementation of the New Storage System (NSS). The initial Multics file system design had evolved from the one-huge-disk world of CTSS. When multiple disk units were used they were just assigned increasing ranges of disk addresses, so a segment could have pages scattered over all disks on the system. This provided good I/O parallelism but made crash recovery expensive. NSS redesigned the lower levels of the file system, introducing the concepts of logical and physical volumes and a mapping from a Multics directory branch to a VTOC entry for each file. The new system had much better recovery performance in exchange for a small space and performance cost. {Story: The New Storage System}

7.2. MRDS

Multics released the first commercial relational database, the Multics Relational Data Store, implemented by Jim Weeldreyer and Oris Friesen of Honeywell Phoenix and released in June 1976. MRDS included a report writer called MRPG written by Jim Falksen. (See Paul McJones's page on MRDS on his System R website.)

7.3. Multics installations

7.3.1. Air Force Data Services Center


7.3.2. General Motors

(more, ORAS)

7.3.3. Ford

This is far from a comprehensive history of the Ford site, but I thought I'd mention that Ford had Multics twice. In 1973-1975 Multics arrived on a trial basis that included a certain amount of joint OS development. The Ford systems group had a fair knowledge of operating systems, having originally supported the Ford Philco 212 OS, and welcomed the chance to contribute to this interesting new system called Multics. To this day the following software products are licensed from Bull at no charge to Ford because of the joint development effort on MR3:

  • AGS6802 ISTAT
  • SGC6800 Multics Comm System
  • SGC6803 Bisync support, MCS
  • SGC6804 G115 support, MCS
  • SGE6800 Multics Software Extensions
  • SGE6802 RJE facility
  • SGL6801 Fortran-77
  • SGL6802 Basic
  • SGS6800 Multics Exec
  • SGS6801 GCOS TSS Environment

Alas, Multics fell victim to economic and experimental woes. Because it was an experimental/evaluation system users were reluctant to write applications for it. Because there were no applications for it, when the economy dipped and money got tight there was no justification for keeping it.

It came back in sunnier economic times several years later. In 1978 applications were written on System-M, then moved to Ford's own Multics system when it arrived later that year. By this time MR6.5 was available and Multics was a more robust product. The next year Multics was moved by upgrading from Level68 to 8/70Ms into its new home in the Engineering Computer Center. It grew into three systems, with capacity and usage peaking around 1989. The last major upgrade was to convert from 501 to 3381 model disks, convert IOMs to IMUs, and upgrade to MR12.1 in 1988.

[Bruce Sanderson, Ford Motor Co] Most of the Multics applications were migrated to Sequent systems, and in 1995 only one Multics system (two applications) remained.

7.3.4. Industrial Nucleonics

Industrial Nucleonics bought a single-processor Multics and a hundred Level 6 minicomputers in the late 70s. They used the Level 6 machines as industrial process controllers, using nuclear sensors to measure process variables such as the thickness of paper produced by a paper mill. The Multics machine was the software factory.

The company was later renamed AccuRay, after its measurement technology product, and later still was bought by Asea Brown Boveri. ABB shut down its Multics in 1991 and bought Multics time from ACTC for a while.

7.3.5. University of SW Louisiana

{Story: The Louisiana State Trooper Story}

7.3.6. French university system


7.4. Project Guardian

Project Guardian grew out of the ARPA support for Multics and the sale of Multics systems to the US Air Force. USAF wanted a system that could be used to handle more than one security classification of data at a time. They contracted with Honeywell and MITRE to figure out how to do this. Project Guardian led to the creation of the Access Isolation Mechanism, the forerunner of the B2 labeling and star property support in Multics. The DoD Orange Book was influenced by the experience in building secure systems gained in Project Guardian.

7.5. ARPA network software


7.6. The Palyn Report

Report commissioned by HIS corporate in 1978 to decide long range plan for LISD. UCLA Prof. Jerry Popek & George Rossman were principal authors. Forrest Baskett, Mike Stonebraker, and John Hennessey also contributed. Report recommended capping CP-6, GCOS-3, and GCOS-4 and concentrating on Multics. LISD whitewashed & committeed the thing to death. {Story: The Palyn Report}

8. The 80s

8.1. Sites

The 1980s saw a very large number of Multics sales in France and Europe.

8.2 B2 Rating

Multics received the B2 Orange Bookrating from the NCSC in August 1985, the culmination of a long effort.

