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How did sites learn about and make the decision to use MTS?

A discussion to collect information about how the individual MTS sites first learned about and made the decision to run MTS.

Your recollections, documents, and other information are needed. Please contribute either directly or by sending e-mail to MTS-Comments@umich.edu.

x'12' (18). SYSCOR, ST Systems, and McGill University

posted Nov 28, 2012, 1:10 PM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Jun 7, 2014, 8:13 AM ]

From: Jeff Ogden
Subject: SYSCOR, the 12th MTS site?
Date: November 27, 2012 3:59:16 PM EST
To: mts-comments@umich.edu, Suzan Alexander, DLBodwin, Jim Bodwin

While looking for something else, I came across this item on page 13 of the June 1, 1987 issue of U-M Computing News (vol 2, No. 11):

Montreal Firm Is Twelfth MTS Site

SYSCOR, which provides computing services to two hos-
pitals in the Montreal area, has become the twelfth site to
run the Michigan Terminal System (MTS). The hospital
put MTS into production on an IBM 4381 central comput-
ing system. The other MTS sites are Durham University
and the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (Great Britain),
Wayne State University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,
Laboratorio de Computacao Cientifica (Brazil), Simon
Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, the
University of Alberta, the Hewlett-Packard Company, and
two sites at The University of Michigan: the Computing
Center and the Department of Human Genetics.

Is this likely the same as the following site that received D6.0 in 1988?

    McGill University Hospitals  D6.0 (1988)
              ATTN: Clifford Kuhl
              C/O ST Systems
              Southfield, MI

If they are the same, I sort of knew about them, but didn't really know if they ran MTS on a production basis. This makes it sort of sound like they did.

Anyone remember why they were running MTS?


And here is what the Michigan Terminal System article on Wikipedia says as of 27 November 2021:

INRIA, the French national institute for research in computer science and control in Grenoble, France ran MTS on a trial basis, as did the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, Southern Illinois University, the Naval Postgraduate School, Amdahl Corporation, ST Systems for McGill University Hospitals, Stanford University, and University of Illinois in the United States, and a few other sites.

Given the announcement from the U-M CC News from back in June 1987, it seems that ST Systems may have run MTS on more than a trial basis. And it seems likely that the name SYSCOR might be a better one to use.

On Nov 27, 2012, at 5:07 PM, Thomas Valerio wrote:

  This popped up in a google search:

General description

Created in 1982, Syscor is a non-profit corporation with more than 200
experts in ICTs. The company is the property of the McGill University
Health Centre (MUHC), and its mission is to manage IT operations at the
MUHC by supporting clinical activities, research and administration. In
addition, Syscor is responsible for the acquisition, integration and
operation of information systems, including materials, software and
infrastructure elements. The MUHC is among the leading Canadian medical
centres, recognized worldwide for its excellence in the areas of patient
care, research and teaching. It includes six teaching hospitals affiliated
with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. Syscor offers a dynamic
and rewarding work environment and shares the same important goal as the
MUHC team: providing the best possible care to patients and their
families. Help us make a difference by joining our team.

   -- Tom/

On Nov 27, 2012, at 10:59 PM, Mike Alexander wrote:

Interesting.  I knew McGill looked at MTS, but I didn't know, or had forgotten, that they ran it in production.  I wonder if this article is a little exaggerated?


On Nov 28, 2012, at 3:42 AM, Jeff Ogden wrote:

I found this in an archive from the *Forum MTS-Forum conference (not that it helps much):

4808/14. Steve Burling        17:12 Wed Oct  7/87      3 lines

   As an additional note:  The ST Systems folks (who run MTS at
   McGill in Montreal) are eager to have these changes, and are
   willing to be guinea pigs.

On 11/28/12 1:02 AM, Jeff Ogden wrote to Greg Marks

So, what were you  doing in 1987?  Do you remember anything about this?


On Nov 28, 2012, at 9:45 AM, Gregory Marks wrote back:


That does not ring a bell at all.  But then I have no memory of the Human Genetics at UM operation either.

I do recall a trainload of Macintosh computers and something about an NSF network, but not SYSCOR.

 . . .


On Nov 28, 2012, at 10:03 AM, Suzan Alexander wrote:

I seem to remember doing a distribution for McGill in '88, just before we left for England. Maybe Diane will remember more clearly than me; her brain is younger!


