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Cio Blast From the Past: 40 Years of Multics, 1969-2009

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ACM 1990 A.M. Turing Award Winner Fernando J. Corbato

"We were convinced at the time we needed a higher-level language to program the bulk of the system to amplify the effectiveness of each programmer," Corbato says.


Four decades ago, Multiplexed Information and Computing Service (Multics), widely considered the basis of contemporary time-sharing systems, was first employed for information management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). MIT professor and ACM 1990 A.M. Turing Award winner Fernando J. Corbato led MIT's Multics project. He says the implementation of Multics was driven by the need for "a higher-level language to program the bulk of the system to amplify the effectiveness of each programmer."

"Multics was designed to be a general-purpose, time-sharing system so the focus was less on the novelty of the applications and more on the ease of developing and building applications and systems," Corbato says. He counts the Unix programming language to be Multics' most significant legacy, noting that both Multics and Unix exploited their hardware effectively.

Among the features used in modern computing that Corbato lists as being first developed or thought up with Multics are hierarchical file systems, file access controls, and dynamic linking on demand. "The real legacy of Multics was the education and inculcation of system engineering principles in over 1,400 people directly associated with operating, maintaining, extending, and managing the system during its lifetime," he says. "Because we made documentation and publications a mainstay of the project, countless others have also been influenced."

From CIO Australia
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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