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MIT Releases the Source of MULTICS, Father of UNIX

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the linux's-dad's-dad dept.

Operating Systems 276

mlauzon writes "Extraordinary news for computer scientists and the Open Source community was announced over the weekend, as the source code of the MULTICS operating system (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service), the father of UNIX and all modern OSes, has finally been opened. Multics was an extremely influential early time-sharing operating system and introduced a large number of new concepts, including dynamic linking and a hierarchical file system. It was extremely powerful, and UNIX can in fact be considered to be a 'simplified' successor to MULTICS. The last running Multics installation was shut down on October 31, 2000. From now on, MULTICS can be downloaded from an official MIT site (it's the complete MR12.5 source dumped at CGI in Calgary in 2000, including the PL/1 compiler). Unfortunately you can't install this on any PC, as MULTICS requires dedicated hardware, and there's no operational computer system today that could run this OS. Nevertheless the software should be considered to be an outstanding source for computer research and scientists. It is not yet known if it will be possible to emulate the required hardware to run the OS."

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how long (3, Funny)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339117)

til I can run this under mame?

MESS (4, Informative)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339551)

It's MESS [mess.org] you're thinking of, not MAME.

YO YO YO (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21339133)

Where da WHITE WOMEN at?

1st Post Biatch!

Didn't you get the memo? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21339387)

No niggers on Slashdot.

Re:Didn't you get the memo? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21339729)

Yeah, fuck a nigger.

http://k-k-k.com/ [k-k-k.com]

Too Complicated to Run? (1, Interesting)

Apple Acolyte (517892) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339137)

Anyone know what makes the OS too complicated to run on today's most sophisticated hardware?

Re:Too Complicated to Run? (1)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339193)

Sounds like it requires some specialized hardware. I think the point was more that you can't just drop it onto a current system and expect it to run. I'm sure if you stubbed out the parts requiring the special hardware and replaced them with software implementations you could probably get it to work, but that would require some effort in essentially updating the OS. Perhaps we'll see a MULTICS Modern release before too long.

Re:Too Complicated to Run? (4, Insightful)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339265)

It seems something to do with the way they implemented dynamic linking. Each executable/data page could be shared between multiple processes, with each process having a different set of permissions on that page. On current systems, the permission codes would be associated with that executable/data page, not the process itself.

Multics - Novel Ideas [wikipedia.org]

Re:Too Complicated to Run? (2, Interesting)

EvanED (569694) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339539)

What? That's not my understanding of how things work. Each process gets its own page table, which means separate permissions, no?

Re: Too Complicated to Run? (1)

Dolda2000 (759023) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340027)

I can't verify if there is any other argument, but what you are describing is definitely not true. In current Unices, mmap can map the same file with different permissions from process to process.

If anything, I would guess that a large part of MULTICS is simply written in assembler which makes it hard to port, but I doubt it. I don't really know that much about MULTICS, but I've gotten the idea that PL/1 is to MULTICS as C is to Unix.

Re:Too Complicated to Run? (5, Insightful)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340343)

It seems something to do with the way they implemented dynamic linking. Each executable/data page could be shared between multiple processes, with each process having a different set of permissions on that page. On current systems, the permission codes would be associated with that executable/data page, not the process itself.

Its not an issue, modern hardware is so much faster than the hardware of the MULTICS era an interpreter can emulate the processor and the memory management in one go.

A bigger issue would probably be the 36 bit word but even that is just an efficiency issue. Memory is cheap and MULTICS era machines did not have many Mb.

The bigger question is why go to the trouble. The answer is prior art. MULTICS has been mined as prior art in patent disputes for decades. If its in MULTICS its out of patent.

Re:Too Complicated to Run? (4, Informative)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339275)

Pretty much the same thing that makes ZX Spectrum software "too complicatded" to run under today's most sophisticated hardware. i.e. it's not meant for that hardware and therefore won't run. Unless you write an emulator first (like one was written for the Spectrum) and run a binary image of the software on that.

But then we need to find a binary image of the software and we only have the source. Is this a chicken and egg problem ? :)

Re:Too Complicated to Run? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21339341)

No, they gave us the compiler that creates the binary from the source.

