Multics > Sites
18 Nov 2020

Site History: System M

History | People | Library | Sites | About Search


System M was installed in the Honeywell Phoenix Multics Development Center (PMDC) in Phoenix, AZ in 1972 to support Multics when it became a product.

Initially, System M was located in the Camelback Road Facility (CRF) at Camelback Road & Black Canyon Freeway.

In 1987, System M moved to Deer Valley Computer Park (DVCP) at Thunderbird Road & Black Canyon Freeway.

First Installed

A prototype 6090 system was installed at CRF in 11/72. In 1973 the official name of "6180" was announced.

Configuration: (1978)

Four 6180 CPUs,
1024K words MOS memory,
2 4 MW paging devices,
xx MSU0451 disk (150 MB each),
eight tape drives,
card reader & punch.

.. plus other equipment for System MB, including a GCOS system that ran CUESTA (see below).

Application areas

This system was run by the Multics Computer Center (MCC) organization and supported timesharing access for

New versions of system software were exposed on System M after they had been checked out at CISL and MIT. The System M machine was also used for final packaging and tape generation for MR releases.

System MB was the part of System M that was used for benchmark support. CPUs and other resources could be switched from one machine to the other, allowing benchmark development while service was running, and then making a big configuration for actual benchmark runs.

Site Analysts and System Administrators

The Phoenix Multics development group played a major role in supporting System M, since it was an internal development site. Frank Martinson managed the group that kept System M going.

Lacy Johnson was the main system administrator.


The people who ran System M included Conrad Barriga, Gerald Cahoon, Willie Drumm, Kay Kaiser, and Harold Van Sant.

Field Engineering

Jim Combs.

Notable developments

MRDS, the first commercial relational database product, was developed at System M by Jim Weeldreyer and Oris Friesen.

Final Shutdown

November 1993


[PWB] CUESTA was the load generation software. It ran on a GCOS 3 machine at Camelback. I worked for Honeywell FSO (Federal Systems Operations) in the 77-79 timeframe doing GCOS and later Multics benchmarks, the most significant of which was the EOP (Executive Office of the President) benchmark. The EOP benchmark had a lot of word processing in it. I entered a TR about compose performance. A response from the developer of compose, Ed Wallman, likened using compose to do the tasks in the benchmark to using a 747 to retrace the first flight of the Wright Brothers. A followup mail from Ed's manager, Tom Van Vleck, suggested that a simple fill and adjust routine be written to do the job. I still have a copy of that email. One night on System MB (the benchmark system) I wrote that simple routine, and using it reduced the configuration that we ultimately bid by an entire CPU. A few months later I joined Multics development and one of my first tasks was to make that fill and adjust routine a product. It (format_document) was never widely used, but its subroutine interface (format_document_) was used by several Multics subsystems including the mail system and forum.

[PWB] The RPV of the last instance of System-M was taken apart, its platters engraved and given as mementoes to the remaining Phoenix Multicians at (by then) Bull. I have one in my garage.

[PWB] The CRF building has reverted to its original retail origins and is now "In-Door Swap Mart".

CRF building in 2003, Anthony Nemmer

The former CRF building, with the Indoor Swap Mart sign on it. Photo by Anthony Nemmer, Sept 2003. Click for a larger view.

Written 09/20/95
Updated 07/08/99
Updated 12/15/02
Updated 10/31/12
Updated 12/07/16
10/24/19 Moved some content to Multics in Phoenix