Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

We are sorry to see you leave - Beta is different and we value the time you took to try it out. Before you decide to go, please take a look at some value-adds for Beta and learn more about it. Thank you for reading Slashdot, and for making the site better!

50 Years Later, MIT Looks Back At AI and Networking Pioneer Project MAC

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the dome-heads dept.

AI 50

v3rgEz (125380) writes "Fifty years ago, a major project that ultimately seeded much of today's computer technology was created at MIT: Project MAC, and the Multics operating system initiative within the project. Daniel Dern interviews some of the key figures involved in the pioneering project, looking at how one laboratory helped spawn Ethernet, AI, and dozens of tech companies and other innovations that took ideas from the lab to the personal computer."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

This is a *LIE* (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47100535)

We all know the only reason we have computers and networks is space and NASA. Computers are just not useful for anything else on their own.

Re:This is a *LIE* (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47100571)

Dude, what the hell is your problem? You think that other people can't tell that it's the same person making all these troll first posts lambasting "Space Nutters" or lampooning the impact on popular technology ascribed to the space race? Your shtick might have been funny many months ago, but now it's just lame -- and hopefully it's just a shtick, not some kind of mental illness that drives you to post like this again and again.

Re:This is a *LIE* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47100875)

Well, if APK is any indication, I'm gonna go with "mental illness".

Re:This is a *LIE* (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47100905)

Yes, I'm lampooning the simplified world-view of the space fanbois. Computing, electronics and technology in general are complex subjects, and many, many kinds of people worked on many kinds of technologies for many reasons, even in countries without a manned space program. Imagine that.

The people that absurdly oversimplify history into NASA=technology deserve as much "lambasting" as my keyboard allows (and /.'s stupid 10 posts a day AC limit.)

And if a knowledge of history is a mental illness, then stop the world, I wanna get off.

Sometimes I also make AC posts that mimic a Space Nutter's talking points and guess what? I can get +5 insightful quite rapidly.

There is something deeply wrong about how geeks view reality. Witness the absurd claims about 3D printing, or the dead-serious faith that the species has to get off this rock!

Re:This is a *LIE* (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47101215)

Knowledge of history isn't a sign of mental illness at all, but an overwhelming urge to make others read your views on history even in discussions of another subject might be. The Slashdot submission did not claim any link between this technology and the space race, and the comments section could not have either since yours was the first post.

So, the other commenter's comparison of you to APK is apt. You are not educating anyone here on history, you are only making others concerned about your sanity.

Re:This is a *LIE* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47101247)

Who or what is an APK?

Re:This is a *LIE* (1)

Lotana (842533) | about 6 months ago | (#47103115)

It is the handle of a quite a prolific poster here. You can recognize his posts quite easily because of the lengths and massive amount of links.

Re:This is a *LIE* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47107661)

You could, yes, but only because you aren't filtering all my posts with APK HostsFile ProEngine++ XP

See how useful it is.

APK

Also, thanks for giving me all this fame

...apk

Re:This is a *LIE* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47101627)

Oh, and it's not "another subject" at all, it's very much about the history of computing. Which nutcases often claim we only have because of NASA.

http://science.slashdot.org/co... [slashdot.org]

Look at this alternative future people make up! Oh if it wasn't for space computers would NEVER have gotten smaller! Never mind all the people working on the technologies all had their own reasons! No! It's only because of space!

What bullshit. The technology boom of post WWII is what fueled the space race, not the other way around!

The more historically accurate information we get about how and why we got electronics and computers, the better.

If only ONE person realizes that computers already existed before Sputnik, my being insulted is worth it.

Re:This is a *LIE* (1)

jythie (914043) | about 6 months ago | (#47102053)

You can keep claiming your narrow alternative history all you like, does not make it any more accurate.

Re:This is a *LIE* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47102587)

Who is claiming as narrow alternative history? Me? Or the Space Nutters that think we only have computers today because a test pilot in rubber underwear *had* to float in the upper atmosphere??

Re:This is a *LIE* (2)

blue trane (110704) | about 6 months ago | (#47103037)

Biz saw no need for computers at first. Market of six, etc. Govt drove the industry with orders during the 50s and 60s. NASA was like 4% of GDP and represented a big part of the orders. Conservative short-sighted biz would have been content to wait for centuries before responding to a pure market signal for miniturization. So yes, NASA played a large role.

Re:This is a *LIE* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47103307)

Complete rubbish. International BUSINESS Machines.

For fuck's sake.

Re:This is a *LIE* (1)

kwbauer (1677400) | about 6 months ago | (#47104471)

Was quite happy making typewriters. Have you shown evidence that they were working on miniaturizing without government involvement. I think there were many factors involved in the technological advancements of the past 1/2 century or so and the space race (militarization and ICBMs included) did play a large role in that. Would we have gotten there without it? Probably. Would we have gotten there quicker or even as quickly? Probably not.