Re:Too Complicated to Run? (4, Insightful)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339771)

But what does the compiler run on? It's still a bootstrapping problem unless the PL1 compiler runs on an available architecture.

Re:Too Complicated to Run? (2, Insightful)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339783)

Presumably if someone knew enough about the hardware to write an emulator, they could easily write a modern compiler for whatever language the source is in..

Re:Too Complicated to Run? (2, Informative)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340017)

It's PL/I, which is actually a fairly established, if old, language. Ye olde CP/M (including Atari's TOS and DR's GEM windowing system) is written in a subset called PL/M. I seriously doubt there'll be a problem finding a PL/I compiler.

Re:Too Complicated to Run? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21340259)

There's even someone working on a GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) frontend for PL/1. http://pl1gcc.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

Re:Too Complicated to Run? (1)

Urusai (865560) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340307)

The bigger issue is finding someone willing and able to program in PL/I.

Re:Too Complicated to Run? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21339505)

Nothing is impossible, but little things like 36bit words (not 32bit) are going to slow you down.

Re:Too Complicated to Run? (1)

eggnoglatte (1047660) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339797)

Who said it was "too complicated"? TFA just said "dedicated hardware", i.e. different.

One issue was that Multics was running on hardware that didn't have bytes but 36 bit words [wikipedia.org] . Since performance was critical with the low compute power of the day, somebody somewhere is bound to have relied on sepcific bit trickery that assumes exactly that word size. Moreover, I would gess that certain performance critical of the OS parts were written in assembly to begin with, and obviously there is no special hardware out there today that has the same machine language.

Re:Too Complicated to Run? (4, Interesting)

suitti (447395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339811)

Multics requires hardware support for it's security model, probably the dynamic linking, etc.

Certainly, a Multics machine emulator could be written. Such an emulator would run circles around the original hardware. Multics was not written in an era of gigabytes of RAM. So, a Multics emulator could keep an entire emulated machine in RAM on a pocket computer today, like a $99 Palm. Such an emulator might not be hard to write.

Re:Too Complicated to Run? (1, Informative)

Akaihiryuu (786040) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339869)

It sounds like it was written for the hardware of a particular series of mainframes and will not compile on anything else. The further back you go, the less abstraction there was, and the more code was written "to the bare metal" so to speak. Give it a week, then there will be a Slashdot article: "Multics ported to i386". There is NO reason that it can't be ported to any architecture, given enough interest. Someone will port it, just because they can.

Will the OSS & CSS Community Borrow More From (1)

mlauzon (818714) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339153)

Well, one thing I wonder if there is useful stuff that is in MULTICS that the Linux community will look at and try to port into their OS..?! Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if other OS companies -- OSS or CSS -- will be looking at the source code to see what may be portable as we speak.

Re:Will the OSS & CSS Community Borrow More Fr (4, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339219)

Well, one thing I wonder if there is useful stuff that is in MULTICS that the Linux community will look at and try to port into their OS

While the source code of MULTICS hasn't been Free until now, the internals of the system were well-known. MIT even published a technical introduction [amazon.com] . The Free Software community has already realized all of what made MULTICS useful in its own projects, and this opening up of the code, far from revealing something useful to today's hobbyists, is really just for historical study.

Father of Unix? (4, Funny)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339317)

How can MULTICS be called the Father Of Unix? Sure, Multics brought some interesting ideas to the party and qualifies for "Unix's Crazy Uncle MULTICS", but a close genetic connection is hard to see.

Re:Father of Unix? (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339507)

Besides, I thought God's Chosen Operating System was the "father of all modern OSes". After all, there's a GCOS field in /etc/passwd.

Re:Father of Unix? (3, Informative)

steve54 (1188475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340159)

Ken Thompson & Dennis Richie worked on MULTICS (MIT and Bell Labs were both involved in the project). After Bell Labs dropped out of the project, Ken & Dennis created Unix partly as an effort to reproduce the good stuff they were missing.
MULTICS and GCOS both ran on variations of the same hardware (The G in GCOS used to be GE as in General Electric -- Honeywell kept the acronym when they bought GE's computer operation).
The GCOS field in /etc/passwd was to support a batch job submission subsystem. This field connected your Unix account and your GCOS account.
The MULTICS is not an acronym but the gag acronym I heard was Many Unbelievably Large Tables In Core Simultaneously (that's what I heard -- http://www.multicians.org/multics-humor.html [multicians.org] has it as Many Unnecessary Long Tables In Core Simultaneously).

