Dartmouth Time Sharing System

Dartmouth Time Sharing System
Dartmouth Time-Sharing System
Company / developer Dartmouth College
Working state Historic
Available programming languages(s) Dartmouth BASIC, ALGOL 60, FORTRAN, COBOL, APL, DXPL, DYNAMO, GMAP, LISP, MIX, PL/I, SNOBOL
Supported platforms GE-200 series
Default user interface Command line interface
Official website DTSS reborn site

The Dartmouth Time-Sharing System, or DTSS for short, was the first large-scale time-sharing system to be implemented successfully. DTSS was inspired by a PDP-1-based time-sharing system at Bolt, Beranek and Newman. In 1962, John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz at Dartmouth College submitted a grant for the development of a new time-sharing system to NSF (funded in 1964).[1] Its implementation began in 1963 by a student team [2] under the direction of Kemeny and Kurtz with the aim of providing easy access to computing facilities for all members of the college.[3] On May 1, 1964 at 4 AM the system began operations with the simulataneous where it remained so until the end of 1999.[4][5] DTSS was originally implemented to run on a GE-200 series computer with a GE Datanet 30 as a terminal processor that also managed the 235. Later, DTSS was reimplemented on the GE 635,[1] still using the Datanet 30 for terminal control. The 635 version provided interactive time-sharing to up to nearly 300 simultaneous users in the 1970s, a very large number at the time.

Because of the educational aims, ease of use was a priority in DTSS design.

DTSS implemented the world's first Integrated Design Environment: a command-based system implementing the following commands.

  • NEW — to name and begin writing a program
  • OLD — to retrieve a previously named program
  • LIST — to display the current program
  • SAVE — to save the current program
  • RUN — to execute the current program

These commands were often believed to be part of the Dartmouth BASIC language by users but in fact they were part of the time sharing system and were also used when preparing ALGOL[6] or FORTRAN programs via the DTSS terminals.

Any line typed in by the user, and beginning with a line number, was added to the program, replacing any previously stored line with the same number; anything else was immediately compiled and executed. Lines which consisted solely of a line number weren't stored but did remove any previously stored line with the same number. This method of editing provided a simple and easy to use service that allowed large numbers of teleprinters as the terminal units for the Dartmouth Timesharing system.

By 1968 and into the mid-1970s, the nascent network included users at other schools and institutions around the East Coast (including Goddard College, Phillips Andover and the U.S. Naval Academy), connected with Teletype Model 33 machines and modems. The system allowed email-type messages to be passed between users and real-time chat via a precursor to the Unix talk program.

In 2000 a project to recreate the DTSS system on a simulator was undertaken and as a result DTSS is now available for Microsoft Windows systems and for the Apple Macintosh computer.[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b http://www.dartmouth.edu/comp/about/archive/history/timeline/1960s.html | Dartmouth Computing in the 1960s
  2. ^ Kemeny's Kids
  3. ^ http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/dartmouth/DTSS_descr_Oct64.pdf | DTSS user manual October 1964
  4. ^ http://dtss.dartmouth.edu/timeline.php |Dartmouth Time-Sharing System (DTSS) timeline.
  5. ^ http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/dartmouth/The_Dartmouth_Time-Sharing_System_1980.pdf | Description of DTSS circa 1977
  6. ^ http://dtss.dartmouth.edu/scans/ | Scans of original documentation and software
  7. ^ http://dtss.dartmouth.edu/ | DTSS reborn site

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