[TUHS] VFS prior to 1984

Paul Ruizendaal pnr at planet.nl
Mon Jun 29 19:11:17 AEST 2020

Date: Wed, 24 Jun 2020 14:31:34 -0400 (EDT)
From: norman at oclsc.org (Norman Wilson)
> Reaching outside of UNIX, RSX/11 used external supervisor-mode processes called ACPs (ancillary control processes) to implement file systems. I don't know exactly how they were plugged in, but I do know they were pluggable, so their interface must have constituted a file-system switch of some sort. RSX dates back into the 1970s. At some point in the latter part of the 1980s, Ralph Stamerjohn (a name instantly recognizable in the 16-bit DEC software world) gave a DECUS talk about implementing a remote file system through ACPs: a stub ACP on the client exporting RPCs over the network, a real one at the server end. I remember chatting with him about how that did and didn't resemble the way pjw had done it; interesting architectural comparison.
> Norman Wilson Toronto ON

I am still digesting all the inputs (thanks, all!)

The above post made me realise that the delineation of what is a FSS/VFS or not, is not so easy.

I did a little bit of reading, and the concept of an ACP arrived with RSX11D in May 1973, but only matured in RSX11M in November 1974. As I understand it, originally in RSX11 file system code was closely tied to the low-level device driver for each device. ACP’s separated the file system code from the device driver itself, and became separate processes.

In essence there were two switches: one switch into abstract devices, implemented in ACP code and one kernel switch to deal with hardware interfacing. The first is indeed like a file system switch (although still tied to specific devices).

Looking at this stuff made me realise that my retro machine of choice (the TI990) went through a similar evolution. In the early seventies it had a sort of abstract device switch that linked to individual ‘device service routines’ (drivers). Initially, these modelled batch oriented ‘logical units’ that tied to files at the job control level. Later (late 70’s), the ‘open’ command would carry a file name and the file system was delegated to the device service routine. Still later (say 1983) this was used for networked disks.

As several people have observed in this topic, indeed there appears to be a close relationship between a device switch and a file system switch.

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