The interview date is unknown
MSM: You were saying that there was some effort to...sometime ago to portray UNIX as having been management inspired. You were about to say but that was not so.
Morgan: It was not so and in the way that the question originally came to me. And why don't we get to that in the proper course of things.
Morgan: Let me ask you, whom have you talked to already about UNIX? Uh, some, some set of people not all of whom are right around this immediate corridor that were in on the early part of the work and would have interesting things to say. Who, who have you seen?
MSM: Well I have talked to Doug, talked to Ken Thompson and talked to Sandy Fraser, Peter Weinberger, Brian Kernighan. I am suppose to see Condon and Ritchie tomorrow.
Morgan: Ritchie, Ritchie is important as you know.
MSM: Yes. Let me see who else is in my book. Lorinda Cherry and Al Aho on Friday I am going to talk to. And then I think we have another interview, and I have a list of other people that I want to talk to. Basically one of the lists I have been using is the list of people that Doug put together in that little piece he did on the early manual. Identifying where pieces had come from and then I got some other names. Ted Dolotta gave me a call when he heard about this project cause I knew Ted from swimming.
Morgan: Okay, a person who you certainly ought see is Berkeley Tague. The reason I say that is well Berkeley is an articulate and philosophical person. But he was involved from very early on in the UNIX support group. When, when UNIX got to be big enough and interesting enough to the organizations at Bell Labs outside research Tague put together a support group that gradually took over the management and extension of UNIX as a software base for a lot of development efforts. And I think it was in 1982, um, Tague put together a fairly long talk on the history of UNIX up to till then as he had seen it. And I thought it was both entertaining and quite perceptive. Tague had during, Tague is now a department head in the Murray Hill comp Center. He can be found in the book and his name would be suggested to you anyway I think by someone. But he did make some effort to do a one man's history of UNIX. Which I thought was quite effective. And so you certainly want to talk to him as to how he saw it because his viewpoint was a little different from the viewpoint of the research organization. But not so different that you couldn't see some similarities and he did considerable work in 1982 on putting the record together. So he is somebody you ought to see.
MSM: Good. What was your position here at the time this UNIX project was done?
Morgan: I was Director of Computing Science Research. The same position that Al Aho holds now and that Sandy Fraser held after I did. Up until a couple of years ago. I was director of the organization which UNIX was done.
MSM: Were you director during the period of the MULTICS department.
Morgan: I became director in 1967 and MULTICS was a project that was then ongoing. MULTICS had been presented to the Bell Laboratories computer using community as a kind of computer utility. As an operating system that would be a major advance over the then existing mostly batch oriented operating systems and this was to run on GE 645 computers. And people users had been told don't make further major commitments to developing software for the then existing IBM700-7000 series. Uh, wait, uh, MULTICS which is being done as a joint effort by Bell Labs, General Electric and MIT, uh, this will be the operating system of the future. At the time MULTICS began to be presented to computer users in that style I was elsewhere and was a computer user myself. By the time I became Director of Computing Science Research there were beginning to be doubts about MULTICS. It was, the development was clearly moving more slowly then had been expected. And users were sighing with varying degrees of pungency, "We can't wait for this." But the MULTICS development effort as far as Bell Labs was concerned went on for about two years after I became director. And then Bell Labs declared that it's commitment to the MULTICS development effort had been fulfilled. This was made, this decision was made early in 1969 and Bell Labs work on MULTICS was terminated I believe at the end of March of 1969. So I was in on the last part of the MULTICS efforts so far as Bell Labs was concerned. And UNIX was born late in 1969 as you probably have heard and developed in research for awhile and then eventually spread.
MSM: I'm interested if you can you tell a little about that of the MULTICS project. Realizing that you had, that you came into your position while that was going on. But you did I guess that MULTICS, there were promises associated with MULTICS.
Morgan: There were promises associated with MULTICS that were not fulfilled on a scale and in a time period that would have made MULTICS generally useful to the Bell Laboratories computing community.
MSM: Was this an assignment that the computing research group got or had it had a role in shaping the project. Making those promises in the first place.
