Michael T. Alexander papers, 1968-1994 (majority within 1982-1992)
Using These Materials
- The collection is open without restriction.
- Alexander, Michael T.
- Michael T. Alexander was a member of the research staff of the University of Michigan's Computing Center and Information Technology Division Research Systems from 1965 to 1996. Collection contains records of Alexander's duties as well as extensive documentation for the Michigan Terminal System, including manuals and systems reports.
- 8 linear feet (in 10 boxes)
- Call Number:
- 2012025 Aa 2
- Finding aid created by Richard Adler, 2012
- Scope and Content:
The Michael T. Alexander papers document the work of Alexander and other University of Michigan Computing Center programmers and staff in developing the Michigan Terminal System (MTS) and other software.
The title of this collection acknowledges Michael T. Alexander as the primary collector and donor of the papers. The collection includes a varsity of administrative records relating to MTS with an emphasis on the development of certain aspects of the Michigan Terminal System environment such as email.
Researchers should be aware that these records use the term "MTS" in three different respects:
- MTS the UMMPS Job Program with which most end-users interact;
- MTS the software system, including UMMPS, the MTS and other Job Programs, Command Language Subsystems (CLSs), public files (programs), and documentation; and
- MTS the time-sharing service offered at a particular site, including the MTS software system, the hardware used to run MTS, the staff that supported MTS and assisted end-users, and the associated administrative policies and procedures.
In the first instance, "MTS" would be considered a part of the UM Multiprogramming Supervisor (UMMPS). In the other instances, however, the UMMPS would be considered a part of "MTS." The researcher should, therefore, exercise caution when assuming a particular hierarchical relationship between MTS and UMMPS in these records.
The records of the Michael T. Alexander collection are organized in six series: Administrative Records; Budget Material; Distribution Tapes and Documentation; Software Manuals and Programming; Systems Reports; and Vendors.
- Biographical / