[its-hackers] 1967 ITS mentioned

Lars Brinkhoff lars at nocrew.org
Wed Aug 18 15:40:08 CEST 2021


I found this in a 1986 (2nd ed 1988) book called "The Tomorrow Makers",
by Grant Fjermedal.  I have send an email to Sussman's MIT address
asking about the Dead Sea Scroll...printout.

                               ~ ~ ~

  [Sussman] pulled out a printout that he handled as if it were an
  original Gutenberg bible.  It was the original code for the ITS
  operating system - the Incompatible Timesharing system.  It even
  seemed awesome to me.  Today we just accept the fact that a mainframe
  computer can be in the basement of a building and desktop terminals
  can be spread throughout a building, or throughout the world,
  providing anyone with a terminal, access to the computer.  It is hard
  to realize that as late as the 1960s this wasn't the case.  If you
  wanted computer time, you wrote your program, took it to the computer
  room, and had it run oftentimes by someone else, even if you wanted to
  do it yourself.

  It is a tribute to the modesty and especially to the irreverence of
  the early hackers that when they created the world's first timesharing
  system at MIT, they provided it with a name that was completely
  opposite from what it really was: the Incompatible Timesharing System.

  There was Gerry Sussman holding that half-inch printout, a blessed
  relic from 1967.  The machine has a Moby memory, and as if reciting
  from the opening words of the Great American novel, Sussman held the
  printout in his hands and said, "The first line of it is, Moby is
  One."  It was written as Moby = 1, but the way Sussman read it, there
  was the sound of poetry and philosophy, as existential a piece of
  haiku as I have ever heard: Moby is One.  "These days such an
  operating system would have maybe one hundred times as much code.  But
  this is what it was like then, filled with some very beautiful code -
  and some very ugly code.  Some of it is humorous, and some of it is
  sad.  Some of it had ideas in it that have been lost.  Some historian
  could go through it someday and read it the way people read the Dead
  Sea Scrolls and say, 'Aha, The guys who wrote this were real smart
  guys.  And some of the things they knew, we don't even know now.'"

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