Modern Operating Systems by Herbert Bos ...
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Modern Operating Systems by Herbert Bos and Andrew...
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Modern Operating Systems by Herbert...
Modern_Operating_Systems_by_Herbert_Bos_and_Andrew_S._Tanenbaum_4th_Ed.pdf-M ODERN O PERATING S YSTEMS
Page 44
SEC. 1.2
of simultaneous timesharing users. Their model was the electricity system—when
you need electric power, you just stick a plug in the wall, and within reason, as
much power as you need will be there. The designers of this system, known as
MULTiplexed Information and Computing Service
), envisioned
one huge machine providing computing power for everyone in the Boston area.
The idea that machines 10,000 times faster than their GE-645 mainframe would be
sold (for well under $1000) by the millions only 40 years later was pure science
fiction. Sort of like the idea of supersonic trans-Atlantic undersea trains now.
MULTICS was a mixed success.
It was designed to support hundreds of users
on a machine only slightly more powerful than an Intel 386-based PC, although it
had much more I/O capacity. This is not quite as crazy as it sounds, since in those
days people knew how to write small, efficient programs, a skill that has subse-
quently been completely lost. There were many reasons that MULTICS did not
take over the world, not the least of which is that it was written in the PL/I pro-
gramming language, and the PL/I compiler was years late and barely worked at all
when it finally arrived. In addition, MULTICS was enormously ambitious for its
time, much like Charles Babbage’s analytical engine in the nineteenth century.
To make a long story short, MULTICS introduced many seminal ideas into the
computer literature, but turning it into a serious product and a major commercial
success was a lot harder than anyone had expected. Bell Labs dropped out of the
project, and General Electric quit the computer business altogether. However,
M.I.T. persisted and eventually got MULTICS working. It was ultimately sold as a
commercial product by the company (Honeywell) that bought GE’s computer busi-
ness and was installed by about 80 major companies and universities worldwide.
While their numbers were small, MULTICS users were fiercely loyal. General
Motors, Ford, and the U.S. National Security Agency, for example, shut down their
MULTICS systems only in the late 1990s, 30 years after MULTICS was released,
after years of trying to get Honeywell to update the hardware.
By the end of the 20th century, the concept of a computer utility had fizzled
out, but it may well come back in the form of
cloud computing
, in which rel-
atively small computers (including smartphones, tablets, and the like) are con-
nected to servers in vast and distant data centers where all the computing is done,
with the local computer just handling the user interface. The motivation here is
that most people do not want to administrate an increasingly complex and finicky
computer system and would prefer to have that work done by a team of profession-
als, for example, people working for the company running the data center.
merce is already evolving in this direction, with various companies running emails
on multiprocessor servers to which simple client machines connect, very much in
the spirit of the MULTICS design.
Despite its lack of commercial success, MULTICS had a huge influence on
subsequent operating systems (especially UNIX and its derivatives, FreeBSD,
Linux, iOS, and Android).
It is described in several papers and a book (Corbato
´ et
al., 1972; Corbato
´ and Vyssotsky, 1965; Daley and Dennis, 1968; Organick, 1972;

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