Morgan: I do not know how, I do not know for sure who was the driving force behind MULTICS. I associate it with an Executive Director named Ed David. I was not, I was not closely associated with the computing enterprise until I became Director of Computing Science Research. I was an applied mathematician and really had no expectation that I would be going into a computing organization. And so I simply heard about MULTICS. The person who did most of the talking in auditorium and general meetings describing this system that was coming and encouraging users to not make major commitments to the IBM700-7000 series but to wait for the GE 645 and MULTICS, the person who did most of this was Ed David. And there was a man named Corbato at MIT and I don't remember who the principle GE promoter of MULTICS was, but I simply, I simply was not aware of whose brain MULTICS sprang, sprang from. The Executive Director of the organization that Sandy Fraser is now Executive Director of was the principle person who promoted it and who advertised it. And, oh yes, I should say, at that time computing service with comp centers such as they were at the different Bell Laboratories locations were run by technical organizations. The comp center at Murray Hill had originally been run by the Mathematics Research Organization. And then it was run by the Computing Science Research Organization when math and computing science split. And the comp center at Holmdel was run by a technical organization that kind of ran computing service with its left hand, and at Indian Hill. Each of the comp centers was run by a technical organization whose business was not primarily running a comp center. They were using, the organizations that ran comp centers had been amongst the early users of electronic computers, and so they took on as a part of their business computing service to the whole location at which they were. Alright. Uh. The Computing Science Research Organization, um, which I believe was split off from mathematics about 1965 and was under Ed David's direction until he go promoted to Executive Director, the Computing Science Research Organization did the software development such as it was at Murray Hill at that time. The Computing Science Researchers had put together various operating systems for IBM 701, 704, 709, 7090, 7094 under the names of BESYS 1, BESYS 2, up through BESYS 7. This work, this operating system design work was done by computing science researchers. They called it all research and we ran with the aid of a fairly small number of associate technical types. We ran the Murray Hill computing service. So when MULTICS was commitment to by Bell Labs and I am sure that Ed David was the spear head of this effort, David committed his people in computing science research to carry the Bell Labs end of this. I don't know Doug McIlroy was around during that time and he will probably be able to tell you whether this MULTICS effort was supported whole heartily by everybody or whether there were doubters from the beginning. But in any rate, at any rate in 1967 when I became director of Computing Science Research the computing science research organization was committed as a major part of its then ongoing work, to see the MULTICS project through, and MULTICS was going slowly and was clearly. it was becoming clear to people that MULTICS was an attempt to climb too many trees at once. It was a mixture of research and exploratory development and final development in so far as those terms can be applied to software and it was simply not going to produce usable amounts of computing service to customers. This feeling was already pretty strong in the computing science research center when I took it over, and users, outside users who were never very patient with anybody, users had decided already that MULTICS was not going to fly. Well the MULTICS effort never the less continued for another two year approximately and was officially terminated, Bell Labs quit working on MULTICS, as of the end of March in 1969.
MSM: You said you had, that you came out of applied mathematics and had not been heading to running a computer, computing environment.
Morgan: I had, I was simply a user of computers up to that point.
MSM: Did you, when you took over in '67 what did you see the mission of that group to be. Did your appointment represent a shift of direction of any sort?
Morgan: No it didn't represent a shift in direction it represented the fact that the person who was then director of computing science research had been laterally transferred to one of our Whippany organizations. Was doing military software for the Safeguard Project and I am, this was a lateral transfer . He became a director at Whippany and I was not aware of any particular reason why this was done I assume that he, it was felt he was needed at Whippany.
MSM: Was this Vyssotsky?
Morgan: No this was not Vyssotsky. Vyssotsky was a department head in computing science research at the time the man was Tom Crowly. Crowly was shifted to Whippany, lateraled as a director and I assume that it was because he was urgently needed at Whippany. And there was I presume a search for a suitable person to take over the computing science research center and I was asked to do it but I was not told that there shall be any change in mission. My understanding of the mission was that it was a research group. We were-[break]- to understand the foundations of computer science. Computer science at that time was not nearly as large and flowering a structure as it is now. We had work going in formal language theory. We had work going in numerical analysis. We had work going in operating systems. We had some work going in switching theory and we had this exploratory development project MULTICS which had been taken on under the aegis of Ed David and I believed at that time, and was not given any other sailing orders, I believed that our business was to do research to understand the power and limitations of computers in so far as computers ought to be useful to Bell Laboratories, and that as a transient part of this we were committed to seeing the MULTICS operating system through. But I always believed that this was a transient thing that we had been committed to and that we were not in the software development business for the long pull. We were suppose to assist software developers and so that MULTICS would ultimately be finished up. Well it wasn't finished up quite in the way that the originators expected it to be, but it did come to an end.
MSM: Was that a fairly sudden end?
Morgan: Uh, there had been an increasing feeling both outside computing science research and inside computing science research that the project was not possible to finish in order, in a way that would meet the original expectations. And our then, Vice President, Bill Baker, decided that the work was simply going to stop. It was Baker's understanding and mine too that we had in some sense met the commitments that we had originally made, that we were not backing out of any contractual arrangement without, well we were not breaking any contract and the day on which the work stopped I believe was the last day of March. There was an announcement, a formal announcement that the work was stopping, that we were charging no more effort to the MULTICS charging case. And that we were simply out of it. I believe it had to be done that way because some folk were, well unless there is a definite statement that you are not going to work on a project anymore, why, some people will continue to work on it. That's the way, that's the way research goes. Folk from day to day do their own thing. And so there was a clear announcement that the work was over. And this was due to Bill Baker. I believe that Ed David actually read the formal statement to the members of the computing science research department but they were words that had been, this decision was made by our Vice President. It is not unprecedented that a project shall stop, I have known of other much larger efforts that were simply by management edicts stopped on a certain day. And MULTICS stopped. It was, I believe the general reaction was that it was understood why it had to stop. It was simply, it was simply using up effort and was not, was not advancing and showed no promise of, of turning into a user useful thing.
MSM: You have talked to Ken, Doug, and those that have written about it, Dennis when he writes about it in his retrospective. We talk about the sense of disappointed they felt. Where as on the one hand they agreed and they agreed with the technical judgment of MULTICS's inadequacy. That is that this was a system that was simply wasn't going to do what it promised to do. For one thing is was not going to deliver the cycles that sort of...