On Dec 2, 2012, at 12:47 PM, DLBodwin wrote:

We had McGill reps to some MTS Workshop, as I recall.   And I'm pretty sure we sent at least one distribution to them.

x'11' (17). Bernie Galler at IBM

posted Dec 24, 2011, 6:17 AM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Jan 21, 2016, 7:06 AM ]

From the CCTalk (Classic Computers) list: https://web.archive.org/web/20141007014552/http://www.classiccmp.org/pipermail/cctalk/2011-December/122589.html

Lyle Bickley lbickley at bickleywest.com
Fri Dec 23 10:12:17 CST 2011
On Thursday 22 December 2011, Al Kossow wrote:
> On 12/22/11 2:21 PM, Al Kossow wrote:
> > the sources and binaries for MTS are now available under
> > http://bitsavers.org/bits/UniversityOfMichigan/mts/
> >
> I fixed the line wrap on the readme and copyright files, and noticed the
> path was specified, so I had to move it to
> http://bitsavers.org/bits/univOfMichigan/mts/

This is great news! While I was working at IBM's Poughkeepsie Dev. Lab. in 
the 60's and early 70's, Bernard Galler (U of M) used to be a regular guest
at the Lab. He lectured us on the MAD programming language and, of course,
"The Michigan Terminal System" (MTS). His lectures ranged from the internals
to the practical uses of MTS. He was very critical of IBM's lack of direction with regards to time
sharing - and hence tried to "convert" as many of us development folks as
possible into becoming timeshare advocates! After months of attending his
lectures - he would get huge ovations when he would chastise IBM for not
moving in the direction of "real" time sharing ;-) According to Wikipedia, MTS "still runs using IBM S/370 emulators such as
Hercules, Sim390, and FLEX-ES". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_Terminal_System I'll certainly give a shot at getting it running :-) Cheers, Lyle -- Lyle Bickley, AF6WS Bickley Consulting West Inc. http://bickleywest.com "Black holes are where God is dividing by zero"

x'10' (16). Others: Amdahl, McGill, Stanford, Waterloo, U of Illinois, & Viktors

posted Jan 20, 2011, 8:22 PM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Jan 20, 2011, 8:50 PM ]

While reading the MTS distribution notes I learned that these sites received copies of MTS:

 AMD     Amdahl Corporation             D4.0  D4.1  D4.2  D4.3  D5.0  D5.1  (1973 - 1983)
              ATTN:  Bill Ehrman
              1250 East Arques Avenue
              Sunnyvale, CA 94086

  VIK       Viktors Berstis                     D4.0  (1977)
              366 Elton Hills Drive
              Rochester, MN 55901

              McGill University Hospitals  D6.0 (1988)
              ATTN: Clifford Kuhl
              C/O ST Systems
              Southfield, MI

              Stanford University              D3.0  (1973)
              James H.  Moore           
              Computation Center
              Stanford, CA 94305

              The University of Waterloo   D3.0  (1973)
              Sandra Ward       
              Computing Centre
              Waterloo, Ontario

              University of Illinois              D3.0 (1973)
              Mike Randall   
              Digital Computer Laboratory

I don't think Amdahl was a real MTS site.  They just kept the tapes for our connivance and may have run some tests using MTS occasionally.

I think of Viktors as a person rather than a site. He worked for the UM Computing Center where he rewrote the Editor. Later he went to work for IBM. I assume that the arrangement with Viktors was informal as an individual and not an arrangement with an employee of IBM.

Does anyone remember anything about McGill (in Southfield, MI?), Stanford, Waterloo, or the University of Ill.?  Most of these were D3.0, but McGill was D6.0. I assume that these were all evaluation copies and that they never really went anywhere, but I don't really know that.

x'0F' (15). Naval Postgraduate School

posted Dec 21, 2010, 2:00 AM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Apr 18, 2011, 11:16 AM ]

-On September 14, 2010 10:13:44 PM -0400 Jeff Ogden wrote:

Did the U.S. Navy or more specifically the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. ever run MTS or have a copy of MTS?  I ask because I found three master's thesis from the NPGS in the early 1970s that all talk about MTS.  Some even sound as if they ran a modified copy.  Of course I don't have copies of the papers, just the titles and abstracts.

