Incompatible Timesharing System

Incompatible Timesharing System

Infobox OS
name = Incompatible Timesharing System

caption =
developer = MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Project MAC
source_model =
kernel_type =
supported_platforms = PDP-6, PDP-10
ui =
family =
released =
latest_release_version =
latest_release_date =
latest_test_version =
latest_test_date =
marketing_target =
programmed_in = Assembly language
prog_language =
language = English
updatemodel =
package_manager =
working_state = Historic
license =
website =

ITS, the Incompatible Timesharing System (named in comparison with the Compatible Time-Sharing System also in use at MIT), was an early, revolutionary, and influential time-sharing operating system from MIT; it was developed principally by the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT, with some help from Project MAC.

In addition to being technically influential (both in the operating system itself, as well as applications developed on it), it was one of the projects most important in the original development of the hacker culture (as documented in Steven Levy's book "").


ITS development was initiated in the late 1960s by those (the majority of the MIT AI Lab at that time) who disagreed with the direction taken by Project MAC's Multics project (which had started in the mid 1960s), particularly such decisions as the inclusion of powerful system security. The name was chosen by Tom Knight as a hack on the earliest MIT time-sharing operating system, the Compatible Time-Sharing System, which dated from the early 1960s.

ITS was written in assembly, and initially developed for the Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-6 computer, and later moved to the PDP-10 once it became available, where it saw the majority of its development and use.

Although not used much after 1982 or so, ITS was run at MIT until 1990, and then until 1995 at the Stacken Computer Club in Sweden. A few instances are still running today for historical interest, almost all on simulated PDP-10's.

ignificant technical features of the OS itself

ITS introduced many revolutionary features:

*It had the first device-independent graphics terminal output; programs generated generic commands to control screen content, which the system automatically translated into the appropriate character sequences for the particular type of terminal operated by the user.
*A general mechanism for implementing virtual devices in software which ran in user processes (which were called "jobs" in ITS).
*Using this mechanism, it provided transparent inter-machine filesystem access (almost certainly the first operating system to do so). The ITS machines were all connected to the ARPAnet, and a user on one could perform the same operations on files on other ITS machines as on local files.
*Sophisticated process management; user processes were organized in a tree, and a superior process could control a large number of inferior processes. Any inferior process could be frozen at any point in its operation, and its state (including contents of the registers) examined; the process could then be restarted transparently.
*An advanced software interrupt facility that allowed user processes to operate asynchronously, using complex interrupt handling mechanisms.
*PCLSRing, a mechanism which provided what appeared (to user processes) to be quasi-atomic, safely interruptible system calls. No process could ever observe any process (including itself) in the middle of executing any system call.
*In support of the AI Lab's robotics work, ITS also supported simultaneous real-time and time-sharing operation.

Many of these, and numerous other significant advances, were later picked up by other operating systems.

Important applications developed on ITS

The EMACS ("Editor MACroS") editor was originally written on ITS; in its ITS instantiation, it was a collection of TECO programs (called "macros"). For later operating systems it was written in the common language of those systems. For example, the C language under Unix, and Zetalisp under the Lisp Machine system.

The GNU info help system was originally an EMACS subsystem, and then was later written as a complete standalone system for Unix-like machines.

Several important programming languages and systems were developed on ITS, including MacLisp (the precursor of Zetalisp and Common Lisp), Microplanner (implemented in MacLisp), MDL (which became the basis of Infocom's programming environment), and Scheme.

Among other significant and influential software subsystems which were developed on ITS, the Macsyma symbolic algebra system is probably the most important. Terry Winograd's pioneering SHRDLU program was also developed in ITS.

User environment

The environment seen by ITS users was philosophically significantly different from that provided by most operating systems at the time.

*Initially there were no passwords, and a user could work on ITS without even logging on. Logging on was considered polite, though, so people knew when you were connected.
*To deal with a rash of incidents where users sought out flaws in the system in order to crash it, a novel approach was taken. A command was implemented which anyone could run which caused the system to crash, which took away all the fun and challenge of doing so. It did, however, broadcast a message to say who was doing it.
*All files were editable by all users.
*All users could talk with instant messaging on another's terminal, or they could use a command (SHOUT) to ask all active users for help.
*Users could see what was happening on another's terminal (using a command called "OS" for "output spy"). The user being watched was informed, and could kill the viewer's session (using another command called "JEDGAR", named for FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover). This facility was later disabled in an interesting way: it looked like the session was killed, but was not. []
*Tourists - guest users either at MIT AI Lab terminals, or over the ARPAnet - were permitted. A policy was later published on tourist access. [] The local spelling "TURIST" is an artifact of six character filename (and other identifier) limitations, which is traceable to the fact that six SIXBIT encoded characters fit in a single 36-bit PDP-10 word. "TURIST" may also have been a pun on Alan TuringFact|date=March 2008.