Re:Father of Unix? (1)

UserGoogol (623581) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340173)

Well, the name Unix is a pun on Multics. Puns count as genetic, right?

emulators? (2, Interesting)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339163)

Unfortunately you can't install this on any PC, as MULTICS requires dedicated hardware, and there's no operational computer system today that could run this OS.

Any chance of an emulator being developed that can run this? Are the hardware specs open?

Re:emulators? (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339213)

more likely, within a year we'll see the following article on /.:

MULTICS ported to run on standard x86 hardware

Re:emulators? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21339289)

I imaginet one of the machines in the simh simulator can run this...

Re:emulators? (1)

Jeppe Salvesen (101622) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339517)

All computers can emulate all computers. The big question is how efficiently.. Anyhow, I bet a very poor hardware emulation layer will make Multics fly compare to that multi-million dollar hardware it ran on back in the days when I was not even conceived.

Re:emulators? (0)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339705)

I bet you $1,000,000 you can't emulate my MacBook Pro on my Palm Z22. I'll make it easy for you - you can make your emulation as inefficient as you like.

Re:emulators? (1, Informative)

eyrieowl (881195) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339957)

Can I have the $1,000,000 if I simply show you I can without doing it? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Turing_machine [wikipedia.org] I prefer check, but I'll also take cash or wire-transfer.

Re:emulators? (2, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339975)

Can I assume an arbitrary amount of storage? If so, Alan Turing [wikipedia.org] would take that bet.

Re:emulators? (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340015)

He didn't say it was feasible or easy to write one, just that any computer (or really, any processor - space and RAM limitations have to be considered) can emulate another. That is mostly true. If one felt so inclined, your Macbook could be emulated by a Z80 based machine (Gameboy, Timex Sinclair, etc) if it had enough RAM at it's disposal (it'd need some tricks to address that much, but it can be done), and enough storage space to store the emulator.

As I said though, that doesn't make it really feasible or easy though. I can also say that any password can be cracked through a brute force approach (a true statement), but that doesn't mean it's feasible for me to start cracking at one using that method to prove it can be done - it's going to take to long and be an ultimately futile task. Easier to just use mathematics to investiagate it rather than require a working example (which is the only real way to go about it anyways - if I wrote a Macbook Pro emulator for a Palm Z22, all that proves is that it's possible to write a Macbook Pro emulator for a Palm Z22. Proving that any processor can emulate any other can only be done mathematically :)).

Re:emulators? (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340075)

I bet you $1,000,000 you can't emulate my MacBook Pro on my Palm Z22. I'll make it easy for you - you can make your emulation as inefficient as you like.

Why on earth wouldn't you be able to emulate x86(-64) on ARM?

I think you owe the Qemu guys some money: http://fabrice.bellard.free.fr/qemu/status.html [bellard.free.fr]

Well.... (1)

graviplana (1160181) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339173)

I, for one, welcome our Ancient MULTICS, Father of UNIX, Overlord. :)

Emulating the Hardware (4, Insightful)

Unoti (731964) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339187)

It is not yet known if it will be possible to emulate the required hardware to run the OS.

Surely it's possible, it just may not be much fun or very practical. Unless perhaps that old hardware has some black boxes that talk to spirits or do other magic things.

Re:Emulating the Hardware (4, Funny)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339221)

Surely it's possible, it just may not be much fun or very practical. Unless perhaps that old hardware has some black boxes that talk to spirits or do other magic things.

Maybe it had a more magic switch [catb.org] ?

Re:Emulating the Hardware (5, Insightful)

Cheesey (70139) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339319)

It is not yet known if it will be possible to emulate the required hardware to run the OS.

Run away! They're using reverse psychology!

"Let's tell the nerds that they can't run MULTICS on simulated hardware, and see how long it takes them to do it!"

Re:Emulating the Hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21340227)

Where is Doug Zwick when you need him!

PS I know where he is - but I'm not telling!

I'm always happy to see something opened, but... (1)

Facetious (710885) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339197)

...I fail to see the value in this aside from the rare enthusiast's curiosity or perhaps an academic archive. Am I missing something?