Re:This is a *LIE* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47104981)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I... [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F... [wikipedia.org]

You have to realize that back then, corporations did private research at their own expense. There's a reason why when you read stuff from back then it's all corporate logos and company PR. RCA, Raytheon, GE, Bell etc all these companies spent their own money.

(Eventually during the 70s and 80s, corporations got smarter, cheaper and greedier: they simply unloaded their R&D to piblic tax-funded universities and let people study at their own expense. Then these people can go beg for jobs from the same corporations who make money immediately from the university research, while the employee still has to pay back his student loans. But that's another story.)

Sure, corporations took money from NASA for the Apollo project. So what? By 1969, all the equipment used by Apollo was completely obsolete. Why? Because there was already a huge market for electronics and computers and people were eagerly developing technologies, not because of space, but because it's fun.

You really need to find a book called "Microelectronic packaging" by Sideris, it's a great time capsule for 1960s technology. It was astonishing what the impetus from WWII gave us, and how small the space race was overall.

http://www.amazon.com/Microele... [amazon.com]

Just the fact that the transistor was invented during corporate research to simplify underwater cable repeaters should remove any doubt about who invented what for what reasons.

As for IBM, what the hell exactly do you think tabulators were? Typewriters? Jesus christ.

Re:This is a *LIE* (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 6 months ago | (#47104651)

IBM happily took orders from the Nazi govt.

Project MAC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47100543)

So... Mac as in Apple Macintosh or MAC as in Media Access Control? Neither? Then why the fuck isn't it written in the fucking summary?

Re:Project MAC? (1)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about 6 months ago | (#47100679)

MIT Project MAC [wikipedia.org]

Re:Project MAC? (2)

mbone (558574) | about 6 months ago | (#47100723)

Machine Aided Computation.

It's the typical Cambridge (Mass) conceit that if it doesn't happened within 50 miles of Kendall Square (or Harvard Square, depending on your persuasion) it doesn't count, and if it does, you should know about it.

Re:Project MAC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47100923)

Yeah because bell labs and 3com are both in cambridge???

Re:Project MAC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47100733)

Because this MAC came first by years?

Anyone who knows anything about the history of computing knows what Project MAC was.

And Multics was the greatest OS ever.

Re:Project MAC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47100765)

I'm over 40 and this is the first time I've ever heard about this "Project MAC".

And I know about a shitload of computer history, from companies, software, CPUs, RAM, storage devices, interfaces, sockets, ports, etc.

Re:Project MAC? (2)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 6 months ago | (#47100913)

Youtube has many films from the era.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

Mr Corbato himself.

Re:Project MAC? (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 6 months ago | (#47101111)

The stuttering black and white film with audio dropouts reminds me of the Dharma Initiative orientation films from Lost.

Re:Project MAC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47101867)

I'm over 40 and this is the first time I've ever heard about this "Project MAC".

Is anyone ever really impressed when you flaunt your ignorance?

Re:Project MAC? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 6 months ago | (#47102075)

*shrug* I am under 40, never went to MIT or any of the other classic CS schools and I knew what this was. And when I do not recognize something, I google it.

Re:Project MAC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47107749)

And I know about a shitload of computer history, from companies, software, CPUs, RAM, storage devices, interfaces, sockets, ports, etc.

Why do I know you're one of the "Windows Experts" (read: completely computer illiterate)?

Re:Project MAC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47100821)

Multics, So great it no longer exists and few people if any have even heard of it.

Re:Project MAC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47101245)

because PR exposure is really the only way to measure the technical merits of an operating system

Re:Project MAC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47101945)

The parent topic was "WTF is Project MAC?", not "Is Project MAC a great technical achievement?".

Re:Project MAC? (2)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 6 months ago | (#47100899)

Then why was it called God's Chosen Operating System? Huh, smartass?

Re:Project MAC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47101639)

Then why was it called God's Chosen Operating System? Huh, smartass?

This, uh, thing [templeos.org] here is also purported to be God's own chosen operating system, but that doesn't mean a lot.

Re:Project MAC? (2)

chipschap (1444407) | about 6 months ago | (#47101473)

Multics was amazing for its time. Then Honeywell took it on as a commercial product and didn't know how to sell it, or more like their sales people were clueless and didn't want it competing against their own home-grown crappy operating system and hardware. So Multics died.

In the minicomputer era, Prime Computers (a competitor to DEC) built an operating system that they called a "mini" Multics, because it used the same security ring idea, but it wasn't a tenth as good.

And I do myself remember Project MAC as I was a student at MIT in those days.

Re:Project MAC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47100975)

:/

Multics is not Unix.... (2)

mbone (558574) | about 6 months ago | (#47100699)

Unix is not Multics (thus the name) and that is really all you need to know about Multics (except that a generation of MIT hackers cut their teeth in figuring out how to hack it).