8.3 Multics cancellation

Multics development was canceled by Honeywell in July 1985. (This was Honewell's sixth attempt to cancel the system. The decision was made in November 1984 by Gene Manno, and announced the following July.) In 1985, Multics was the only profitable product in the Office Marketing Systems Division.

CISL was closed in June 1986.

black armband
Black armband from HLSUA 10/85 [Garry Kaiser]

8.4 HLSUA Task Force

A HLSUA Task Force was formed in April 1986 to look at migration from Multics to the DPS 6 Plus, following a presentation by Gene Manno at HLSUA. Members were Vince Scarafino (Ford), Bob Kansa (EDS), Paul Amaranth (Oakland University), Norm Powroz (Canadian DND), and Norm Barnecut (University of Calgary). By 1987, Honewyell had backed away from supporting key elements of Multics function on the DPS 6 Plus.

9. Termination and Rescue Attempts

In the mid-80s, Multics customers tried to pressure Honeywell to produce a faster Multics machine. The 8/70M was a generation behind competitors' hardware and Honeywell had no announced plans to produce new Multics processors. Many of the existing customers defected when the found that the operating system was not supported by the company.

9.1. Honeywell Flower (85)

[WOS] Flower was never produced, but was intended to be a 3-4x faster machine implemented in gate arrays as a "test case" for Honeywell Corporate's Very High Speed Integrated Circuit (VHSIC) program (which was being done under contract to the DoD). The design got quite far along, and parts of it were even running in simulation, when the project was all canned in March 1985. It was to include significant architectural enhancements, most notably 8 more pointer registers and two new indirect types: self-relative and base-of-self-relative, as well as a bunch of minor ones.

Unlike the ADP, Flower wasn't based on a GCOS processor, it didn't have the other components to inherit from GCOS, and a significant amount of work would have been required to interface it to memory and I/O systems. There was a GCOS system planned (I do not believe it ever escaped the factory, either) which was where they were looking for the other components, but that whole area never really had a good answer before the end of the effort. It would have worked with the DPS8-M hardware, but not at its full speed advantage.

[THVV] In 1984, Flower was intended to be a 3 MIP processor, almost 5 times the power of the Honeywell Level 68. Using HT5000 bi-polar gate arrays, it would have fit on three 15"x15" boards. GCOS-only instructions, indirection modes (e.g., tally modifiers), processor modes, and data types (e.g. 6-bit BCD and 4-bit decimal) were omitted from the design.

Tom Rykken led the Flower project in Minneapolis. He provided us with his recollections of the Flower project.

9.2. Multics Company Merlin

[WOS] After Multics was canceled by Honeywell in July 1985, Olin Sibert attempted to form the "Multics Company" and purchase the technology from Honeywell. This was based around resurrecting the Flower design (afterward called Merlin) and building new Multics-specific I/O hardware (called Excalibur). This effort lasted around 6 months, then petered out when Honeywell realized that, while it might be good for customers, it could never be good for Honeywell.

The Merlin processor was simply the Flower recast in slower but more commercial technology, with assorted minor adjustments. I do not believe any parts were ever simulated, but there was a fair amount of design done, all by the engineers who'd had nothing to do since Flower's demise.

9.3. The Michael Tague project

[WOS, JWG] Another former Multician, Michael Tague (who managed the Opus software development), tried to resurrect Multics yet again in 1987, with the same engineers but with yet newer commercial technology (probably on a 386 base). There was some discussion with Sequent about this project. The business plan emphasized the security of Multics on commodity hardware, assuming that there was a growing security market. Tague had much more enthusiastic support from the (changed) Honeywell management, but ultimately they screwed him, too, and nothing ever came of it. The technical work done included figuring out how to support Unix binaries. Honeywell-Bull management wouldn't support it because they preferred to control the Multics source code and decided to contract maintenance and support to ACTC as a "safer" proposition. I do not know how far the project got in terms of hardware design.

9.4. Opus (86)

[WOS, John Ata] As a sop to customers after canning Multics in 1985, Honeywell promised to provide everything Multics had, plus more, plus total compatibility with the Level 6/DPS6 operating system, through a system codenamed "Opus," officially named VS3 (short for HVS R3 or Honeywell Virtual System Release Three, to spell it all out). It was to run on the DPS6-plus hardware known internally as the MRX and HRX, and be all things to all people. The hardware was a dud (though it did run the native DPS6 software just fine), and the goal was, shall we say, ambitious. The effort was canceled by Bull in 1987, in favor of another project going on in France.