Re:I'm always happy to see something opened, but.. (4, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339433)

It might be interesting to see how many of Microsoft's 235 patents are in there as prior art - that is, if they'd tell us which 235 patents they mean.

Re:I'm always happy to see something opened, but.. (2, Insightful)

0racle (667029) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339481)

Yes you are missing something. The 'value' you put in something is pretty meaningless to everyone else and historical interest is a value if you are interested.

Re:I'm always happy to see something opened, but.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21339503)

Fucking fucktard idiot. Most people have a life, you should get one too.

Re:I'm always happy to see something opened, but.. (2, Funny)

justkeeper (1139245) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339929)

To see the wisdom of ancient masters...

oh good (5, Funny)

colourmyeyes (1028804) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339201)

Now we can comb the source to find all the places where Linux has stolen from MULTICS too. Give SCO a call, they can help out.

Re:oh good (3, Funny)

Etrias (1121031) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339347)

Que the Empire references.

"No Darl, (MULTICS breathing) I am your father."

"No...that's not true. That's impossible!"

"Search your feelings. You know it to be true."

"Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"

Re:oh good (1)

weeboo0104 (644849) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339603)

I'll up you a ROTS reference...

"Where is...SCO?"

"It's dead Darl, you killed it."

"Noooooooooooooooooooo!"

(The emporer laughs wildly)

Imagine... (5, Funny)

Unoti (731964) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339233)

A beowulf cluster of these bad boys running on emulated hardware running COBOL.NET applications under Mono!

Re:Imagine... (1)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339371)

Imagine a beowulf cluster of these bad boys running on emulated hardware running COBOL.NET applications under Mono!
Gah! Now you've done it! Already some poor government contractor is being asked to implement just that very system. You should never describe a system so completely absurd that no one in their right mind would implement it, because when you do some government organization rushes out to implement it. Please, won't someone think of the contractors?

Re:Imagine... (2, Informative)

BobNET (119675) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339545)

Already some poor government contractor is being asked to implement just that very system.

If they're a government contractor, I'm sure they're anything but poor...

Re:Imagine... (1)

djh101010 (656795) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339753)

Already some poor government contractor is being asked to implement just that very system.

If they're a government contractor, I'm sure they're anything but poor...

I find your ideas intriguing and would like to subscribe to your newsletter. So are you saying that gummint jobs pay better than your average conslutancy gig?

Like it won't happen soon. (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339235)

"It is not yet known if it will be possible to emulate the required hardware to run the OS"

Currently taking bids on how long it will take.

Hey Microsoft! Read the source and weep... (5, Informative)

toby (759) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339251)


Btw, it's "Multics" not "MULTICS".

Probably the best source for Multics-related information is this site. [multicians.org]

Re:Hey Microsoft! Read the source and weep... (1)

ptbarnett (159784) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340147)

Btw, it's "Multics" not "MULTICS".

But as an acronym, it's easier to deride it as:

Many Unusually Large Tables In Core Simultaneously.

It is MULTICS (1)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340235)

or at least when a Real Programmer (http://www.sorehands.com/humor/real1.htm) says it. Real Programmers speak in uppercase.

quickly reading the headline (4, Funny)

xrayspx (13127) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339261)

I thought they'd released the source code for Ken Thompson. Neat trick.

Step 2... (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339299)

Now all we need is some hardware...

Mother of Unix? (1)

z-j-y (1056250) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339311)

If this is the father of Unix, who is the mother?

Even though 99% of Unix geeks are men, it is still biologically incorrect to call it 'father'.

Re:Mother of Unix? (2, Funny)

nuzak (959558) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339345)

Ken Thompson, of course. Multics impregnated him with the ideas, he carried 'em to term and birthed 'em on a PDP-7.

Okay, I really don't want to continue this analogy.

May I suggest... (1)

saddino (183491) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339429)

How about "parent process" of UNIX?

Re:Mother of Unix? (2, Insightful)

Workaphobia (931620) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339465)

I can't tell if you were being sarcastic, or if that was a call for gender-neutral dialogue, but just in case: Women already have "Motherboard", "Mothership", "Daughter Cells", and personifications of cruise vessels; let the men have this one.