Morgan: Well that, well that was the main, that was the main reason that MULTICS was stopped here so far as I can see. It, it had, it was originally a promise to users of very flexible cycles. It was the first real time sharing system. Well there was IBM's TSS which was running at Indian Hill. I have never been very familiar with the details of TSS. The Indian Hill people were a group that decided quite early on that they were not going to wait for research and for the GE 645 and for MULTICS they had to have something sooner, and they wanted something that was supported by a vendor which TSS was. I don't know the TSS story really and I can't tell it to you but MULTICS if it had met it's promised goals would have been a much more flexible, convenient system than TSS, so I am told and I believe. But MULTICS was not about to meet it's goals in 1969 and I think this was generally understood. Now the sense of disappointment that Dennis and Ken and a few other people, I guess all the people who were working on MULTICS felt, I think was that they had had a system that was for a few... Well in the first place it was intellectually elegant. There was a lot of nice conceptual stuff in MULTICS and it is always good to feel that you are on the leading edge. But the other thing was that it was a, it was a very pleasant and convenient system to work with if, to use, if there were only a few people on the machine, if you had so to speak, and I am not trying to be pejorative here, if you had exclusive use of this large expensive toy, great! It was fun. You could develop software, you could do all sort of things with it. It just wasn't adaptive to supporting, it wasn't cost effective. But heck it was something that they liked and as you have undoubtedly been told repeatedly it was to make well UNIX turned out to be a much simpler, more cost effective environment which provided users with the pleasures of a, of the same kind of sandbox. So MULTICS was fun. I, I never used MULTICS, but I was told that it was a lot of fun for the people who were developing it. It's just that it, it wouldn't carry the load for a, for a big organization.
MSM: Well they've, they said both in conversation with me, but also in writing it what they missed was the shared environment.
MSM: That here was a way in which you could, you were all working, you could share one another's files, and delete things for one another.
Morgan: It was a very nice environment for a small number of users, but the Labs just could not afford and users generally could not afford the cost of the GE 645 for the small number of users that it was supporting. Now I am giving this to you by hearsay, but that was my understanding. Not that UNIX was unsuccessful for a limited community of computer science, MULTICS, not that MULTICS was unsuccessful for a limited number of computer scientist users. But that it was not, it was not cost effective, it would not have been cost effective to support a large laboratory.
MSM: Now when the decision was announced that there would be no more charges made to the MULTICS case were there, were there any statements either explicit or implicit. Edicts about lines of research that would or would not be followed. I mean in a sense the MULTICS project didn't stop, stop it just got redirected.
Morgan: It got redirected. There were no statements about what lines of research were acceptable. We don't make statements around here about what lines of research are acceptable in the short run. AT&T is interested in a very wide variety of subjects. We are not interested in translating my hieroglyphics, we are not interested in fusion research, we are not interested in various other things but there are a lot of things that we are interested in. Centering, mostly centering around communication and around information handling and this provides a great many directions that one can go. When a new researcher is hired here, there will be a point to this in a minute just hang on. When a new researcher is hired here anywhere in the research area, he or she is hired because of a doctoral thesis or some other track record that indicates proficiency, creativity in some field that we are interested in. When the person comes in the department head's business is not to tell the individual what to do but to see that he or she gets introduced to folks with common interests or perhaps common interests and that various people come around and ask questions, try and consult with the person, and we suggest that a new employee spend considerable amount of time, up even to a few months, thinking about what he or she would like to do. Very often publishing the Ph.D. thesis is a good thing to start on. But anyway, people essentially found their own things to do influenced by the total environment they are in. And if a person wants to undertake a certain line of research, a certain kind of investigation, presumably because of the individual's technical background before coming here this would something that's in a field that is of interest to Bell Labs and we allow this to continue. And if the person seems to be getting somewhere, seems to be interacting with people and well seems to be making some progress, and particularly seems to be communicating with his or her colleagues a considerable length of time can go on before the department head try's to steer the person in some other direction. The problem that sometimes arises with people that come to with a bright new Ph.D. and seem to be very bright is that the person will somehow have been closely directed during his or her graduate life, worked for a professor who held the reins very tightly and then in a kind of free environment like this where nobody tells you what to do from day to day the person will just not be able to find new and interesting things to do. Now if a person does find new and interesting things to do and if they get written up and published and if there seems to be lot of interaction going on. And particularly, if the person seems to have people coming in to talk to him or her from other departments, that this person is interacting and communicating that is fine. The person will essentially never get directed by his or her department boss. If with the person doesn't seem to really to, be producing anything and in particular doesn't seem to be communicating or interacting with people the boss will over the next several months spend more and more time encouraging the person to communicate and to look at specific problems. And as a year or two goes by there is always performance reviews every, every year and a matter of communications is stressed. The boss will become more and more explicit about, "why don't you spend some of your time looking at this particular problem?" But a person says, "I want to do such and so." You are not going to be told not to. Eventually if the direction seems to be completely at variance with others things that are going on it may turn out that the person had better pursue this at a university or some place like that. But in the short run folks are not told you are not going to do this. Development organizations. If a development project is canceled usually that involves a team of people working on a particular direction. If a development project is canceled, alright you are not going to be developing XYZ widgets any more, that is clear enough. But researchers you don't tell them what to do. What we did we tell people that had been working on MULTICS was you cannot have a large computer a the [inaudible] Tand was proposed as a substitute for the GE645 during the summer of 1969. They didn't have a GE645 anymore and so there was some effort to propose the purchase of a large computer on which to do time shared systems research and proposals that one should by a substantial chunk of, of plant equipment, naturally have to be approved upstairs. The MULTICS people were told, "we are not going to provide you with a large computer for a small number of people to do time shared system research on." We didn't tell them what they should do. We told them various things that we were not going to buy equipment for. And so, that's standard operating practice for researchers. They are suppose to be able to find things to do and so eventually they did.
