Definition

Multics (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service)

Multics (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service) was a mainframe time-sharing operating system that was developed in the 1963-1969 period through the collaboration of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), General Electric (GE), and Bell Labs. Multics was the first or one of the first operating systems that used page-segmented storage. The operating system was written in PL/I and ran on GE hardware. By 1970, Bell Labs had withdrawn from the project, and Honeywell, which had bought GE's computer division, continued as the hardware provider. Support from the Advanced Research Projects Agency helped sustain the project.

In 1973, Honeywell announced a commercial system, the 6180, consisting of two processors that ran at 1 MIPS each, 768 kilobytes of memory, an 8 megabyte bulk store, a 1.6 gigabyte hard disk, 8 tape drives, and two communication controllers. The price was about $7 million. Later, a multiple disk system called the New Storage System (NSS) was added. In 1977, Honeywell offered the first commercial relational database, the Multics Relational Data Store (MRDS).

Over time, Multics customers included General Motors, Ford, and Industrial Nucleonics (later AccuRay). By the late 1980s, efforts to migrate Multics to more strategic processor architectures such as Intel's had failed and Honeywell transferred maintenance to one of its last customers, the University of Calgary, which has passed it on to a local company, CGI Group Inc. As of September, 1998, CGI Group continued to operate the one remaining Multics system.

In 1969, the Multics name (pronounced MUHL-tihx) inspired the creators of a newer operating system to call it Unix.

Contributor(s): Simon Smith
This was last updated in November 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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