Re:Mother of Unix? (1)

dfn5 (524972) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339525)

Even though 99% of Unix geeks are men, it is still biologically incorrect to call it 'father'.
Not if you stop to consider that AT&T left the project because it was just too damn complicated and created the simpler Unix. So if Multics is the Father then AT&T is the estranged mother and Unix the bastard child.

MIT has been very active with open source of late (1)

mjasay (1141697) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339331)

It released its open-source Flickr application (Thalia) [cnet.com] and it's actively working on open sourcing other projects that it's working on. Now if we could just get the corporate world to be as liberal/free with its code as the academics....

Re:MIT has been very active with open source of la (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21340011)

Nice job spamming the URL to your offtopic blog posting.

you can't run it (5, Funny)

meta coder (752563) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339339)

Unfortunately you can't install this on any PC
it's seem like windows vista

innovation and performance (4, Interesting)

downix (84795) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339423)

I've never messed with a Multics system, but reading the code is facinating for me. Finding out about a dynamically changeable system, where you could plug in drives, CPU"s, and even RAM on the fly, amaazing stuff. In many ways, the design was more innovative than what we have today.

Well, duh (0, Flamebait)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339601)

Karma whoring, indeed ...
Had you compiled Linux in the past 5 years, you might have noticed that it can do just that on suitable hardware.

Re:innovation and performance (1)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339651)

Systems people don't joke when they say that everything has already been done by Multics!

Multics ran on the GE-600 series (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21339445)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GE-600_series [wikipedia.org]

The wiki article has links to the programmer's reference manual and the instruction timings. Another issue is the care and feeding of the peripherals. Even so, given the reference manuals, it is hard to see why it is difficult to build an emulator.

The entire computer industry learned how to build PCs from the IBM technical reference. It looks to me like the same kind of information is available for the GE-600. So ...

Re:Multics ran on the GE-600 series (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340139)

This directory [1.vg] might indicate someone's already started an emulator project. The time for ascention is now[-ish].

emacs (3, Interesting)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339475)

I miss emacs on Multics. My first word processor, I wrote a lot of papers using it. Even today I catch myself typing emacs commands that only existed on Multics emacs.

KISS (5, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339483)

UNIX can in fact be considered to be a 'simplified' successor to MULTICS.
Which is precisely why Unix matters and MULTICS doesn't. The simplifications in Unix are its most important contribution to the art of OS design. For example, we now take it for granted that the OS should implement a disk file as a simple byte stream, with bigger structures, such as records or indexes, being implemented on the application level. But when Unix appeared, that idea was novel and controversial.

The fact is, Unix was a fresh start, and a damned important one. Unix's creators' biggest accomplishment was clearing out all the feature crud and creating a simple model that has influenced computer science on many levels.

MULTICS, by contrast, was doomed by its own complexity. The fact that Unix was created from the ashes of Bell Labs' participation in the MULTICS project is just a historical accident.

The real legacy of Multics (5, Insightful)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339701)

Which is precisely why Unix matters and MULTICS doesn't. The simplifications in Unix are its most important contribution to the art of OS design. For example, we now take it for granted that the OS should implement a disk file as a simple byte stream, with bigger structures, such as records or indexes, being implemented on the application level. But when Unix appeared, that idea was novel and controversial.

The fact is, Unix was a fresh start, and a damned important one. Unix's creators' biggest accomplishment was clearing out all the feature crud and creating a simple model that has influenced computer science on many levels.

MULTICS, by contrast, was doomed by its own complexity. The fact that Unix was created from the ashes of Bell Labs' participation in the MULTICS project is just a historical accident.

I beg to differ.

At the time of Multics people were just figuring out what a computer should do in an interactive time-sharing environment. People had lots of ideas, and since Multics was, fundamentally, a research OS, they threw them in. Only with experience could they decide which were the good ideas and which were the bad ones. They couldn't know, in advance, which were the winners. They had to try them and see. That is the legacy of Multics.

...laura

Re:The real legacy of Multics (2, Interesting)

suitti (447395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340045)

If Unix gave us just what we need in an OS, then Version 7 Unix gave us an OS written in a way to ease porting to new hardware. We even booted Unix on Pr1me hardware. The bit that makes a pointer point to an even or odd byte is not the least significant bit in a Pr1me address.