MSM: When did you become aware of this new project, this new file system and attempts to implement it?
Morgan: Oh, must have been late in 1969. We have a performance review every year. Starts about November and people write up a page of what they have done, it is commonly called the, I Am Great Report, although that is not an official name for it. And Ken Thompson had on his I Am Great Report in 1969 that he was working on a, a file system for a, a small computer and by 1970 why the system had been named UNIX and several people were working on UNIX. Another theme that merged with the time shared development was the text processing, text editing and formatting theme. There was, I believe at MIT or from someplace a type script formatting scheme called runoff which Doug McIlroy worked on quite a bit and turned into a thing called roff and this, I got a head of myself a little bit. Now this when we got a cheap photo typesetter, got approved to a formatting scheme called T- ROLF which is still around. People were interested in text editing and formatting and you could do this on a small computer and if you had a, if you had a operating system that involved easy handling of files and presently time sharing so that the people could access and use each other's files. The UNIX file system and the text editing and formatting work kind of came together. I understand that Ken Thompson had a space war game that he played for a while when he was looking for something to replace MULTICS. That was fun but the, the first real application of the file system that became UNIX was a text processing system. And this was kind of the merging of file system work and work that folks had been interested in for a long time, text processing.
MSM: Well this is the system that the Labs was willing to buy a machine for.
Morgan: This was a system the Labs was willing to buy a machine for. When this, the proposal was first made that we should buy a machine for text processing it was presented to me because I had to sign the purchase order. And I didn't understand at the time the innovative nature of the UNIX file system and we had done text processing work in the past and I didn't see that we were, that any great research advance was being made. It sounded as if people wanted to provide a service or something with a typing pool. So the first proposal to buy a I guess it was a PDP11/20 I turned down, this was in 1970 and another director Max Matthews managed to gin up a machine. He was also interested in text processing and by the time people had worked on the file system and on text processing for another year by 1971 it was quite clear to everybody locally that there was something rather special going on. And from then on we bought a sequence of PDP- 11's, and research, and by and by the patent division was using the text processing scheme, and by and by it was used in the word processing typing organizations, and eventually it spread all over.
MSM: What is it that persuaded you that there was a research component?
Morgan: Well, I do not remember at the moment any particular day on which I decided there was a research component there. I guess it was being, being shown some of the things that the text processing system could do. I guess I felt that. Let's back up a little bit. The computing science organization here like all of the research area, but I think maybe they are a little stronger than some, has always been very outspoken and very sharp tongued in promoting their viewpoints and there was a good deal of noise when MULTICS came to an end. And it seemed to me, that well I guess I had some difficulty in sorting out the signal from the noise. I was quite well aware that my bosses wouldn't approve the purchase of a really large computer to support any surreptitious continuation of the MULTICS effort. And I was, I think willing to wait for the initial shouting to die down and I figured that if there was a research component involved in the text processing work that it would appear in due course. And indeed it did. I have told this tale more than once to people who, this is were we came in, who would have liked to demonstrate that it was management perspicacity that caused UNIX to be, to be born. Some parts of management did not understand UNIX as rapidly as other parts did. I think that we did understand management principles. The management principles here are that you hire bright people and you introduce them to the environment, and you give them general directions as to what sort of thing is wanted, and you give them lots of freedom. Doesn't mean you always necessarily give them all the money that they want. And then you exercise selective enthusiasm that is one of Bill Baker's favorite phrases. You exercise selective enthusiasm over what they do. And if you mistakenly discourage or fail to respond to something that later on turns out to be good. If it is really a strong idea it will come back. So anyhow that is... MSM: We had a dean at Princeton who was famous. No matter what the proposal the first answer was no. Then you came back.
Morgan: Alright, well it is a little bit like patent examiners. I was told in my early career when I got a few patents that there is always an interplay between the local patent attorney and the patent examiner at the bureau of patents in Washington. And you had chit chat for a while and then you get from the patent examiner a final rejection. This patent is now finally rejected. All claims are rejected and that is an invitation to put forth your strongest argument. You now give me your best argument and I will listen to it. But I was told that the final rejection is the last, last stage before you finally get some things admitted. Well, we didn't quite play it like that around here. But that. I have never been in an organization that had enough money, or enough hiring slots, or enough office or land space to do everything that we would like to do. So one provides some back pressure. And in the case of the transition from MULTICS to UNIX the MULTICS faucet had to be turn off reasonably hard. It was a part of turning off, I mean it was a management decision that this was going to be turned off. And part of turning it off was not immediately buying hardware on which MULTICS could be continued. In retrospect, Thompson and Ritchie and other people did find partly through their own efforts and partly by looking for a director that was willing to buy a small amount of hardware, did find machines on which they could work. And in due course when it was clear to everybody around the research area that UNIX was going to go somewhere and needed to be supported they have had the machines that they wanted.
