MIT Logo
project mac 50 years



Thursday, May 29, 2014

Location: MIT Stata Center, Room 32-141


1:00PM            Welcoming Remarks (Daniela Rus/Howard Shrobe)                                               


1:10PM            Introduction (Peter Neumann)                                                                              


Bio: Peter G. Neumann (,
is Senior Principal Scientist in the Computer Science Lab at SRI International, where he has been since 1971, after 10 years at Bell Labs thoughout the 1960s (which included the Multics years).  He is currently PI of two DARPA projects (whose PM was originally Howie Shrobe).  A new paper for ICSA 2014 details the Multics-inspired CHERI system hardware design (Capability Hardware Enhanced RISC Instructions), in joint work with SRI and the University of Cambridge:


1:20PM            “Early Days, Project MAC, CTSS, and Multics” (Fernando Corbató)                       


Abstract: The computing climate and facilities at MIT in the early 1950's and 1960's will be briefly described.  This will be followed by a sketch of the events that led to the formation of Project MAC and the decision to embark on the Multics project.


Bio: Fernando J. Corbató, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at M.I.T., has achieved wide recognition for his pioneering work on the design and development of multiple-access computer systems. He was associated with the M.I.T. Computation Center from its organization in 1956 until 1966. In 1963 he was a founding member of Project MAC, the antecedent of CSAIL. An early version of the Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS) was first demonstrated in November 1961, at the M.I.T. Computation Center. In the fall of 1963, after further development, the system began daily operation at Project MAC.


2:05PM            BREAK


2:15PM            “SAFE: A New Foundation for Computer Safety and Security” (Andre DeHon)     


 At a time when computers are increasingly involved in all aspects of 
our lives, our computer systems are too easily 
broken or subverted.  The current state of affairs is, no doubt, 
unsurprising to Multicians who are painfully aware of the design 
and security compromises that went into the base design of today's 
mainstream systems.  The past 30 years has also brought 
vast changes in the availability and costs of computer hardware as well 
as significant advances in formal methods.  How do we 
exploit these advances to make computer systems worthy of the trust we 
are now placing in them?  We specifically take a clean-slate 
approach to computer architectures and system designs based on modern 
costs and threats.  We spend now cheap hardware to 
reduce or eliminate traditional security-performance tradeoffs and to 
provide stronger hardware safety and security interlocks that 
prevent gross security and safety violations even when there are bugs in
 the code.  We embrace well-known security principles of 
least and separate privileges and complete mediation of 
operations.  Our system revisits many pioneering Multics concepts 
gates between software components with different-privileges, small and 
verified system components, and formal information flow 
properties and guarantees.  
Project paper:     
 Andre DeHon received S.B., S.M., and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical 
Engineering and Computer Science from the 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1990, 1993, and 1996 
respectively.  From 1996 to 1999, Andre co-ran the BRASS 
group in the Computer Science Department at the University of California
 at Berkeley.  From 1999 to 2006, he was an Assistant 
Professor of Computer Science at the California Institute of Technology.
 In 2006 he joined the Electrical and Systems Engineering 
Department at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is now a Full 
Professor.  He is broadly interested in how we physically 
implement computations from substrates, including VLSI and molecular 
electronics, up through architecture, CAD, and programming 
models.  He places special emphasis on spatial programmable 
architectures (e.g. FPGAs) and interconnect design and 
Multics BIO:  Andre DeHon is a bastard child of the tail end of 
LISP Machine and Multics eras, having been a research assistant for 
Knight and a teaching assistant for Saltzer.  As a member of MIT's 
Student Information Processing Board (SIPB), he was part of the 
group that pushed Multics access to MIT students and was logged in 
during the decommissioning of MIT-Multics. So, while he never 
contributed to Multics, he was around in time to learn that there were 
computer systems that predated Unix and Windows and that 
did have a principled way to address safety and security.  He hopes
 the world is now ready for many of the Multics and LISPM ideas 
that were ahead of their time and have mostly been forgotten during the 
dark ages of mainstream Internet growth.


3:00PM            “Multics, The First 50 Years” (Michael Pandolfo)                                                    


Abstract: November 2015 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the 1965 Fall Joint Computer Conference at which the description of Multics was presented to the computer community. To mark this anniversary I have set for myself  three initiatives to mark the event. They are:

1. Write a follow-on book to Organic's text which will describe the second generation of Multics hardware and software;

2. Lobby to get a technical society to sponsor a Multics fifty year anniversary conference centered on the pioneering role Multics has vis-a-vis today's commercial operating systems;

3. Champion the completion of a Multics VM based on the current efforts to emulate the 6180/DPS-8/M.

I will be describing my approaches to and current status of these three initiatives.


Bio: After working on the data management and B2 certification projects at CISL, Michael moved to Stratus Computer where he designed and prototyped several PCBs in addition to writing firmware for other boards. At Banyan Systems Michael maintained their Unix System V kernel and implemented Intel APIC mediated multiprocessing on PC platforms. Most recently at EMC Michael supported tape library robotics and designed Linux drivers. Currently Michael has taken early retirement from EMC and is engaged in processor design utilizing FPGAs.




3:30PM            Panel Discussion and Audience Questions                                                             


Moderator: John Gintell

Fernando J. Corbató
Jerome H. Saltzer
Peter G. Neumann
Robert A. Freiburghouse

 John Gintell, S.B. MIT; M.S. Northeastern University. At Honeywell from
 '62-'67 he wrote a code-generator for a Fortran Compiler; then was 
project leader for another Fortran Compiler project; and then was a 
member of the System Planning group at Honeywell looking at OS evolution
 for several product lines. In late '66 attended an MIT Industrial 
Liaison symposium on Multics which led to joining the Multics project 
(after it had been cancelled and reinstated). Multician at Cambridge 
Information Systems laboratory (CISL) of GE/Honeywell '67-'86, initially
 worked on performance management tools and putting the linker in Ring 
0. Then was manager of the OS group at CISL; overall project manager for
 the MIT/Honeywell joint team for a few years;  the last five years as 
Manager of CISL. At Honeywell from '86-88 explored a possible Multics 
spinoff and was Manager of  the Opus Project (an attempt to build a new 
OS with Multics technology on a mini-computer).  Member of Corporate 
staff at Honeywell-Bull '89-'91 working on improved software technology 
and software development process. At Bull from '92-'94 was a Research 
group principal - key project was Scrutiny, a collaborative tool for 
Software Inspection. Independent consultant on Patent Infringement 
lawsuits (offense and defense) '95-'01. Now enjoying retirement - 
traveling, gardening, contra dancing and being a dance group organizer; 
thinking about Multics. Co-chair Cambridge GLBT Commission. Married to 
Robert Coren. 


4:30PM            Close (Paul Green)                                                                                                


Until 6:00PM    unstructured time to renew friendships