-On Sep 16, 2010, at 1:23 AM, Mike Alexander wrote:

They had a copy of MTS and certainly tested it.  I'm not sure if they ever ran it in production, but that depends on your exact definition of "production".  I can't remember the name of our contact there right now, but probably could look it up when I get home.


-On September 17, 2010, at 12:44 PM, Bruce Arden wrote:

Peter and Dorothy Denning were employed by NPGS and still have connections there. The abstracts sounded like something Peter would supervise but, after a little Googling, he wasn't employed there until 2000. He still could have been involved. They formerly lived in Monterey but are in neighboring Salinas now. If you think this is worth a follow-up, I can do it.

Miscellaneous factoid: NPGS is on the grounds of the former Del Monte Hotel. This once posh hotel, where starlets came to be seen in the twenties and thirties, was taken by the Navy in the early forties and never given back. It was first a preflight school and then secondary training for prospective radar technicians, specifically me! It was no doubt the best barracks an enlisted man ever had. If it ever returned to civilian use I promised myself that I would return, rent a room, set the alarm to 5:30 am, turn it off in the morning and go back to sleep. It didn't happen.


-On November 3, 2010 2:49:50 PM -0400 Jeff Ogden wrote:

Does anyone know anything about the use of MTS at the Naval Post Graduate School?  Bruce Arden wondered if this had something to do with Peter Denning's work there, but the timing seems a little off.

-On Nov 3, 2010, at 7:15 PM, Mike Alexander wrote:

I don't think Peter Denning had anything to do with that.  By the way did you recall that his wife, Dorothy Denning, worked at the CC for a while?

[I didn't remember this, although Bruce Arden may have mentioned it to me. -Jeff]

And from the notes for the D3.0 MTS distribution:

              Pimporn C.  Zelany              
              W.  R.  Church Computer Center
              Code 0211
              Naval Postgraduate School
              Monterey, CA 93940

On Mar 17, 2011, at 1:24 PM, Jeff Ogden wrote:

I ordered three publications that covered aspects of MTS from NTIS.  They arrived in the U.S. Mail today.  I've only glanced at them so far.

A Comparative Study of the Michigan Terminal System (MTS) with other Time Sharing Systems for the IBM 360/67 Computer, a 1971 masters thesis by Elbert Hinson of the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif., 80 pp., compares MTS 2.0 to CP-67 with OS/MVT and indirectly to TSS. The abstract includes this statement: "MTS proves to be the superior time sharing system." And the last sentence of the conclusion section says: "It is the authors belief that MTS would provide superior performance and the confirmation evaluation test should be made as soon as possible, so that the user could enjoy the benefits of MTS." The thesis advisor was G. H. Syms.

The other two documents are:

  • Adaptive Memory Management in a Paging Environment, a December 1973 masters thesis by Gary Raetz, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif., 54 pp. Gerald Barksdale was the thesis advisor and Chairman of the Computer Science Group at NPS.
  • Implementation of the Page Fault Frequency Replacement Algorithm, a June 1973 thesis by Alexander Lancaster, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif. 43 pp. Gerald Barksdale was the thesis adviser and Chairman of the Computer Science Group at NPS.

I'll try to scan all three documents.  It will be a little bit of a pain since they are two sided and my scanner won't do two sides using the automatic sheet feeder.

Does any one know Hinson, Syms, Raetz, Lancaster, or Barksdale?


On Mar 17, 2011, at 3:40 PM, Jeff Ogden wrote:

I found another interesting statement in Hinson's paper:

The programming staff, especially Michael Alexander, at the University of Michigan was very helpful and responsive to questions and problems.

Not that I would have expected anything less.


On Mar 21, 2011, at 11:12 PM, Jeff Ogden wrote:

A PDF of the first 40 pages is available.  I omitted the MTS Operators Manual appendix for now.

See Hinson1971.pdf in the Main section on the Documents and files page of the MTS Archive site:



x'0E' (14). Southern Illinois University

posted Dec 21, 2010, 1:24 AM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Jan 20, 2011, 8:43 PM ]

From: Scott Gerstenberger
Date: June 7, 2010 3:03:22 PM EDT
To: Jeff Ogden
Subject: Re: A Comparative Study of the Michigan Terminal System (MTS) with Other Time Sharing Systems for the IBM 360/67 Computer.

 . . .