Among numerous interesting features and oddities, the default ITS top-level command interpreter was the PDP-10 machine language debugger (DDT), whose commands looked like line noise to the uninitiated.

Its main editor for many years, TECO, was programmable in a similar-looking gibberish.

The Jargon File also started out life as a combined effort between people on the ITS machines at MIT, and at SAIL.

Original developers

* Richard Greenblatt
* Stewart Nelson
* Tom Knight


"See the annotated [ ITS bibliography] on the STS Wiki for a more detailed list of references."

*Eastlake, Donald E. (1969). " [ ITS Reference Manual, Version 1.5] ", (MIT AI Laboratory) documents a very early version of the system ("Warning: very large pdf- scanned page images")
*Eastlake, Donald E. (1972). " [ ITS Status Report] " (MIT AI Laboratory) documents a somewhat later, but still fairly early, version ("Warning, very large pdf- scanned page images")
* [ An Introduction to ITS for the MACSYMA User]
*Bawden, Alan (n.d.) " [ PCLSRing: Keeping Process State Modular] "
*Lin, Yuwei (2004). “ [ Epistemologically Multiple Actor-Centered Systems: or, EMACS At Work!] Ubiquity 5(1). (pdf file)
*Chiou, S; Music, C; Sprague, K; Wahba,R (2001). " [ A Marriage of Convenience: The Founding of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory] ." (pdf)
*Williams, S. (2002). " [ Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software.] " Petaluma, CA: O'Reilly.

External links

* [ ITS System Documentation]
* [ SV: A simulated ITS system running online and open for logins]
* [ file system images of various ITS machines, including source and documentation of the final system]
* [ Ken Harrenstien's PDP-10 simulator]
* [ instructions allowing ITS to run on a PDP-10 emulator.]
* [ Donald Fisk's ITS info]
* [ (Historical) Tourist access policy in ITS at MIT.]
* [ Jargon File Entry]

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См. также в других словарях:

  • Incompatible Timesharing System — Pour les articles homonymes, voir ITS. Traduction à relire …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Incompatible Timesharing System — Existen desacuerdos sobre la neutralidad en el punto de vista de la versión actual de este artículo o sección. En la página de discusión puedes consultar el debate al respecto. Incompatible Timesharing System o ITS (en español sistema de tiempo… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Incompatible Timesharing System — ITS, Incompatible Timesharing System (Sistema de Tiempo compartido Incompatible), fue uno de los primeros, revolucionario, e influyente sistema operativo de tiempo compartido desarrollado en el MIT; se desarrolló de principalmente en el… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Incompatible Timesharing System — Das Incompatible Timesharing System (ITS) ist ein von den Hackern am Labor für Künstliche Intelligenz des MIT geschriebenes freies Betriebssystem für die Rechner der PDP 10 Serie von DEC. Der Name ist ein Wortspiel auf CTSS. ITS wurde auf dem… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Compatible Time-Sharing System — Para otros usos de este término, véase Compatible Time Sharing System (desambiguación). Este artículo se refierel al proyecto del MIT MAC operating system. CTSS También puede referirse a Cray Time Sharing System, un sistema diferente desarrollado …   Wikipedia Español

  • Compatible Time-Sharing System — This article is about the MIT Computation Center operating system. CTSS may also stand for the Cray Time Sharing System, a separate system developed for Cray supercomputers. Compatible Time Sharing System Company / developer MIT s… …   Wikipedia

  • Compatible Time Sharing System — Cet article concerne le système d exploitation du Projet MAC au MIT. Pour un système distinct développé pour les superordinateurs Cray, voir Cray Time Sharing System. Pour celui développé pour les ordinateurs centraux IBM, voir Cambridge Time… …   Wikipédia en Français

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