Open-source history: See Multics source code

The inner workings of a seminal operating system now are on display. Anyone have an emulator handy?

In a move more likely to appeal to technology historians than coders, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has published the source code of Multics (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service), a precursor to the Unix operating system begun as a research project at the university in 1965.

The code is hosted on MIT's Multics Web site. MIT, General Electric, and Bell Labs worked to commercialize it, but Bell--originator of the more influential and still widely used Unix operating system--dropped out in 1969. Honeywell took over GE's computer business, and Honeywell became Bull, which donated the source code at the site, MIT said.

News of the donation was posted Friday at the Multicians site. Bernard Nivelet, a retired Bull director for strategy, engineering, and sales, led the initiative to post the code.

MIT stopped researching Multics in the late 1970s, Bull stopped developing it in 1985, and the last Multics machine was shut down in 2000, MIT said.

Unless you have a Honeywell mainframe handy, it'll be hard to do anything useful with the code. Perhaps some enterprising programmer will write an emulator?

(Via OSNews.)

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About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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