As to other MTS sites, did Southern Illinois Univ (Dewayne Hendricks) ever get it installed?
I know he was trying hard to get a machine, convince the powers that be that it would be
a good idea to run MTS, and/or actually install it. I don't remember which of those he actually
accomplished. But I do remember him visiting several times to learn about the system.


From: Mike Alexander
Date: June 7, 2010 6:43:17 PM EDT
To: Jeff Ogden
Subject: Re: A Comparative Study of the Michigan Terminal System (MTS) with Other Time Sharing Systems for the IBM 360/67 Computer.

. . .
There were a few others that looked at MTS, but didn't run it.  For example both Southern Illinois University and Grenoble took a close look at it. . . .

On Dec 21, 2010, at 6:09 AM, Dewayne Hendricks wrote:

    Jeff:  Just wanted to quickly 'ack' that I received your inquiry.  The short answer is yes, I did have a version of MTS running at SIU for a time.  Let me take some time to write up the full story for you and will be back to you soon.

-- Dewayne

x'0D' (13). Grenoble

posted Dec 21, 2010, 12:45 AM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Jan 21, 2016, 6:55 AM ]

Dave Mill's web site says that MTS was running at Grenoble:

For many years it [MTS] and its clones at University of Alberta in Canada and INRIA in Grenoble, France, served the faculty, staff and students.

From: Mike Alexander
Date: June 16, 2010 3:04:41 PM EDT
To: Jeff Ogden
Subject: Re: MTS at Grenoble?

 . . .
Grenoble never ran MTS in production.  That's one of the few mistakes on Dave's web page.  I think it was INRIA [the French national institute for research in computer science and control] that tried it out, as Dave says.  However I can't find any documentation of that and it might have been INPG [Grenoble Institute of Technology (Institut Polytechnique de Grenoble), also known as Groupe INP Grenoble, Grenoble-INP, and formerly INPG (engineering)].  . . .

From: Bruce Arden
Date: June 18, 2010 12:20:16 PM EDT
To: Jeff Ogden
Subject: Re: MTS at Grenoble?


I spent a year in Grenoble in 1971-72. This was largely the result of an earlier visit to UM by Professor Bolliet from the University of Grenoble, which is apparently known now by its divisions, Grenoble I, II, and III. He was very interested in UMMPS and the IBM 67, and also in the operations research analysis of interactive computing, a topic I was then interested in. The deal was that I would teach a course in such subjects at IRIA in Paris the first half year and then a graduate course in Grenoble in the second half. I lived in Grenoble and commuted to Paris for the first part. To my knowledge UMMPS/MTS was never implemented at Grenoble. IBM(USA) was never enthusiastic about producing many model 67s and IBM(France) could not cope with necessary support anyway. Beside hardware unavailability, I don't think Grenoble had the systems programming expertise that was available in British Columbia and Newcastle. Adopting UMMPS/MTS was essentially an "open source" exercise. The year had its frustrations, but also its rewards -- largely for my family.

Among other things at that time language was a problem. The course at IRIA was in English and students were required to be conversant, but many weren't. And at Grenoble the students preferred my fractured French to English. Lecturing in French induced learning for me, and the students seemed to understand but most of them did not do the assignments. I learned later that this was normal. French university level education is done in two year "cycles" and students advance by taking a national exam on each cycle. Visiting professors never contributed questions for these exams.


From: Tad Pinkerton
Date: December 21, 2010 12:02:22 PM EST
To: Jeff Ogden
Subject: Re: MTS at Grenoble?

Hi Jeff,

Yes, I know a fair bit.

When I was finishing my PhD in late 1967 or early 1968 I was trying to decide where to go for an overseas year of teaching before starting a career here in the States.  Bernie[Galler]  arranged for me to be interviewed by Professor Louis Bolliet from Grenoble and Professor Sidney Michaelson from Edinburgh.  The overall institution was called the Universite de Grenoble and the sponsoring group at the time was the Institute of Informatics and Applied Mathematics (IMAG), which I gather later became INP.

I received job offers for the 1968-69 academic year from both places and was really torn between them: Grenoble was the site of the 1968 Winter Olympics and the TV coverage was spectacular.  Both jobs were half-time in the department and half in the computing center.  But if I taught in Grenoble it had to be in French, which I had only mastered well enough to pass the reading exam for my degree.  So the family went to Edinburgh, but with an invitation to visit Grenoble while I was in Europe, especially to advise the computing center folks on MTS.