You are Really a wanker (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47100861)

Oh GOSH it would be BLASPHEMY to QUESTION how OTHERS DO IT

---

Multics implemented a single level store for data access, discarding the clear distinction between files (called segments in Multics) and process memory. The memory of a process consisted solely of segments which were mapped into its address space. To read or write to them, the process simply used normal CPU instructions, and the operating system took care of making sure that all the modifications were saved to disk. In POSIX terminology, it was as if every file was mmap()ed; however, in Multics there was no concept of process memory, separate from the memory used to hold mapped-in files, as Unix has. All memory in the system was part of some segment, which appeared in the file system; this included the temporary scratch memory of the process, its kernel stack, etc.

---

REALLY you might want to pull your head out of the sand you might learn something

Re:You are Really a wanker (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47101065)

That's like the horror of Windows CE, except WinCE does it wrong. (Of course it does. Because, Microsoft.)

There's a small amount of non-volatile flash memory which is copied into RAM at boot. The active file system resides in RAM. Every file you create or modify is created or modified in RAM. It is not copied back to flash. Ever. In fact, most WinCE devices require a firmware update to change the built-in flash image. There is also usually a user-modifiable portion of flash memory as well, and it has specific ways of installing(!) things on boot.

This leads to at least two different boot processes. The "warm" boot process is basically just sleep/wake. The "cold" boot process can be a couple different things. On devices with just a "warm" and a "cold" boot process, the "cold" boot process is a power cycle. On devices with an additional "clean" boot process, the "cold" boot is hibernate/wake, while the "clean" boot process is a power cycle.

If the battery dies, you get a "cold" boot, in any event.

Anyone who has worked with Motorola/Symbol or Intermec barcode scanners knows this pain.

Re:You are Really a wanker (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47105373)

exactly! except that multics is nothing like that. the data isn't mapped into memory all at once since there was much much less actual memory in a machine back then.

Re:Multics is not Unix.... (3, Informative)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about 6 months ago | (#47100985)

Unix is not Multics and that is really all you need to know about Multics

There are many interesting aspects about Multics that deserve to be heard about if not studied. To name a few: the second-dimension access system or protection rings [wikipedia.org] via "ring brackets" that allowed a 'r', 'w' or 'x' access to a "segment"/file depending on the caller (user or daemon) own "running ring". Thus, a lower (higher privilege) ring program would extend its r&|x access via brackets to allow a user to enter that program (a "gate"). For instance the continuums [multicians.org] (now forums) were usually running in ring 3, while a simple user was in 4 (the core system was in 0). Multics had also convenient and powerful ACL [multicians.org] , accesses provided to user/group-project/login-mode. Using long names or short names for a file(segment)... Studying a bit of Multics helps to realize that most of OSes concepts were already invented ~50 years ago...

Re:Multics is not Unix.... (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 6 months ago | (#47103549)

Once you've been in computers long enough you realize that every 20 years the cycle repeats. From VMs, Thin Client, Fat Client, UI redesigns, etc.

The only thing that hasn't change is that Artificial Ignorance (A.I.) is still a complete and total joke.

Re:Multics is not Unix.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47103759)

The only thing that hasn't change is that Artificial Ignorance (A.I.) is still a complete and total joke.

Says the human with access to natural language search, games that recognize the people in the room, voice commanded computers, facial recognition on phones, and red light cameras that enforce the law. Keep scoffing, human. Just give up your control to the more competent AI who can parallel park without denting a fender or backing over a child.

Re:Multics is not Unix.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47104285)

About the parallel parking comment, I do wonder if something like this could happen: http://slashdot.org/story/14/05/27/1326219/the-flaw-lurking-in-every-deep-neural-net

Re:Multics is not Unix.... (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 6 months ago | (#47113809)

That is not intelligence; that is just a computer following a scripted set of instructions. There is no self awareness. No ability to haven an original thought / idea. To ask "What if?" or to ask "Why?"

Another /. poster already pointed this out, and one I completely agree with:

"The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald,

Republicans Attack the Economy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47100767)

Obama seeks to stabilise the economy and readies EO 10-289. Finally something is being done to put these rich capitalist evil men in their place and to raise the wages and living condtitions of the poor. Yes more could be done but this is a good start. This combined with comprehensive immigration reform legislation should put this country back on stable economic footing and make all of us prosperous again. Call Obama and support this directive and tell him to bash these wicked Republicans into submission.

"In the name of the general welfare, to protect the people's security, to achieve full equality and total stability, it is decreed for the duration of the national emergency that:

Point One. All workers, wage earners and employees of any kind whatsoever shall henceforth be attached to their jobs and shall not leave nor be dismissed nor change employment, under penalty of a term in jail. The penalty shall be determined by the Unification Board, such Board to be appointed by the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources. All persons reaching the age of twenty-one shall report to the Unification Board, which shall assign them to where, in its opinion, their services will best serve the interests of the nation.