MSM: One of the things that impressed me, that has impressed me about UNIX is the way in which it's a system with a lot of really effective coding, programming. On the other hand it is a system that if it's not theory driven at least has roots in theory. There is a, if one works ones way through the various books by Aho, Hopcroft, Ullman or the various combinations of three things taking two at a time, that series represents. And one looks at UNIX, one sees their other piece, and that is the product by in large of the computing research group. How did that unity come about. Was that something that you were looking to create or is it pure coincidence, or it is...
MSM: It is a view of computing really as an enterprise...
Morgan: I, I don't, there was a conscious decision to do this unified sort of way. As I, yes I was saying earlier we have had at Bell Labs for a long time, certainly since before I came and I have been here forty two years, we have the philosophy that you hire bright people, you expose them to interesting problem areas, and you keep an eye on what they are doing and in particular on their interactions with other people. You attempt to give them guidance only in a very general sort of way. Often times this guidance is simply a lot of enthusiasm for something that they are working on. An environment like that is self perpetuating, so long as you keep your hiring standards up and your management keeps its eyes open. Remember that the management around, around Bell Labs all are, at least around the research area, all came up through the technical route. And people don't get promoted to management in the research area here unless they have a good track record. You may find a few folk who disagree with that. But my view is that our department heads and directors and executive directors were once technical hot shots. Sometimes that back fires, because you get a technical hot shot who has no people skills. But that is a different story. Your, uh, your technical people, your managers were once technical hot shots and they were imbued with this general philosophy of how you conduct, how you manage research at this kind of place. And good things come out of this. Well, good things come out of this philosophy of research management. And as I said it is self perpetuating in that that's the way that I grew up and that is the way Al Aho grew up and it is the way Sandy Fraser grew up and it is the way our local department, department heads have seen it work for a long while. What we did in the computing science research organization. I didn't create this, to some extent I keep it going. But was to have bright, interactive people who were interested in theoretical computer science, that is Al Aho and now Ravi Sethi and lots of other people, but Aho was one of the early ones. And folk who were interested in programming techniques. People like Doug McIlroy who was a mathematician to start with, but was in on computer from very early on. And people like Peter Weinberger, who I guess was an algebraist to begin with but he is interested in practically everything. And people like Brian Kernighan who are, is a superb expositor. Kernighan writes beautifully, which a great many computer scientists don't and is very creative in seeing something that needs to be, needs to be done. And people like Mike Lesk perhaps not the world's greatest programmer but Mike Lesk who is now at Bell Core did the EQN patient setting system. No I guess that was Brian, that was Brian. Alright Mike Lesk did a lot of the page layout stuff that got put on top of, of T- ROLF. Brian, Mike, Lorinda Cherry, could see things that, by golly, I know how to do this and I bet somebody else would be interested in it too. The EQN equation layout package for instance after it has been done. Sure other people do that sort of thing, there's ...
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Morgan: ... had the inventiveness to see (A) that I can do it and (B) that it would be nice if somebody did it. Now maybe it ought to come the other way around, perceiving the, perceiving the niche and observing the technique, that the technology exists for doing it. These are two parts of the same thing. Alright we had people like Brian, we had people like Mike Lesk, we had people like Doug, we had people like Ken and Dennis. We had people like Alfie and if I, well it was a small group, it was about two dozen people for a number of years after, after 1969 when we quit running a comp center service. I will come back to that in a moment. And when the MULTICS effort and some people who were associated with MULTICS in a more supportive sort of way went elsewhere. From about 1970 to about 1976 or 1977 we had about two dozen people, twenty four people in the whole group. We were essentially not hiring anybody, we were in one of our chronic hiring freezes and we just had a small group of good people who generally ate lunch together, and who were quite willing to argue with each other and to discuss and to use the techniques they knew about to put together things that they thought were interesting. It was a lot of work in text processing at that time. There was a lot of work in practical operating system development. There was a lot of work in theoretical computer science, compiler theory and algorithms. It was done essentially by a hand full of people. But they were people who did a lot of talking to each other and a lot of shouting and who essentially collaborated. And that is the way that research is suppose to be done.
MSM: What I am getting here is a picture of a group of people hired within a fairly short period of time, several years. At a time when things are the field was still in flux.
Morgan: It was still in flux.
MSM: What computer science was suppose to be in the 60's was an open question.
Morgan: That's, that's right.
MSM: Brought together they tend to form a stable community and in essence what I see is a usual match between practical applications and theoretical foundations. Certainly the out, the product of a group that had come together for different reasons but then had found a common, they had established a community.
Morgan: They established a community. They were in touch, of course, with the university community with computer science being established, being defined as a field in the 1960's. Some of the old timers, myself and Doug McIlroy, and a few others came from the math research center. We had a numerical analyst named Dick Hamming, early on who was kind of the farther of service computing at Bell Labs.
MSM: What had been your background?
