[its-hackers] "ITS" pronunciation

Jack Haverty jack at 3kitty.org
Wed Sep 15 00:15:24 CEST 2021

The culture and language probably changed a bit over time.   I left in 
June 1977.   While I was there, two groups existed: LCS (Laboratory for 
Computer Science) and AI (MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab.   So 
everything that wasn't AI was a part of LCS, which itself was called 
"Project MAC" before it became LCS.   So, at least up to 1977 or so, DM 
was one part of LCS, along with the other groups that weren't AI.   If 
DM became separate from LCS, it happened after I left.  We also had some 
minor ties with ESL (Electronic Systems Labs) which was in old building 
20; that's where ARDSes came from.

I was contemporary in DM with MARC, TAA, PDL, MB, AV, MSS, MSB, AC, ALB, 
CLR, SWG, DC, SGP, PJ, RMM, AKB, RDB, GFP, SBP, LGP, BKD, and probably 
more I don't remember offhand, plus a bunch of students, usually 
identified as URxxx (UR stood for Undergraduate Research).    It would 
be interesting to hear how they remember "ITS" being pronounced.

Names changed over time.  Muddle became a non-approved name at one 
point, due to concerns that funding agencies in the government wouldn't 
be inclined to send money to researchers who were "muddling around".   
So, MDL appeared.  I don't recall ever hearing such concerns about ITS, 
but I would expect that an "Incompatible" time sharing system might also 
have raised eyebrows.   So maybe it became Eye-Tee-Ess with some other 
explanation for the "I"...

DM was on the second floor, but our PDP-10 was on the 9th floor with 
everything else (to be close to the "tenth floor" which was the 
aircondittioning equipment.   IIRC, Multics group was on the 5th floor, 
AI on the 8th and 9th; can't remember what other floors were part of LCS/AI.

In addition to Barbara Liskov and the CLU group, Prof. Mike Hammer and 
his crew also moved in at about the same time.

Everything above IIRC...it's been a long time.


On 9/14/21 1:42 PM, Eric Swenson wrote:
> When I said earlier that "we" pronounced it eye-tee-ess, what I should have clarified was to whom I was referring with the ambiguous "we".  I was a member of LCS.  We in that group, during the time that I was there (1976-1980), pronounced it that way. LCS was "right next to" the AI group, and I'm very sure that "they" pronounced it like "we" did.  Now, it is quite possible that the DM folks (several floors below LCS and AI groups) pronounced it "its", or maybe only back when Jack was there.  We could find out if it was a universal thing by asking folks like TAA, MARC, Barbara Liskov, and other DM folks who were there at the same time that I was at LCS.  But I never, in my four years being around the ITS systems, hear anyone refer to it as "its"!  -- Eric
> On 9/14/21, 11:15 AM, "its-hackers on behalf of Lars Brinkhoff" <its-hackers-bounces at its.victor.se on behalf of lars at nocrew.org> wrote:
>      Jack Haverty wrote:
>      > I don't remember any pronunciation other than "its" being used at
>      > all.   Never "eye-tee-ess".
>      Thanks, I think that's really interesting!  ITS (forced pun intended)
>      the operating system that keeps delivering juicy tidbits.
>      > 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".
>      I think it's fairly well established that Tom Knight invented this name.
>      In AI memos from early 1967, it's referred to as the generic "time-
>      sharing system", or just TS.  The first mention by name I have found is
>      in AI memo 146 from October that year: "PICPAC is a PDP-6 program to be
>      used for manipulating picures of real-world scenes. It operates under
>      ITS (Incompatible Time-Sharing System)".

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