Point Two. All industrial, commercial, manufacturing and business establishments of any nature whatsoever shall henceforth remain in operation, and the owners of such establishments shall not quit nor leave nor retire, nor close, sell or transfer their business, under penalty of the nationalization of their establishment and of any and all of their property.

Point Three. All patents and copyrights, pertaining to any devices, inventions, formulas, processes and works of any nature whatsoever, shall be turned over to the nation as a patriotic emergency gift by means of Gift Certificates to be signed voluntarily by the owners of all such patents and copyrights. The Unification Board shall then license the use of such patents and copyrights to all applicants, equally and without discrimination, for the purpose of eliminating monopolistic practices, discarding obsolete products and making the best available to the whole nation. No trademarks, brand names or copyrighted titles shall be used. Every formerly patented product shall be known by a new name and sold by all manufacturers under the same name, such name to be selected by the Unification Board. All private trademarks and brand names are hereby abolished.

Point Four. No new devices, inventions, products, or goods of any nature whatsoever, not now on the market, shall be produced, invented, manufactured or sold after the date of this directive. The Office of Patents and Copyrights is hereby suspended.

Point Five. Every establishment, concern, corporation or person engaged in production of any nature whatsoever shall henceforth produce the same amount of goods per year as it, they or he produced during the Basic Year, no more and no less. The year to be known as the Basic or Yardstick Year is to be the year ending on the date of this directive. Over or under production shall be fined, such fines to be determined by the Unification Board.

Point Six. Every person of any age, sex, class or income, shall henceforth spend the same amount of money on the purchase of goods per year as he or she spent during the Basic Year, no more and no less. Over or under purchasing shall be fined, such fines to be determined by the Unification Board.

Point Seven. All wages, prices, salaries, dividends, profits, interest rates and forms of income of any nature whatsoever, shall be frozen at their present figures, as of the date of this directive.

Point Eight. All cases arising from and rules not specifically provided for in this directive, shall be settled and determined by the Unification Board, whose decisions will be final."

You seem to have posted in the wrong thread. (2)

mmell (832646) | about 6 months ago | (#47100847)

You want the "forgot to take my meds this morning" thread.

Re:You seem to have posted in the wrong thread. (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 6 months ago | (#47101195)

Proof that reading Ayn Rand can literally ruin people.

Re:You seem to have posted in the wrong thread. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47104769)

What is? The GP or the GGP? Because you're wrong either way. The former is a weak-tea attempt at an insult, and the latter is merely the same sort of clumsy strawman I've seen you throw around.

Marvin Minsky (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47102171)

Now ever when I hear about Minsky or something which reminds me of him I have to think about this sentence from his Wikipedia page:

In November 2006, Minsky published The Emotion Machine, a book that critiques many popular theories of how human minds work and suggests alternative theories, often replacing simple ideas with more complex ones.

This is the core idea of all people working in symbolic AI. What a pity...

Re:Marvin Minsky (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 6 months ago | (#47103061)

Minsky's problem is that he just writes, doesn't program his ideas, which are a pretty good start: i.e., a society of minds or independent programs with different domains. The programs should communicate with each other and with the user through natural language, instead of arbitrary programmer-defined protocols.

I'm a (minor) Multician (1)

nani popoki (594111) | about 6 months ago | (#47107121)

My truename appears in the list of "Multicians". I still have my copy of The Design of the Multics Operating System.

One of the things that Multics did better than anything since was a feature called dynamic linking. In Multics, linking to a DLL was done via a symbolic reference resolved at runtime, rather than a reference to an ordinal (as in Windows). The Multics file system allowed you to have multiple names on the same file. The combination of those two features resulted in the ability to hot-plug DLLs. Here's how:
1. You have a program which wants to take a sine function. It's got a link to "fortran.lib:sin" (no, the Multics syntax for the entry point was different, but you get the idea).
2. The fortran guru decides he wants to upgrade the fortran library while your program is running.
3. When your program first invoked the sin() function, the symbolic link is resolved to the existing fortran.lib DLL and it's loaded into your pdd (process space).
4. The fortran guru adds the name "fortran.lib_bak" to the existing library file.
5. The fortran guru creates his library as "fortran.lib_new".
6. The fortran guru moves the name "fortran.lib" from the old library to the new one.
7. Immediately, user programs which have not already linked to the old DLL will now link to the new one as symbolic references are encountered and resolved.
8. The fortran guru removes the name "fortran.lib_new" from his new library, which has no effect except to free up that name for use in a future upgrade.
9. Eventually, all user programs which referenced the old library finish and the old library can be deleted. Everyone now uses the new library,

When I first learned about this, I thought is was really cool. 35 years later, I still do.

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?