Yeah, yeah, i know, other OS's have been ported. Windows and VMS on Alpha. CP/M on the 8086 and 680000. Mac OS on PPC. But Unix variants are everywhere.

Re:The real legacy of Multics (4, Informative)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340263)

Multics was, fundamentally, a research OS
Not true. Two of the three partners in the project were Bell Labs and GE. Bell Labs wanted an OS their researchers could actually use, and pulled out when they decided that the project wasn't going to come together in a useful time frame. GE's mainframe division wanted a new OS to differentiate their products from other mainframes, and went on to sell a small number of MULTICS-based systems. Or to be precise, Honeywell, Groupe Bull, and NEC, who owned the former GE mainframe division in turn, sold them. The last MULTICS-based commercial system was discontinued in 1987. Doesn't sound like a "research OS" to me.

Have a look at http://www.multicians.org/myths.html [multicians.org]

Re:KISS (2, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339913)

For example, we now take it for granted that the OS should implement a disk file as a simple byte stream


I would say, instead, that we take it for granted that the OS should provide access to a disk file as a simple byte stream. I don't think there is consensus at all that there is one true way to implement a disk file, or whether that is even necessarily the job of the OS, as such, rather than replaceable modules, different sets of which may be found in use with any particular instance of the same OS.

TAG IT ABOUTTIME (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21339501)

MIT thanks, finally...

Source? (2, Interesting)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339509)

(it's the complete MR12.5 source dumped at CGI in Calgary in 2000, including the PL/1 compiler)

Looking at random files, I see copyright notices dated 2006, so how can this be a dump from 2000?
See the bottom of http://web.mit.edu/multics-history/source/Multics/tools/install_volume_backup.ec [mit.edu] for example.

Mass commenting (4, Insightful)

Z-MaxX (712880) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339851)

That block comment appears in virtually every source file. It appears to have been added just for this release.

It ran on (1)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339555)

It ran on GE Model 645 hardware, a not particularly complex nor fast CPU. Maybe someone will whip up a bunch of macros to convert that language to X86 or even C. Shouldnt take more than a couple of weeks of hacking.

Multics has been ported to x86: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21339573)

It's called Linux. :-O

think outside the box... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21339609)

"there's no operational computer system today that could run this OS"

emulation, baby!

From the supernatural hardware dept. (5, Insightful)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339725)

> It is not yet known if it will be possible to emulate the required hardware to run the OS.

Turing disagrees.

Mod parent up (4, Informative)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339937)

For those of you who missed the reference, ding! [wikipedia.org]

only in use 35 years? Linux nearly halfway there! (1)

bball99 (232214) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339727)

interesting that Multics was presented in 1965 and that the last active installation was pulled in 2000...

Linux-based OSs are nearly halfway there... how long will Linux be in use?

so.... its not turing-equivalent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21339739)

what is it, some sort of fairy computer that runs on whipporwills?

Not "simplified" (4, Funny)

Blackeagle_Falcon (784253) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339809)

Calling Unix a "simplified" version of Multics ignores one of the greatest puns in computer history. The name Unix was chosen because it's a castrated version of Multics.

Re:Not "simplified" (1)

kevinbr (689680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340115)

"....castrated......."

and.....Multics for the Many, Unix for the One. I was waiting for you to point this out. Thanks.

tar (1)

martin_lovick (893349) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339833)

It would be nice to have a tar of the whole lot, theres a LOT of files in there

Obligatory comment.... (1)

killmofasta (460565) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339903)

Ken: Oh Crap. We wasted all that time rewriting it.
Dennis: Yea, I know. How about we get that ole PDP-7 out of the closit again,
Ken: Yea?
Dennis: and we can port Multics, and emulate the special hardware!
Ken: Yea?
Dennis: and have Multiple Multiple Multics!
Ken: Yea?
Dennis: And we can Profit!
Ken: Thats Silly, you've been reading slashdot again havent you.

Possible? (1)

bigdavex (155746) | more than 6 years ago | (#21339987)

It is not yet known if it will be possible to emulate the required hardware to run the OS.