AS things turned out I got about four trips to Grenoble during the academic year and we were able to spend the summer of 1969 there as well.  The IMAG group was heavily supported by IBM at the time:

Around 1960, the IMAG developed an expertise in delivering programming languages, compilers and other software tools under contract with most computer manufacturers operating in France. A second, deeper relationship was established in the late 1960s, when IBM, followed by the national champion CII, created "Scientific Centers" on the IMAG premises, mixing academic and industrial software developers, to undertake joint research on novel concepts such as virtual memory, network analysis and modelling.
(page 27 in "Inventing Europe: technology and the making of Europe, 1850 to the present", European Science Foundation)

and they got a 360/67.  They got MTS up and running on the 360, but IBM Europe seemed to be exerting influence on the group not to run it in production.

Bolliet was the classic European professor, doing both language/compiler research and moving his group into operating systems.  I didn't see a lot of him when I was there.  I worked with a multinational group of programmers, so much so that there was a sign on the door of their shared office that said "Today we speak/Heute wir sprechen/Aujourd'hui en parle" with a sliding insert that said "English/German/French".  I don't remember many of the names.  The Englishman was Tony Mascall, remembered especially because he got us an apartment above his for the summer.

I went more often to Newcastle because it was only about 120 miles south of Edinburgh and an easy train ride.  The joke that year was that if someone from Europe called Michigan to ask about MTS they could be asked "have you called our Edinburgh office?"  A story from that institution:  after they received the MTS tapes and loaded up the system and booted up, they couldn't get past the time and date query.  They could not imagine that the format of the latter was so 'user friendly'!


On Dec 21, 2010, at 1:56 PM, Mike Alexander wrote:

This largely agrees with my recollections, although I didn't know so many details.

I think the story about the first IPL at Newcastle is apocryphal since I carried the tapes there myself and was present for the first IPL.  I remember it well since they insisted that I come pretty much directly from the plane to the Computer Lab and I more or less IPLed MTS in my sleep.  . . .


x'0C' (12). University of Sarajevo, Yugoslavia

posted Dec 17, 2010, 5:04 AM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Nov 25, 2012, 3:50 PM ]

We don't know or remember a lot about the installation at the University of Sarajevo.

The MTS Wikipedia article says: "A copy of MTS was also sent to the University of Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, though whether or not it was ever installed is not known."

Mike Alexander has some information in his archives:

There's this from the July 7, 1983 (my 41st birthday) Committee A minutes:

  Ogden reported some Yugoslavian visitors will be coming to
  the Computing Center next week.  He also noted a number of other
  events for the next month such as the distribution of MTS, the
  Workshop, and personnel work.

I found another unrelated message dated July 15, 1983 saying that the Yugoslavia people were in town.

I found a message I sent to Suzan [Alexander] in June 84 saying that you (Jeff) and I had talked and that you said that Zagreb wanted someone to come visit them before or after the workshop in Durham and that I could do it if I wanted to.  I didn't, Suzan and I went to Scandinavia instead, but I don't know if anyone else did.

Also the D5.1 notes indicates it was mailed to

   UZ     University Computing Centre - SRCE  6250 bpi
             ATTN:  Miroslav Gacesa
             Engelsova bb
             41000 Zagreb

In February 1988 Darwin Fedorick at UQV asked about them and got this response from me:

The short answer is that there really isn't any MTS site in Zagreb.
We lost contact with them several years ago before they had signed
all the agreements and gotten a copy of MTS.  If Darwin is still
interested, I can dig up a name and address for the people we last
communicated  with.  It should be in Suzan's files somewhere.

and from Suzan:

The last address that I can find for Zagreb in the files that Liz
passed on to me is as follows:

   University Computing Centre - SRCE
   Attention: Miroslav Gacesa
   Engelsova bb
   410000 Zagreb

Apparently, D5.1 was shipped to Zagreb but Liz doesn't think it
was ever installed. Something to do with ASMH and their lack of
a license. They never paid any MTS license fees and nothing has
been shipped to them since, and they are not considered to be an
MTS site.

These are somewhat contradictory about whether they got a copy of MTS, but seem to agree that they didn't ever pay for it.


x'0B' (11). Hewlett-Packard (HP)

posted Dec 11, 2010, 8:15 PM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Dec 25, 2011, 10:00 PM ]

Hewlet-Packard, like MSU, ran MTS so they could run CONFER. 