Morgan: I was mathematical physics. And as I said I was an applied mathematician. I did boundary value problems, radar antennas, microwave, wave guides, up until I was put in charge of computing science research. And I suspect that I was put in charge of computing science research because just at the time that the previous director was transferred to Whippany there wasn't a really good professional computer scientist who was ready for the job. Sometimes you know there is, you have to fill a slot, and there isn't a perfectly qualified person of the right amount of seniority. So I didn't look for the job in computer science. It wasn't compatible with my background really, but I had been steeped in the general way in which research is managed here. You get good people, you make sure they are aware of a wide class of problems and you let them do their own thing. But you give them feedback.
MSM: Did you have a sense yourself of what computer science would look like at the time?
Morgan: Not really. I was more interested in the mathematical parts of it. Of course I was interested in seeing that people got, so long as we ran a service organization I was interested in seeing that service was supplied. In the middle of 1969, this is a new topic but it is relevant I think...
MSM: Right. It was about to ask you what happened when you ceased to be a service organization.
Morgan: In the middle of 1969 service computing at all Bell Labs locations was taken away from technical organizations, that is organization whose primary business was something else. And merged into a single division under a man named Phil Thayer, who is now retired. All the comp centers were put under unified management and for a year and a half I was both director of service computing at Murray Hill and Whippany, and director of computing science research. It was expected that this would be a temporary arrangement and so at the end of 1970 I chose to give up the service computing aspect and from then on it was under its own separate management. Well anyhow. The move to a separate computing service organization I think was long over due. It just wasn't reasonable for a single, for a research organization also to try to manage a stable computing center. Researchers you know always like to fiddle and, "we are going improve it!" And users, "my program that ran yesterday won't run today what the hell have you done with the operating system now? And besides I want this thing fixed!" and the researcher may feel, "I am not really interested in fixing that. That is mundane..." So anyhow, having a separate computing service organization was long over due. It was started in the middle of 1996. And this was another impetus I think toward the development of an operating system for small machines namely UNIX, that went on in computing science research. Because once the comp center machines were moved out from under the research aegis, we had in research had our own machines and management would not buy big DEC PDP 10's and so we had to do something on minicomputers. And that was another impetus toward Thompson and Ritchie in the UNIX direction. Anyway, that's kind of the history of things. I was interested in both in seeing that users got good service and got new tools as rapidly as they could be delivered. And also in seeing that the theoretical understanding of computer science got advanced. And if I had any personal interests here I found the text processing work particularly entertaining. But I did not do any of the, I did not do any of the research myself. I was, I was the research manager.
MSM: Was there any point at which you were running interference for these people?
Morgan: Well you always run interference in that part of the business of management is to explain to higher management and to other parts of the laboratories what is going on. So that was just part of the job. I never felt that, I never felt that I had to go out and fight for them in the sense that I was contending with anybody. I was, I was if anything a publicist and explainer rather than a person who was going out and contending with other people for money. Our research area here has always been I think quite well supported. It doesn't mean that we have everything we wanted. But if you can make a good case for something, and it is the director's business to make a good case, if you could make a good case for something well you could get it.
MSM: At a certain point I gathered between 73-74 I am not sure what the date is. UNIX in a sense out grew the research group or...
Morgan: Well basically it out grew
MSM: Did it outgrow it and therefore did you feel that it had to someone else had to take over...
MSM: Take over or...?
Morgan: Remember in 73 and 74 we had a couple of dozen people who included some numerical analysts, and some people like Al Aho, Jeff Ullman was around here for a while. He is now in Stanford he has become a big man in academic computer science. We had a small number of people and we had essentially no support staff and there were things that folks wanted to do with UNIX that our people were not terribly interested in putting the time on. My perception of the way things grew is roughly as follows and you will want to talk to Berkeley Tague on this because he was heavily involved in this next stage. My perception is that various software development organizations around Bell Labs picked up UNIX and its researchy state and began adding things to it, to meet their needs. The first application of UNIX outside research where it was a test bed or an environment for software researchers to use, the first thing that was done outside, was early 1971 where the patent organization took UNIX on as a word processing system. And there was another system whose name I forget now I could look it up, it was a commercial system that was a competitor. Well, the patent organization was persuaded by some of our folks including particular Joe Osanna who was the father of troff. Osanna died I think in 1977. But anyway Osanna persuaded the patent people that they ought to use UNIX as a text processing system. And so computing science research organization provided what extra bells and whistles were needed and hand holding for the patent typists and so forth. But by 1972 there were a number of outside organizations, outside research at Bell Labs that were beginning to use UNIX for software development. And each one of them had special needs and so they came and they talked to our people and then they added their own bells and whistles. It was about this point that Berkeley Tague who'd been in and out of research and was at the time associated with the comp centers, decided that, that was a game that he wanted to play. His story now is that he was tired of the work that he was doing at the comp centers. He wanted to get into the UNIX action and this was a very interesting area and it was clear to Tague, who has always had his head screwed on right, it was clear to Tague that somebody was going to need to support UNIX. And so he persuaded his management as part of the comp center that there needs to be a UNIX support group. His version of this is that he got together a few people and the way that he became a UNIX support group was that when anybody would ask a question, "We had this problem with UNIX," Tague would say, "well I will take it under consideration." Then he would get on the phone and fly around like mad to every UNIX user he could think of and say, "have you every encountered this problem? What did you do about it?" When he found out he would trot this back, and "you know this is the way that you can fix it!" And after six months he had some local expertise. Well you should hear Tague tell this story. Anyway. Starting in 1972 UNIX began to be adopted here and there and then it was a kind of an avalanche of organizations that needed it for software development purposes or for running their own particular version of the operating system on. And they got to the UNIX organization supported out of the comp centers and Thompson, Ritchie and Kernighan and Mike Lesk and Doug McIlroy and the folk who had contributed to the early stages of UNIX went on adding things as they wanted to, and answering calls from Tague occasionally, and generally consulting, but they were not in the support business any longer. They hadn't been in the support business very much although at the beginning, whoever invents something has got to give it some support. But a UNIX support organization was formed I think in 1973 under Tague, and from there on it...
