[TUHS] Public access multics

arnold at skeeve.com arnold at skeeve.com
Mon Sep 3 16:18:54 AEST 2018

Was Algol 60 any kind of viable alternative at the time? IIRC
manufacturers in Europe were using it for systems programming.
(This is all before my time, so I could be wrong, which is why
I'm curious.)  In the US Burroughs used Algol, but that may have
been later than the mid-60s timeframe of Multics.



Doug McIlroy <doug at cs.dartmouth.edu> wrote:

> Caveat: As a member of the PL/I committee, and the person who brought
> the new and unimplemented language to the attention of Multics, let a
> disastrous contract for a compiler, and finally helped cobble together
> a rudimentary compiler that got the project off the ground, I am not
> exactly an unbiased observer.
> A ground tenet of Multics was that it would be programmed in a higher
> level language. A subsidiary requirement, which was generally agreed
> upon, was language-level access to the logical operators and address
> manipulation inherent in the hardware.  No widely used language of the
> time met this requirement.  And they didn't want to get sidetracked into
> language design.
> Discussions finally boiled down to AED, developed at MIT by Doug Ross, and
> PL/I. Ross was a brilliant software innovator with a mystical outlook that
> made it difficult to distinguish his vision of what could be done from
> what actually existed. AED was definitely a moving target. By contrast
> PL/I had a written spec, so you knew exactly what could be done in it,
> though not how well the compiler would do it.
> PL/I  was very big; we deliberately (and explicitly) omitted about
> half the spec. The remainder was definitely seen as a "plausible
> systems programming language".
> From the perspective of the time, why do you think the contrary?
> Doug

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