Our collective memory is a little fuzzy about a lot of the details after so many years, but ...
  • HP seems to have first contacted UM about running MTS around February of 1984.
  • Technical, financial, and licensing discussions continued for several months.
  • Bill Kepner from HP visited Ann Arbor in April 1984 to learn everything he could about installing and running MTS.
  • HP and UM completed a license agreement in June 1984.
  • Bill and others at HP worked on installing MTS under VM/370 in California during the summer. 
  • HP received support from UM by phone and by e-mail (they had an account on the UM-MTS system), and they participated in MTS:FORUM (or whatever the name of that conference was).
  • It isn't clear when HP started to use MTS for "production", but in September 1984 Bill sent a note that asked some questions about *STA and statistics record processing and then said "Otherwise things are going smoothly, and our sponsers like what they've bought."
  • In November Bill wrote "Basically, we are very stable.  No MTS problems at all to bother you with.  The Confer usage is growing; a MICROS conference has started to expand interest."
  • Mike Alexander visited HP in March 1985.
  • There was talk about running MTS native on an IBM 43xx system, but it isn't clear if that ever came to pass.
  • HP did run MTS native on an Amdahl 470V/6.
  • HP may have run MTS "native" on an Amdahl 580 using Amdahl's multiple domain feature (see note below).
  • In August 1987 there was some disussion of HP possibly purchasing a Primary Communications Processor (PCP) from UM/Merit and/or a Host Interface Machine (HIM) and/or Network Interface Machine (NIM) from UBC. Eric Aupperle doesn't remember anything coming of this at Merit. Not sure if anything came of this at UBC or not, but I'd guess not.
  • HP was still running MTS in October 1987.
  • We haven't found a record of when HP stopped using MTS.
  • HP was the only commercial firm to license MTS.
If anyone remembers more details or has old e-mail or other notes about MTSor CONFER at HP, please add to this item either by editing it directly, posting a new item as part of this discussion, or by sending e-mail to jeff.ogden@umich.edu.

Note: Amdahl introduced its multiple domain feature (MDF) in late 1984. MDF enabled a computer to run two or more different operating systems concurrently, while also performing multiple tasks. In just over two years, 30 percent of the Amdahl 580 series sites used this feature, cutting costs on software, hardware, and personnel. [from http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/Amdahl-Corporation-Company-History.html]

x'0A' (10). NASA/GSFC

posted Dec 5, 2010, 10:03 PM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Jan 20, 2011, 8:41 PM ]

GSFC is NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, USA. GSFC used MTS for a year and a half starting in 1984 and ending in the early fall of 1985.

A separate proposal to run MTS to run CONFER at a NASA site on the west coast was not funded.

From: Jordan Alpert
Date: December 1, 2010 5:04:07 PM EST
To: Gavin Eadie, Jordan Alpert
Subject: Re: Historical computer operating systems query ...


It is true.  I was an advocate of MTS and saw it as an Operating System that could handle as you say "...problems that weren't being solved anywhere else."   As a student at UM in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science I was able to use MTS in my work, and using it taught me very much about scientific computing.  I was not a part of the core "MTS community", although I knew some members, as my day job in atmospheric science took all my time.  Introduced to MTS in 1972 at UM was exciting: "MTS let ordinary people do routine things easily" and "MTS provided a venue for sharing information and ideas in such a way that it helped students, faculty, and researchers to achieve their own goals. " 

After graduating (Phd) from UM in 1978, I spent two years as a Post Doc and then began work in 1980, at a NASA/Godard Space Flight Center atmospheric modeling group where there was a computing environment of IBM-JCL/TSO, and I became an advocate for improving the operating system with MTS.  I wrote a proposal/plan that was funded in 1984 to purchase the MTS license ($10,000.00) and some travel for training (I had the Bodwin's come in for a visit or two) and we launched MTS on an IBM 4341 computer at NASA/GSFC used during the day for an aging satellite project that was ending.  My goal was to have MTS run for scientific computing and solve the computing resource problem we (and all scientists) had as well as software tools and was naive enough to think that proof of concept was enough.  MTS was allowed to run between the hours of 5PM-5AM.   I booted it up myself.  The user base was about a dozen scientists who would run VAX/VMS during the day, and the MTS-4341 at night.  I included H assembler and Fortran in the software complement. 

