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Computing Environment at Livermore in the 1970's

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Moving Image




Donnely, Jed; Fletcher, John G.; Watson, Dick


Sun Microsystems

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Sun Microsystems


Back 35 years ago, if you took delivery of a new supercomputer by Seymour Cray (like the CDC 6600) you got a box with boards and wires and you had to write an operating system yourself, since you did not get one with the machine.

If you wanted a comprehensive network environment delivering a wide range of services to an entire community of users, you had to do that job yourself too. You had to build the network hardware, write the network software, and integrate it all with your own custom operating system on a wide variety of machines from minicomputers to supercomputers.

The result was a complete computing environment built and tailored to serve the needs of a particular group of users. Such an environment existed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the 1970's. It wasn't possible in the 1960's, and it had already become obsolete in the 1980's, with the arrival of generic network hardware and software.

The 1970's may have been the only time in the history of computing that such an entire custom dedicated environment was possible or practical. And it had advantages: for example, you could at any time interrupt a long job taking hours or days, store the complete process to disk, and start it up again at that exact point, on the same machine or another machine, whenever you wanted (just try doing that today).

Dick Watson will begin the program with an overview of the period. John Fletcher will take us back to the earliest times, since he came to Livermore first. And Jed Donnelly will discuss operating system developments with the network extensions.

The staff of Bay Area Computer History Perspectives and The Computer Museum History Center wish to thank George Michael for his assistance with this program. George arrived at Livermore within a week of the delivery of the first computer there, back in 1953. He has been contributing to the development of computer technology at Livermore, and to recording and preserving the history of that technology, ever since. We thank him for his work for computer history.

These talks was sponsored by The Computer Museum History Center and Sun Microsystems.


Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Series Title

Bay Area Computer History Perspectives