An interesting postscript to this story, though, is that HFSI (formerly Honeywell Federal Systems, Inc., later a quasi independent corporate subsidiary of Bull, and now known as Wang Federal) built a highly secure system on the same DPS6-plus hardware. This is sort of a "second generation SCOMP" (which itself was the first system ever evaluated at A1), and it's called the XTS200.

XTS200 received (May 1992?) a B3 rating from NCSC. The evaluated system runs only on that big, expensive, slow DPS6plus hardware, though they have already ported it to 80486 machines in the lab, yielding about 7-10x the performance at one-twentieth the hardware cost. It has a largely satisfactory emulation of System V (release 3) Unix as its interface, and near as I can tell will be the very first reasonable high-security system (in terms of compatibility, performance, and cost) ever delivered--once it's fully on the 486, that is.

[John Ata] The XTS-300 (STOP 4.1) has also been awarded a B3 rating after the sucessful completion of its RAMP cycle on May 30 of this year. As far as I'm aware, it was the first time that a product on one hardware platform was RAMPED from a similar product on another hardware platform.

9.5. Multics on Cyber 180 study (85)

[WOS] There was a brief exploration (by the Multics Development Center) in early 1985 of porting Multics to the relatively new CDC mainframe hardware. It didn't get beyond the study stage.

9.6. Multics on Sequent (or other Intel 386/486) (85-87)

[WOS] Both as part of my "Multics Company" and Tague's project, there was some work devoted to porting Multics to the Intel architecture, specifically to the big Sequent multiprocessors. Again, nothing much came of it; this was late 1985 and early 1987.

9.7. Multics on DPS90

[WOS] Honeywell Bull (or whatever it was called by then) explored the possibility of running Multics in emulation on the DPS90 mainframe. This was, I think, a vain attempt to sell some large customer a DPS90 or two--it actually would have worked fairly well, since the instruction sets are so similar, but it was too big a project for the sales organization to pull off.

[Vince Scarafino] There was a considerable amount of preliminary work done on this. It was a sound proposal and would have provided a reasonable environment for porting Multics applications. The proposed approach would have only recreated the ring 4 Multics environment, though. Bull wanted its customers to pay, up front, for the project. None of the customers wanted to spend the money for what looked like a stay of execution (no pun intended).

[Charles Bouchier] During the period that NEC was building the DPS90/9000 series I was Director of Scientific/Engineering Marketing for Major Accounts out of Phoenix and we also wanted to port Multics to the DPS90's for continued revenues with some of the larger companies that were clambering for more power with the Multics OS. The bottom line was that NEC wanted $1,000,000 to do the board and firmware reworks and HIS -> HB was not willing to pony up...which became an obvious mistake as from that point on there was nowhere else to go with Multics in a competitive market.

9.8. Honeywell and Bull

Honeywell decided that it was more comfortable making thermostats and sold its computer division to its French partner Bull. The French government was a major investor in Bull. See the history of Bull website for much more on this subject.

9.9. Maintenance to Calgary (4/88)

In 1988, Honeywell transferred maintenance of Multics to the University of Calgary, which set up a separate corporation called ACTC Technologies Inc. to do this. (ACTC was renamed Perigon Systems Inc.) ACTC had its own Multics system, and at one time said it "intends to be the last Multics machine running."

[David Schroth] Perigon Solutions was acquired by CGI Group Inc. subsidiary CGI Information Systems and Management Consultants Inc. in September 1998. CGI continued to operate a dual 8/70M in Calgary. Formal support was no longer offered to the Multics community. CGI shut down its Multics on July 7, 2000.

9.10. DOCKMASTER Shutdown (03/98)

The US National Security Agency's DOCKMASTER machine was shut down in March, 1998, after repeated extensions. The hardware from this site, except for the hard drives, was given to the National Cryptologic Museum, which in turn loaned it permanently to the Computer Museum History Center in Mountain View, California.

9.11. The Last Site (10/00)

[Jim Corey] The last Multics system running, the Canadian Department of National Defence Multics site in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, shut down October 30, 2000 at 17:08Z. This system was modified to be Y2K compliant and was the main production system until Sept/00.