Beside scientist interest, solutions to data/model manipulation, visualization and command line interface, I made the case that our MTS configuration showed that our computer centers could be more resource/cost efficient, eg., two operators were not necessary to boot the system as required for the IBM-JCL even with "IBM assists", and tape mounts could be done by the scientists themselves after learning to physically mount the tape drive once they were taught to type into the console the "t 4" (I think) to set the mount.  That is, the computer could be run unattended!  The disk space would be used more efficiently under MTS since without compaction costs, due to unreleased records in IBM-JCL, MTS allocation on disk partitions utilized over 90% of the space,  that is, FDR compactor did not have to be run as in IBM-JCL partitions which added to the IBM-JCL system maintenance (down) time and  causing only a 1/3 utilization of (the reality of) disk space under IBM-JCL, and MTS brought an almost 3X increase in the available disk storage, all important items for scientific computing. 

While MTS was a great success with the scientists who now had an improved "Unix" (was not a word back then) or "VAX/VMS type OS interface, and better resource utilization, software programs and cost effectiveness, it did not sit well with the IBM system administrator staff [contractors who ran NASA's IBM systems, not NASA or IBM staff] who argued that: 1) If they worked with MTS they would not be allowed to work in other IBM shops (They threatened to resign en masse if MTS was adopted by GSFC), thus ending their careers, and the daily error fix bulletins from JCL/TSO would not come from IBM, but what they meant was that MTS was not a viable OS.  They also used the argument that MTS was not used in enough places to have a large enough base to carry it out to the future. 

Still the MTS project went on for a year and a half [1984 to ~September 1985] at GSFC and was shut down by the IBM systems staff the day I left to start a 25 year, so far, career at the weather service.

One of the advantages of MTS was that it came bundled with all that was needed in terms of user software from the copy command to the editor and a very reasonable user interface that could utilize and run the software.  The IBM-JCL/TSO required each software component to have charges for yearly maintenance and initial costs (even the copy command) which doubled the costs of the computer center, costs also increased by the extra numbers of system administrator staff required to service IBM-JCL OS/TSO, increased by resource utilization as described above.  I reported calculations showing two orders of magnitude savings for switching a computing center OS to MTS.  I also found a large difference  between IBM and "rebuilt or third party" systems.

 . . .

From: Jordan Alpert
Date: December 8, 2010 2:15:04 PM EST
To: Jeff Ogden
Cc: Gavin Eadie
Subject: Re: Historical computer operating systems query ...

Jeff and Gavin;

> I'd like to place some parts of your note into the MTS Archive, but want to check with
> you to be sure that that is OK.

You may use it as you wish.

> It sounds as if MTS was in use at GSFC from sometime in 1984 until sometime in 1985
> or perhaps 1986. Is that correct?

Its use ended (close to) in September 1985.

> There was a rumor that NSAS wanted to run MTS so they could run CONFER, but it sounds
> as if that isn't true or at least not at NASA/GSFC.

CONFER did not figure into the equation at NASA/GSFC.  I once spoke with a fellow at Hewlett-Packard who (said he) ran MTS (only) for this (Mail using CONFER) purpose.  

> And the IBM systems staff that were so uneasy with and opposed to MTS were GSFC
> staff and not IBM staff. Is that correct?

I believe in this case that the "IBM" staff was under contract, not civil service and did not work for IBM company.  That is, GFSC proposed to companies with 3 or 4 letter acronyms, and the companies hire staff in conjunction with a civil service manager defined needs.   The arbitrators or administration I needed to convince were civil service.

For a while, when MTS was running at GSFC, I had this notion to improve scientific computing for the center, and although I championed the way MTS set up the disk system and saved dollars, I was most interested in ease of use and control for users:  MTS command language with its editor that had decimal line numbering (attached to the line) and full screen mode and (controllable) graphical output terminals, a consistent method of executing code which was consistent across system programs and user programs, with device independence was way ahead of its time and could be found nowhere else. So users could interactively or in batch type  "run  *ftn ..."  on code, and save the executable and place source code in the negative line numbers (not often) and then run myexec 5=control  60=*J*  8=*print*.  

