[its-hackers] "ITS" pronunciation

Ken Harrenstien iceklh at gmail.com
Tue Sep 14 18:13:41 CEST 2021


I always felt there were two distinct (and dare I say,
often incompatible) communities using ITS.  You
had AI/ML (then AI/ML/MC) as the main trunk
and then there was this weird mutation called DM.
Perhaps the two cultures also had different ways of
saying ITS.

I always spelled it out as I-T-S myself.  But I don't
actually know how anyone else pronounced it.

--Ken

On Tue, Sep 14, 2021 at 8:56 AM Jack Haverty <jack at 3kitty.org> wrote:

> Curious....    I don't remember any pronunciation other than "its" being
> used at all.   Never "eye-tee-ess".
>
> My experience is from the period 1970-1977.   I joined the DM group in
> early 1970.  By then, ITS had been running for a while on the AI and DM
> machines, both PDP-6s and 10s.  But our DM machine was in its early
> stages - no disks or paging or swapping or much memory yet, and both
> hardware and software were ... "unreliable" is a nice way to put it.
> But still a lot better than waiting for your deck of punch cards to get
> processed at the Comp Center.
>
> When you went to a console and hit ^Z, you'd get back, if the karma was
> right, "ITS xxxx in operation".   Or "ITS being debugged" if someone was
> up on the 9th floor running the system standalone.
>
> I recall asking what "its" meant and hearing the plausible story that it
> represented a play on words as a competitor to the "official" MIT
> timesharing utility - CTSS, the Compatible Time Sharing System.  ITS was
> created as the "Incompatible Time Sharing system".
>
> Another explanation was due to the flakiness of computers in those
> days.   On entering the building the typical question was "How's the
> system?"  The answer: "It's down" or "It's up".  Sometimes "It's still
> down" or "It's down again".  So the name became ITS, and the phrase
> "Incompatible Time Sharing system" was then created to explain ITS as an
> acronym.
>
> Which really came first?  No idea then, no idea now.    But it was
> always "its".
>
> I also recall that there were a lot of acronyms in those days.  DEC was
> Digital Equipment Corporation, pronounced "Deck", not "Dess"  or "Dee
> Eee Cee".  IBM was International Business Machines pronounced "Eye Bee
> Emm", not "ib imm".   Sometimes called "Itsy Bitsy Machines".  CDC was
> Control Data Corporation, pronounced "Cee Dee Cee".   GE was General
> Electric, pronounced "Gee Eee", not "geh". Multics was Multiplexed
> Information and Computing Service (IIRC), pronounced "Mull Ticks", not
> "Emm You Ell Tee Eye Cee Ess".   MVS was something I can't remember, but
> always pronounced "Emm Vee Ess".   VM was "Vee Emm", not "Virtual
> Machine".   DOS was IBM's Disk Operating System, pronounced "Doss",
> maybe sometimes "Dee Oh Ess".  Microsoft didn't exist yet.
>
> I bet some linguist has studied such acronyms and their history. My gut
> feeling is that the common usage in a community where a term was used
> frequently tended to use the pronounciation with the fewest syllables,
> preferably sounding like a word.   So terms such as CDC or MVS never
> became words because there's no obvious choice of a word to go with
> those letters.   "Its" is slightly faster to speak than "Eye Tee Ess".
>
> So ITS was "its", at least during the early 70s.  That may have changed
> later as the system became more reliable.   IIRC.
>
> /Jack Haverty
> (MIT-DM 1970-1977)
>
> On 9/14/21 6:56 AM, Eric Swenson wrote:
> > We pronounced it eye-tee-ess.
> >
> > On 9/14/21, 1:00 AM, "its-hackers on behalf of Lars Brinkhoff" <
> its-hackers-bounces at its.victor.se on behalf of lars at nocrew.org> wrote:
> >
> >      Hello,
> >
> >      I'd like to ask people who were at MIT back in the day: How do you
> >      pronounce "ITS"?  Do you remember anyone saying it like the single-
> >      syllable word "its"?
> >
> >
> >
> >
>
>
>
>
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