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Issue No.01 - January-March (2006 vol.28)
pp: 72-88
Richard E. Schantz , BBN Technologies
From the early 1970s, developers at Bolt Beranek and Newman continued BBN?s record for innovative breakthroughs in networked systems. Particularly noteworthy endeavors involved the explorations of multimode communications, the distributed systems infrastructure (now known as middleware), and network-centric applications such as email that eventually became indispensable to everyday modern life.
Distributed systems, network computing software, middleware, Internet applications, network operating systems, distributed operating systems, distributed object computing, multimedia applications, Arpanet software, Internet software
Richard E. Schantz, "BBN's Network Computing Software Infrastructure and Distributed Applications (1970-1990)", IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol.28, no. 1, pp. 72-88, January-March 2006, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2006.4
1. Descriptions of BBN's contributions to the early development of email, distributed interactive simulation (Simnet), some of the multimedia applications, and more detailed descriptions of what BBN did in the areas covered, were omitted from this version of the article due to space limitations or because they were too recent for this publication. See, for example, D. Miller and J. Thorpe, "SIMNET: The Advent of Simulator Networking," Proc. IEEE, Aug. 1995, pp. 1114-1123. Those descriptions will be included in a more comprehensive future document by R. Schantz, D. Walden, and perhaps others.
2. L. Roberts and B. Wessler, "Computer Network Development to Achieve Resource Sharing," Proc. AFIPS Spring Joint Computer Conf., vol. 36, AFIPS Press, 1970, pp. 543-549.
3. D. Bobrow et al., "TENEX, A Paged Time Sharing System for the PDP-10," Comm. ACM, Mar. 1972, pp. 135-143.
4. For example: A. Bhushan et al., The File Transfer Protocol, RFC 172, 23 June 1971,; B. Thomas and B. Clements, FTP Server-Server Interaction, RFC 438, 15 Jan. 1973,; and A. McKenzie, Telnet Protocol Specification, RFC 495,
5. See, for example, chapter 7 of K. Hafner and M. Lyon, Where Wizards Stay Up Late, Simon & Schuster, 1998. Ray Tomlinson was awarded the IEEE 2004 Internet Award, along with Dave Crocker, "For their key roles in the conceptulization, first implementation, and standardization of networked email."
6. R. Thomas, D. Henderson, "McROSS, A Multi-Computer Programming System," Proc. AFIPS 1972 Spring Joint Computer Conf., vol. 40, AFIPS Press, 1972, pp. 281-294.
7. R. Thomas, MLTNET: A Multi-Telnet Subsystem for TENEX, RFC 339, May 1972;
8. Telneting back to the same host became a favorite technique for multitasking even through a single host. This was a special case of using Telnet, which was an especially useful tool for debugging cooperating processes.
9. R. Thomas, Reconnection Protocol, RFC 426, Jan. 1973;
10. This protocol to handle automatic reconnection, although somewhat cumbersome due to the nature of the connection setup, was used extensively in developing some of the early experimental TENEX services, and was later improved upon by Rick Schantz as reported in RFC 671, A Note on Reconnection Protocol, Dec. 1974;
11. R. Thomas, Inter-Entity Communication—An Experiment, RFC 441, Jan. 1973;
12. Packet (or message) switching was in contrast to circuit switching, the technology underlying the telephone network and the dominant technology of the day.
13. C. Carr, S. Crocker, and V. Cerf, "Host/Host Communication Protocol in the ARPA Network," Proc. AFIPS 1970 Computer Conf., vol. 36, AFIPS Press, pp. 589-597.
14. D. Walden, "A System for Interprocess Communication in a Resource Sharing Computer Network," RFC 61, July 1970; RFC 62 was an 3 Aug. 1970 revision (, and another revision was published under this title in Comm. ACM, vol. 15, no. 4, 1972, pp. 221-230.
15. R.D. Bressler, Interprocess Communication on the ARPA Computer Network, master's thesis, Civil Engineering Dept., Massachusetts Inst. of Technology, May 1971.
16. R.E. Schantz, Operating System Design for a Network Computer, doctoral dissertation, Computer Science Dept., State Univ. of New York at Stony Brook, May 1974; see also E. Akkoyunlu, A. Bernstein, and R. Schantz, "An Operating System for a Network Environment," Proc. Symp. Computer-Communications Networks and Teletraffic, Polytechnic Press, 1972, pp. 529-538.
17. D.J. Farber and K.C. Larson, "The Structure of a Distributed Computing System-Software," Proc. Symp. Computer-Communications Networks and Teletraffic, Polytechnic Press, 1972, pp. 539-545.
18. Comparisons of these early investigations into network-centric message passing can be found in E. Akkoyunlu, A. Bernstein, and R. Schantz, "Interprocess Communication Facilities for Network Operating Systems," Computer, June 1974, pp. 46-55.
19. One of the developers of TENEX and mentioned extensively in D. Walden, "Early Years of Basic Computer and Software Engineering," A Culture of Innovation: Insider Accounts of Computing and Life at BBN, D. Walden and R. Nickerson, eds., to be published.
20. R. Bressler, D. Murphy, and D. Walden, A Proposed Experiment with a Message Switching Protocol, RFC 333, May 1972;
21. R.H. Thomas, "A Resource Sharing Executive for the Arpanet," Proc. AFIPS Spring Joint Computer Conf., vol. 42, AFIPS Press, 1973, pp. 155-163.
22. R.H. Thomas, "JSYS Traps—A TENEX Mechanism for Encapsulation of User Processes," Proc. AFIPS Nat'l Computer Conf., vol. 44, AFIPS Press, 1975, pp. 351-360.