Here is some more:  I finished my thesis in 1978 and writing it during the previous year I used the editor control file to create a (early) spell check by making a list of each word I spelled wrong  changed to right and applied the growing list to each subsequent chapter.  I was able to dump the text to the fan fold printer for checking often, saving 8x11 costs, and used the editing program ED and formatting (*format? I forget the name) to have the thesis typed on a Selectric typewriter (had a ball typehead) terminal for the final copy.  Lucky for me the ban on digital typed thesis was lifted about a month before I submitted mine and the infamous old lady in Rackham [UM's graduate school], after doing the well known but feared ruler test (on every page) on margins said my typing job was the best she had ever seen.  I did not tell her that MTS typed it.  

Another important aspect of MTS was that it kept accounting.  It made users conserve resources and take care with their runs and management of resources remains a free for all for the clever.  We who had soft (meaning hard) money computer resources would set up and test our work in advance on MTS in an environment where we mimicked the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) environment of large core memory and disk calls from fortran so we could save time on our trips to Boulder to run the "fast" but free  CDC7600, including binary calls to the primitive read functions for faster I/O.  Jim Sterken had something to do with that.  I recall setting disk location pointers in the disk system (6 integers) to later manipulate my own disk to memory data swap with separately controlled read and write pointers (was it also asynchronous) done with a combination of system calls from fortran. 

I also should say something about the relationship of the system group at UM and the users.  I have not come across the proactive response and cooperation between users and systems that was at MTS in other universities or government since.  From compiler problems to new software commands MTS was always responsive. 

It has been fun thinking about this.  I truly thought that MTS should have been the OS of choice on IBM mainframes and the system that could power personal computing (Then I thought one would need at least a basement to hold such). 


On Dec 2, 2010, at 1:58 PM PST, Jim Bodwin wrote (among other things):

I was also involved in the NASA Goddard install.  I thought that they were running it for code development purposes.  I think that Jordon [Alpert] wound up leaving shortly after the install - before it really got used for anything.  One thing I remember is that the operators for the machine were less than friendly.  MTS was being run at certain times of the day and the rest of the time the machine was used to crunch data from some beyond-its-expected-lifetime satellite. They were contractors to NASA and if the MTS install was enough of a success that it took over the whole machine then they would loose their jobs.

On Dec 2, 2010, at 8:35 PM, DLBodwin wrote (among other things):

I did go to NASA Goddard and did the install with Jim.

On Nov 17, 2010, at 1:59 PM, Bob Parnes wrote:

I submitted a proposal to have it [MTS and CONFER] installed at NASA (somewhere in California  but I can’t remember where now), but it didn’t get funded.

9. Michigan State University (MSU)

posted Dec 5, 2010, 9:40 PM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Dec 10, 2010, 8:55 PM ]

On Sep 14, 2010, at 5:01 PM, Rich Wiggins wrote:

MSU did indeed run MTS, precisely to run Confer.  . . .  We ran it Second Level under (well above, depending on your perspective) VM.  Jim Bodwin installed it.  I have a hilarious story about Jim in the basement of El Az.

On Sep 17, 2010, at 6:32 PM, Rich Wiggins wrote:

[A note addressed primarily to Paul Wolberg an MSU staff member in the 1980s.]

. . . We did indeed run MTS at MSU.  We most definitely did.  We ran it to run Confer.  Paul Hunt [CIO at MSU] wanted conferencing at MSU.  I guess The Well was not as easily ported, and we had a virtual environment that could run Confer.  Paul Hunt wanted MSU to be a leader in social networking int in the 1980s.  It's likely that's not a vision we all understood. 

So Paul said we would run MTS and Confer.  UM's Jim Bodwin came to EL a half dozen times to get it going.   You were part of the project. You and Jim and I had some fun times getting it going under VM.

As I recall, MTS went in surprisingly easily.  It woke up in the virtual environment and just worked.  We maybe did 5 IPLs.  More testimony as to the elegance of MTS.

MSU  ran MTS in production for 3 or more years until other online social networking tools matured and became more popular.   It was still mostly server-side code back then, and it took a while for things to evolve to a true peer-to-peer world.  MTS was mostly host-side, as of the times.

 . . .

On Dec 2, 2010 1:58 PM PST, as part of a longer message Jim Bodwin wrote:

I can confirm that I installed MTS under VM/370 at MSU.  And I can also confirm the dinner at El Az!  I think that the margaritas had something to do with the fact that it was so memorable.

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