Image of Computer Time-Sharing Computer Time-Sharing
Computer Time-Sharing

Figuring out how to allow multiple users to work with a single computer seemingly simultaneously was a major innovation in computing technology during the 1960s. In the 1950s, IBM and MIT established a partnership to develop a collaborative computing facility among several New England universities and colleges. Many MIT professors were eager to use the newly donated IBM computers because access to Whirlwind and TX-0 was so limited. Led by Professor Fernando Corbató, the Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS) debuted in 1961. Under the aegis of Project MAC (MIT’s famous computer project led during the 1960s by Robert Fano and J.C.R. Licklider), Corbató soon was leading the effort to develop Multics (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service). In his 2000 letter to the Multicians, he noted: “Multics became a paradigm for a comprehensive solution to a host of system problems that even today are not fully addressed in many systems. In no particular order, some of the key ideas I think of are: a hierarchical file system, system backup policies, rings and memory protection, symmetric multiprocessing, paging and memory management, dynamic linking, access control, and a full character set.”

Multics Manuals
A Solution to Computer Bottlenecks
MIT Science Reporter

WGBH and MIT 1963

photo: Michael Cardinali for MIT Museum

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  • This is so neat to see!!! I worked on Multics systems from 1978-1984 both as a student and as a developer. I also worked on the B2 security project for Multics. I still think it’s one of the best thought out systems to this day.

    Bonnie Braun
    7 Jan 11 at 11:30 pm
  • The paragraph of text on the web page:

    contains a serious factual error, namely, the sixth sentence should read:

    “Under the aegis of Project MAC (MIT’s famous computer project led by Robert M. Fano), …”, not “…led by J.C.R.Licklider), …”

    (Licklider who was then with the ARPA agency of the Department of Defense, however was responsible for the initial funding of Project MAC. A few years later when Licklider had returned to MIT, he did become a Director of Project MAC.)

    Fernando Corbato
    12 Nov 11 at 6:20 pm