[its-hackers] 1967 ITS mentioned

Lyle Bickley lbickley at bickleywest.com
Wed Aug 18 19:00:18 CEST 2021

Nice archaeology, Lars!

On Wed, 18 Aug 2021 13:40:08 +0000
Lars Brinkhoff <lars at nocrew.org> wrote:

> Hello,
> 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.'"

73   NM6Y
Bickley Consulting West

"Black holes are where God is dividing by zero"

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