MSM: Well the system was first announced if I am not mistaken in 1974 at the IBM conference.
Morgan: I believe that..
MSM: Was there a definite decision about when to go public with this and... Cause there's a, one sees a flurry of papers around the mid '70s, is that a sense of back-up?
Morgan: Well we. Computer scientists most of them we don't like to write papers. And so it was a while after the system existed before it was, before it was written up. I forget, I could look up when we first began licensing UNIX to universities. There is another interesting aspect of the UNIX story which might not happen the same way again. AT&T management could not understand the importance of what it had in UNIX. And so we began licensing UNIX to universities for a very small amount of money. At most a few hundred dollars. And UNIX was licensed all over, it spread over the academic world, Berkeley but many other places, it just went all over the academic world in the early 1970's. Doug McIlroy can tell you when or I could dig up out of my records the first dozen or twenty or fifty universities that we licensed. AT&T had simply let universities have UNIX for a song on the basis that they would not do certain things with it that universities didn't very often do anyway. And as a result of that graduate students got on UNIX and decided that, "I love this, where can I get more of it?" And this piece of serendipity was I think very important in spreading UNIX over the world. The fact that it was essentially given free of charge to universities. And I suspect that we would not do that again. But it was a case of AT&T's top management not realizing that software could be financially, extremely valuable.
MSM: You also weren't suppose to be in the computing...
Morgan: We were not suppose to be in the computing business. So we were not making computers and people did not realize that the computer is more than just hardware. It's also software. So giving UNIX away essentially free, talking about it freely and having open lines of communication with our university colleagues especially those at Berkeley, but also elsewhere, this was a major thing in the spread of UNIX. And to some extent it was an accident.
MSM: So they, that set of papers that appear in the mid '70s is that just a..
Morgan: Well now.
MSM: The timing there accidental?
Morgan: Well, the first big set of papers was the 1978, BSTJ. I have got that around someplace.
MSM: Yeah, I have got the reprint of them.
Morgan: Alright. It was, I was involved in that rather heavily and in putting it together. The BSTJ decided that computer software was a good thing and that we ought to have, we ought to have an issue on it. And there was a general consensus that the UNIX operating system by 1978 needed a special issue. And so we kind of made that a, well we made that a project. I was the, yes guest editor who put the issue together and we sold the issue at two dollars and a half or three dollars and a half a copy, and it has out sold every other issue of the BSTJ that we ever published by a factor of many. It over took the transistor issue almost at once, and it was a tremendously heavy seller, and they sold it for the standard rate on single issues of BSTJ which I forget how much it was then, I believe it was two dollars and a half. And that was another thing that AT&T management didn't recognize that they could have done much better by charging five dollars an issue. The big spate the first big spate of papers on UNIX was the 1978 BSTJ issue and I don't believe except for some conference papers and the original Ritchie-Thompson paper, I don't believe there had been much before then. I know I beat quite hard on folk to get papers written for the 1978 BSTJ issue. And we kind of regarded that as the journal unveiling of the subject. There should have been more publications before then but it was a case of lots of word of mouth and lots of electronic mail. And the fact that most computer scientists with the except of Kernighan and Aho don't much like to write. There was no conscious deci..., before the BSTJ special issue, there was no conscious decision, "we will now publish on this." Our folk were encouraged to publish anything that is worth publishing. But some people you have to push pretty hard to get them to publish and we don't push perhaps as much as we should.
MSM: So there was no sense of sort of a formal release to the world?
Morgan: UNIX didn't get any formal treatment in it's early stages it was a thing that Ken and Dennis made and other people as they heard about it by word of mouth, got on to it, "oh this is great!" And university people heard about it and, "Oh yeah you can have it. We will set up a mechanism, you pay us three hundred dollars or whatever and sign this agreement that you won't set up your own company to market this stuff." And it was all a very small scale and low key in the beginning.
MSM: If you look back on it from a point of view of manager, is UNIX the sort of thing that management can make happen?
Morgan: No. You can't make it happen. You hire bright people, provide them with a stimulating environment. And you do selective pruning and encouragement of what they undertake. But you don't do this with too short a time constant. As I said the first time that Thompson and company asked for a computer they asked for a DEC PDP10 and they were told no on that. It was simply to big and you are not going to do operating system research for a big computer just after MULTICS has been turned off. The second time they asked, they wanted a PDP11/20 and I said, "I am not convinced yet, I want to see more of what you say you are going to do with your text processing system." So I didn't stomp on them, but neither did I sign their order and they found somebody else, another director to sign the order, and the third time they came around they wanted an 1145 and by that time they had a perfectly plausible and defensible story. So they got selective enthusiasm used on them but not too violently or with too short of a time scale. If it is going to be good it will prove itself.
