[TUHS] PDP-10 in the news today

Nelson H. F. Beebe beebe at math.utah.edu
Wed Feb 1 07:17:16 AEST 2017

Nigel Williams <nw at retrocomputingtasmania.com> asks on the TUHS list today:

>> ...
>> Is it a reasonable claim that the PDP-10 made time-sharing "common"
>> (note it says "the machine")? I'm presuming that "common" should be
>> read as ubiquitous and accessible (as in lower-cost than
>> competing/alternative options from other manufacturers or even DEC).
>> I'm wondering if it was really the combination of the PDP-11
>> (lower-cost more models) and Unix ("free" license to universities)
>> that propelled time-sharing, at least at universities.
>> ...

I worked on the IBM ATS (Administrative Terminal System) for text
processing in the early 1970s, and for several years, on the CDC 6400
under both SCOPE and KRONOS operating systems.  Those were mainframe
environments, but users scattered around campus accessed them via
glass terminals, so that was certainly time sharing.

Later, for 12 years (1978--1990), I also worked on TOPS-20 on the
PDP-10, and that too was time sharing, with most users having a
terminal on their desks.  We also had PDP-11 and LSI-11 systems, but
they ran DEC proprietary operating systems, and were generally
dedicated to particular research hardware.

It was only in the early 1980s that my institution also began to run
Unix systems, initially Wollongong BSD on VAX 750s, and then in 1987,
with our first Sun workstations running SunOS.  Thus, for me at least,
Unix time sharing came a dozen years late (though it was still
welcome, and remains so today).

- Nelson H. F. Beebe                    Tel: +1 801 581 5254                  -
- University of Utah                    FAX: +1 801 581 4148                  -
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