Home' Technology Review : August 2005 Contents 78
able to give the same demonstration remotely to locations across
the country. In short, every signi cant aspect of today s comput-
ing world was revealed in a magni cent hour and a half.
"There were two things that particularly dazzled the audi-
ence:...First, computing had made the leap from number crunch-
ing to become a communications and information-retrieval tool.
Second, the machine was being used interactively with all its re-
sources appearing to be devoted to a single individual! It was the
rst time that truly personal computing had been seen."
The 1960s: Drugs and Protest
Dormouse describes how political, social, and cultural forces
came together to shape the early personal-computer industry on
the West Coast: Engelbart and his colleagues were part of a com-
munity that included early experimenters with LSD and leaders
of the antiwar movement.
Despite today s conservative backlash against much of what
the 1960s countercultural movement stood for, the Internet and
the personal computer have been accepted, and they give us great
tools to spread awareness. Though these tools can also be used to
amplify propagandizing, there is reason to believe that they will
ultimately give advantage to the tr uth. In this, the spirit of the
1960s str uggle lives on.
Some who read Marko s book may feel nostalgic for the drug
culture that developed alongside the personal computer, but I do
not. For me, the stories about drug experimentation are sad sto-
ries of a quest gone awry. The promise was that LSD and other
dr ugs would expand our creativity. But like other abused sub-
stances, including alcohol and, now, in America, even food, they
have largely brought us personal tragedy. In the end, drugs such
as LSD and marijuana give most users, not new creativity, but
merely the personal and temporary presumption of the new, and
at great personal cost.
The personal-computing and Internet revolutions have pro-
duced much of what the dr ug experimenters were seeking. They
have given people long-sought enhancements of the ability to
communicate and to learn. And now, with so much accessible to
so many people through the Internet, we see hope for the expan-
sion of creativity itself, and for the raising of collective conscious-
ness. The Internet promotes creativity not through solitary,
short-lived experiences, but through the use of a real, perma-
nent, and shareable medium. It o ers new awareness through
access to the rsthand truth about what is going on in the world---
if its users take the time to separate the truth from the ood of
mass media and junk that the Internet also brings.
Dormouse tells the important story of what the Bay Area did for
computing. But as I read the book, I found myself thinking about
other early history, stories not centered on the West Coast. While
the PC was born in California, its conception required important
contributions from other parts of the country.
Today, PCs are highly networked, run multiple applications at
the same time (much as the time-sharing computers of the 1960s
and 1970s supported multiple users), and have virtual memory to
support large applications. These and many other key technical
capabilities originated not in the counterculture of the West Coast,
but in the great universities and research labs on the East Coast, in
England, and even in the upper Midwest, where I grew up.
Around the time of Engelbart s NLS presentation, a practical
implementation of a di erent set of groundbreaking computing
concepts, far beyond a mere demonstration, appeared in the form
of the Michigan Terminal System (MTS) operating system.
MTS was written for a mainframe---the IBM 360/67---that was
one of the rst computers to have virtual memory. IBM had 300
programmers writing a new operating system for this computer,
but they were far behind schedule. So the sta at Michigan wrote
MTS, which featured time-sharing, support for virtual memory,
le sharing with protection, and many other functions in new
combinations that were eventually to become key parts of the PC.
By 1967, MTS was up and running on the newly arrived
360/67, supporting 30 to 40 simultaneous users. Fully a year be-
fore MTS was nished, in 1966, Michigan began a related proj-
ect, the Merit network, which would provide a way to network
multiple systems. Like the early ARPAnet, Merit used minicom-
puters---Digital Equipment Corporation s PDP-11s---to connect
larger machines to each other.
By the time I arrived as an undergraduate at the University of
Michigan in 1971, MTS and Merit were successful and stable
systems. By that point, a multiprocessor system running MTS
could support a hundred simultaneous interactive users, as well
as remote graphics applications on computers such as the DEC
8/338 and 9/339---pioneering minicomputers with interactive
vector graphics displays. MTS ser ved as a campuswide network
for these machines, and Merit soon connected the computers of
the University of Michigan with those at other universities.
Similarly powerful systems were built on Digital Equipment
PDP-10s at MIT, Stanford (SAIL), and Carnegie Mellon Univer-
sity, often, like Engelbart s NLS, with support from federal re-
search funds. Marko recounts in passing what I had forgotten (if
I ever knew it)---that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were hanging
out at SAIL long before the famous Jobs visit to PARC. SAIL, and
similar systems, had much greater importance in the birth of the
PC than is generally acknowledged. In my view, these systems un-
derpin, as much as Engelbart s work does, personal computing.
Engelbart s dream came true because Moore s Law held. Those
who believed in the law often succeeded. They saw, as Engelbart
did, that computing was destined to become cheap and therefore
widely available. It was these people who gave rise to a new wave
in computing: the PC industry. Those people who did not fore-
see the impact of the relentless miniaturization fared less well;
thus nearly all of the companies in the previous wave---the mini-
computer industry---failed or were acquired.
Most of today s best thinkers on the subject agree that Moore s
Law has 10 or more years yet to run. If they re right, transistor
density will in 10 years be about 100 times what it is now. In think-
ing about the future of computing, in hoping for further augmen-
tation of the human intellect, do we understand what another
100-fold increase in computing power will mean? It should en-
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