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Time-Sharing at MIT Introduction Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129703D
Original Publication Date: 1992-Mar-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 4 page(s) / 22K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

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Copyright ©; 1992 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Time-Sharing at MIT Introduction


Time-sharing as an operating systems implementation methodology is, in many minds, synonymous with MIT and the names of Fernando Corbato and Robert Fano. Even though the technique existed and was implemented in pre1960 special-purpose systems, numerous other implementations arose in the late 1960s in conjunction with interactive computing, so it is almost inconceivable today for a vendor to deliver a mainframe computer system without some measure of time-sharing and interaction. CTSS and Project MAC are clearly identifiable pioneer efforts. In 1988, the Laboratory for Computer Science at MIT invited participants to a two-day symposium to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the laboratory. That celebration -- the MIT Computer Science Research Symposium, held October 26 and 27 at MIT's Kresge Auditorium -- took the form of an exemplary set of presentations on the future of computer science.

The activities of the laboratory in 25 years, since its inception as Project MAC by Robert Fano, have covered a wide variety of topics far broader than just time-sharing and interactive computing:

Computer-aided design Time-sharing Mathlab and Macsyma Artificial intelligence The development of editors (TECO, Runoff, Script) Lisp Theory Labware Parallel Computing Education The emergence of companies -- Prime Computer, SofTech, Thinking Machines, and many others Abstraction and specification

Building on the good fortune of having several participants in the early development of CTSS and Project MAC present in Cambridge, the Annals sought the cooperation of the laboratory through the good offices of Michael Dertouzos and Albert Meyer to record interviews with the attending pioneers. These interviews were transcribed by Kellie Ross of the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology, and edited by Robert F. Rosin and J.A.N. Lee. Each participant was also afforded the opportunity to edit his presentation, comment on the statements of others, and provide footnotes of further explanation. False starts, blind ends, and unfocused asides have been deleted from the transcript, and some minor reordering of the proceedings has been undertaken by the editors. The original audiotapes are in the possession of the MIT archives. Copies of these tapes and the original transcript, unedited (but one-pass corrected for accuracy), have been deposited with the Charles Babbage Institute of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

The interviews pointed to numerous supportive articles and reports that have documented the technological history of the development of both CTSS and Project MAC, as well as the subsequent design of the Multics system. We have attempted in this special issue of the Annal to supplement the interviews, which concentrated on the more human...