On Fri, Apr 8, 2022 at 1:30 AM Lars Brinkhoff <lars@nocrew.org> wrote:
Dan Cross wrote:
> Interesting quotes include Fano talking about different objectives
> from the different organizations, Corby saying, "they [Bell Labs]
> dropped out three-quarters of the way through the race" (referring to
> Multics), Fano asserting that BTL left after the _research_ part of
> the project was essentially completed

Multics was started in 1964 and first went online in 1967, although it
seems likely it wasn't exactly at the top of its game yet.  Bell Labs
pulled out in 1969.  If that was the 75% point, 100% would be around

In context, I don't think Corby's statement was meant to be taken literally, but rather he used it as more of a colloquialism. His point was that (at least in his perception) the bulk of the work had been done when BTL dropped out of the project.

Fano's statements are a bit overshadowed by Corby's here, but when he talked about each of the three participants in the Multics project at its outset working on one project but with different goals, he stated that his impression was that Bell Labs was interested in both the research products as well as a production system that they actually could use. In particular, they expected that the latter would be delivered on a specific timetable: when the research part basically wrapped and the system still wasn't production ready, they dropped out.

MIT started offering timesharing access on Multics in 1969. A second site at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, NY was operational by 1970. Honeywell announced the 6180 running Multics as a product in 1973; throughout the 70s things were tuned, cleaned up, and new subsystems introduced. The "New Storage System", which started in 1973 and was delivered to customers in 1976. I think it's fair to say that, by the mid-70s, Multics had fully transitioned from "research project" to "commercial system."

Bell Labs dropping out of Multics in 1969 was, of course, before Unix. This raises the question, what did Bell Labs use instead? I imagine 360s and either traditional batch processing or TSS or something?

Of course, by 1976, Unix was at 6th Edition and I can see why no one would want to go back to Multics (or being tied to a machine costing an order of magnitude more than a PDP-11). But one wonders what would have happened had Multics started accepting timesharing, say, 9 months earlier than it did.

It would be interesting to hear what it was like when Bell Labs withdrew from the Multics project. Does anyone have any stories? Perhaps Ken or Doug? Also, what was the relationship like with the MIT people after that? Corby et al seemed somewhat animated in insisting that Multics had been essential to the creation of Unix, almost as if that had not been sufficiently acknowledged; I imagine by the time this video was shot, they must have been feeling somewhat overshadowed by the success of Unix.

        - Dan C.