Would they consider it cheating unless they use something more complex than a 2,3 Turing Machine?

very eloquently ; "LOL !" (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340029)

MULTICS requires dedicated hardware, and there's no operational computer system today that could run this OS
i assure you that just as of now there are more than one project for an emulator (even hardware) are on the works in the half-dark recesses of many college/private sector labs.

The special hardware exists on 386s and later (5, Informative)

davecb (6526) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340067)

There are two hard parts

  1. Rings and ring-crossings, which are supported in intel hardware since the 286/386 era, and
  2. Long words, longer than 32 bits.

Adresses and ints were 36 bits, longs were 72, and people used the 8th and 9th bits in in bytes for control and meta bits when manipulating raw terminal input.

Expect most of your problems will be with porting things like bit_offset_ entry (ptr) returns(fixed bin(24)) reducible

--dave (DRBrown.TSDC@HI-Multics.ARPA) c-b

My MULTICS experience (3, Interesting)

mihalis (28146) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340113)

(when I last saw the word MULTICS in a computer room, it was definitely spelt that way - maybe they were wrong then).

I started college at the University of Birmingham in Edgbaston (near Birmingham), England in 1986. They had a MULTICS installation and on my registration day the university computer club took those of us interested in it to a terminal room to show us the ropes.

The guy hit a key to get a login prompt. During the half-hour we were there the system did not manage to cough up even the prompt, so we got no demo. I never tried again.

Instead I got involved in the local programming going on in my department (Mechanical Engineering) and hence learned about Turbo Pascal on PCs and then Apollo workstations running their unix-like Domain OS - much better.

My final year project was an emulation of part of a mainframe/multics graphics library to the Apollo workstations so that the large deformation finite element analysis software they were developing could work entirely on the workstations, bypassing the central computing facilities entirely. They were already able to split jobs up and run work packets across multiple CPUs on the network. The combined computation performed by their workstation network was already outperforming their slice of the central mainframe. Before my project however they still had to transfer the output files over to the multics system so they could use the nice high speed plotters that the computer center had. With my project they could finally get nice large engineeering plots made locally.

If I recall correctly I provided a "GINO" emulation library that output large F/E plots as CAD symbol files which could be read by the "DOGS" CAD system they had. My memory is rusty on any more details than that. It was very cool to be involved in that, even if it was all in FORTRAN 77.

So I like to think I helped kill off Multics (if only infinitesimally).

"It is not yet know if the hardware can be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21340127)

emulated..."

Hmm. Let me see. The Multics system, ran on GE mainframes. So old, they predate a PDP-7.
I believe it ran on a GE-465. VERY WEIRD hardware. 36 bit. Seemed to have some thing about varible sized bytes of 6-bits for compatibility, and 9-bit bytes for emulation and a whole lotta weird stuff. VERY SECURE. And the box had a slit down the middle and could be opened up like a fridge...
( Im going to post this Anonymously so I dont show my age...:(

OPPS. Some was working on emulation:
http://stinet.dtic.mil/oai/oai?verb=getRecord&metadataPrefix=html&identifier=AD0787218 [dtic.mil]
So is this:
http://os.1.vg/projects/ge635/ [1.vg]

An emulator should be feasible (2, Interesting)

Jay Maynard (54798) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340151)

Hercules [hercules-390.org] shows that it's possible to emulate hardware that's quite different from the usual PC on a PC-class machine and get reasonable performance out of it. Assuming that the source on the MIT page is complete, it should be possible to work from there, along with whatever hardware docs are available, to emulate enough of the machine to get MULTICS running.

You don't have to emulate the entire machine in every last detail. You only have to emulate those pieces of it that the OS talks to. You can also get away with not emulating the error detection and reporting features of the architecture any more than is required to deal with normal operation; the emulator will not encounter a failing instruction, for example.

The biggest problem in getting it running is much more likely to be getting the software into a form the emulator can execute. There are binary images on the site; if those are enough to bootstrap your way into a running system, then the problem is manageable - you only have to create an emulated disk image that contains the files in the form that MULTICS expects to see. If you have to recreate things from source, you wind up having to build a cross-compiler - a much harder task.

I'd love to see it running. It's possible, but a lot of work. There does seem to be a dedicated MULTICS crowd on the net, and I won't be at all surprised to see them take on the job.
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