23. See for example, P. Johnson, R. Schantz, and R. Thomas, "Interprocess Communication to Support Distributed Computing," ACM SIGCOMM-SIGOPS Interface Meeting on Interprocess Comm., Preprints of Working Papers, ACM Press, 1975, pp. 199-203.
24. S. Ornstein et al., "The Terminal IMP for the ARPA Computer Network," Proc. AFIPS 1972 Spring Joint Computer Conf., vol. 40, AFIPS Press, 1972, pp. 243-254.
25. This issue of access control and accounting had been around for a while. In April 1971, Bob Kahn, then part of the BBN Arpanet team (and later heading up the office at ARPA responsible for the Arpanet and indirectly still pursuing these issues), wrote RFC 136, titled Host Accounting and Administrative Procedures,, which shows early concern for issues in controlling and accounting for resource usage in the emerging communication utility.
26. R. Schantz, A Multi-Site Data Collection Facility, RFC 672, Dec. 1974;
27. See also R. Schantz, "Protocols for Utilizing Redundant Processes in a Computer Network," Proc. 5th Texas Conf. Computing Systems, IEEE CS Press, 1976, pp. 55-65.
28. P. Johnson and B. Thomas, The Maintenance of Duplicate Databases, RFC 677, Jan. 1975;
29. B. Cosell et al., "An Operational System for Computer Resource Sharing," Proc. SIGOPS 5th ACM Symp. Operating Systems Principles, ACM Press, 1975, pp. 75-81.
30. S. Crocker, "The National Software Works: A New Method for Providing Software Development Tools Using the Arpanet," Proc. Meeting on 20 Years of Computer Science, Consiglio Nazionale delle Richerche Instituto Di Elaborazione Della Informazione [Nat'l Research Inst. for Information], Italy, 1975.
31. J. Postel and J. White, Procedure Call Protocol Documents, Version 2, RFC 674, Dec. 1974;
32. R. Schantz, A Commentary on Procedure Calling as a Network Protocol, RFC 684, April 1975;
33. Note the emergence of the message-passing vs. procedure-call debate, as a follow-on to the prior message-oriented vs. connection-oriented controversy. This was also another early sign of merging a network communications point of view with a software engineering point of view.
34. For a more comprehensive discussion of NSW see R.E. Schantz and R.H. Thomas, A Technical Overview of the National Software Works, tech. report RADC-TR-83-80, Rome Air Development Center, Mar. 1983.
35. R. Thomas et al., MSG: The Interprocess Communication Facility for the National Software Works, tech. report 3287, BBN, Jan. 1976. Note the common theme of another attempt at reshaping the underlying connection based substrate with a message orientation, as discussed earlier.
36. R.E. Schantz and R.E. Millstein, The Foreman: Providing the Program Execution Environment for the National Software Works System, tech. report 3442, BBN, Jan. 1977.
37. Two of the key proponents at Rome Air Development Center were Pat Baskinger and Richard Robinson.
38. Created by Martin Richards, BCPL was a precursor to the more ubiquitous C language, whose popularity among researchers was significantly increased by availability of interfaces to Arpanet communications.
39. See for example H. Forsdick, R. Schantz, and R. Thomas, "Operating Systems for Computer Networks," Computer, Jan. 1978, pp. 48-57.
40. P.R. Johnson and R.H. Thomas, The Maintenance of Duplicate Data Bases, RFC 677, Jan. 1975;
41. R.H. Thomas, "A Solution to the Concurrency Control Problem for Multiple Copy Data Bases," Proc. IEEE Spring CompCon, IEEE CS Press, 1978.
42. R. Thomas, R. Schantz, and H. Forsdick, Network Operating Systems, tech. report RADC-TR-78-117, Rome Air Development Center, May 1978 (also available as tech. report 3796, BBN).
43. H. Forsdick et al., Distributed Operating System Design Study: Final Report, tech. report 4674, BBN, prepared for Rome Air Development Center, May 1981.
44. Jericho personal computer work is explained in D. Walden, "Later Years of Basic Computer and Software Engineering," A Culture of Innovation: Insider Accounts of Computing and Life at BBN, D. Walden and R. Nickerson, eds., to be published.
45. R. Schantz et al., "Cronus, A Distributed Operating System," Interim Technical Report #1, for the period 8 June 1981 through 30 June 1982, RADC Tech. Report TR-83-236, Nov. 1983
46. R. Schantz, R. Thomas, and G. Bono, "The Architecture of the Cronus Distributed Operating System," Proc. 6th Int'l IEEE Conf. Distributed Computing Systems, IEEE CS Press, 1986, pp. 250-259; R. Gurwitz, M. Dean, and R. Schantz, "Programming Support in the Cronus Distributed Operating System," Proc. 6th Int'l IEEE Conf. Distributed Computing Systems, IEEE CS Press, 1986, pp. 486-493.
47. This list of innovations was adapted from "Cronus, A Short Summary," an unpublished note by Mike Dean, 1998.
48. S. Vinter, N. Phadnis, and R. Floyd, "Distributed Query Processing in Cronus," Proc. 9th Int'l Conf. Distributed Computing Systems, IEEE CS Press, 1989, pp. 414-422.
49. T. Casey et al., "A Secure Distributed Operating System," Proc. IEEE Symp. Security and Privacy, IEEE Press, 1988.
50. See for example B. Anderson and J. Flynn, "CASES: A System for Assessing Naval Warfighting Capability," Proc. 1990 Symp. Command and Control Research, also available as Science Applications International Corp. Report SAIC-90/1508, 1990.
51. Although Mike Dean reports that at least one distributed Cronus application was still running operationally at several military sites as late as the year 2000.
52. J. Loyall et al., "Specifying and Measuring Quality of Service in Distributed Object Systems," Proc. 1st Int'l Symp. Object-Oriented Real-Time Distributed Computing, IEEE CS Press, 1998, pp. 43-52.
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