MSM: Well, you know, you. The selective enthusiasm with a counterpart. You were displaying selective enthusiasm. They were displaying entrepreneurship. You said no, so they went and found someone that said yes.
Morgan: That is right.
MSM: Is that also, is that conscious management? That is, encouraging people to do sort of in-house entrepreneurship.
Morgan: Not in the sense that people are told that if you want this funding you have got to find somebody to fund it. We don't ride our folk with a short rein. And we don't tell them who they can talk to or who they can't talk to. And I didn't tell the guys when they came around and asked for the 11/20 and I said, "Look I am not convinced by this story." I didn't say, "If you can find somebody else to do it, feel free." But I didn't tell them "Look you must not talk to anybody else," and when I discovered there were no secrets about this I discovered, I was told "Look, Max Matthews can support this." He was the other director. And why could he support it? He could support it because he was interested in text processing, he was doing, he was in behavioral sciences and psychology and he had people who were working on text processing, and in fact one of the folk who was, came in with the proposition for the 11/20 that I turned down. One of the folk was Lee McMahon who was one of Max's department heads. Lee has recently and very sadly died. But anyway, Lee McMahon was the department head of Max Matthew's so the pitch was not really that two of Morgan's MTS, having been thrown out of Morgan's office, I exaggerate here, but having been thrown out of Morgan's office, trot down the hall to Matthew's and, "Morgan doesn't love us what can you do for us?" They came in through McMahon's director and in fact I am, I hadn't really reviewed this but as I think about it comes back to mind. The people who originally made the proposition to me were Osanna, Thompson and McMahon who were working together. They were in different organizations, they were working together. McMahon was particularly interested in English grammar and in text analysis at the time. Osanna was interested in editing and formatting systems, things like the runoff system. Thompson was interested in file systems and ways of handling information conveniently in a computer. So these birds were talking to each other and they had discovered they were all interested in small computers. They had discovered the PDP-11/20, and they felt that they could make a good text processing system out of an 11/20 which would exercise Thompson's file system. I don't know whether it was called UNIX then or not. It would exercise Thompson's file system, it would give Osanna a chance to write text processing programs. It would give Lee McMahon a chance to process text in his analysis of grammatical structure. Which is what he was doing as a psychologist in Max Matthew's area. So they came to see me. And I obviously didn't fully understand where their proposition was going and so I said I couldn't do it. Not then. So they go around and they give this pitch to Matthews who is Lee McMahon's director. And so it wasn't a case of guys from my organization going outside my organization to find somebody. They simply went to the director of the other person in the trio. And I didn't think there was anything wrong with this or unreasonable about it. Max Matthew's was a person who collected little computers anyway and it may be that he had more money at the time than I did. We have certain plant budgets. Anyway, I didn't think that there was anything out of the way about this and I didn't feel that somebody was criticizing my judgment. Max was perhaps in a better position to support the machine or I don't know what. But anyway it didn't seem unusual to me and now that I recall McMahon reported to me for a long time. He transferred from Max's organization into mine not too long after this particular incident. But at the time he was a department head for Max Matthew's. So he added his voice to the desires that the other fellows had and so Max bought the first computer. But there was nothing, there was nothing particularly unusual about this. And since it would have been a little more unusual if people entirely from one center had gone to a different director and said can you support this. In which case, I am sure that Max would have come to me and said, "Look, two of your guys have come to me and have said will I buy them a computer. If a computer is going be bought you ought to buy it. Let's discuss whether it should be bought or not." The reason it didn't happen that way was that one of Max's department heads was in this story.
MSM: It sounds less entrepreneur...
Morgan: Well, now I should have told you, told that to you that way in the beginning. I remember now who the people were. It was Thompson, Osanna and McMahon, and at that time McMahon was a department head for Max Matthew's, and Thompson and Osanna were MTS in my shop, and each one of them had a separate interest in the particular project, and Max was willing to buy it. If he hadn't had one of his department heads pitching it to him he wouldn't have bought it. I would have done it or nobody. And if I hadn't, if Max had come to me and said, "Look, I have listened to these guys and I think they have got a good story, and why don't you listen to them again," I probably would have. Anyway there was nothing unusual about this and it wasn't a case of people either being encouraged or choosing to find a back door. We do encourage people to be enterprising, that if they want something done, or if they want somebody to cooperate with them. There is another kind of question that comes up occasionally with a new MTS. You will occasionally get someone with feels that he would like to have somebody working with him and this won't happen until somebody's boss says, "You two guys collaborate." One does not tell researchers to collaborate with each other. You find, you find common interests in somebody and then the collaboration occurs. So if somebody came to me and said, "You tell somebody to, you tell such and so to work with me." You make your own contacts. So folks, folk are encouraged to be entrepreneurial in the sense that they make contacts and they get collaborations going. They are not encouraged to go and ask some other member of management for money that they can't get from their own management. But in the case of the Thompson, Osanna, McMahon thing the pitch to Matthews came from one of his own department heads.
MSM: Well, we have gone on for a while and I think that I have run out of questions.
MSM: But I also probably..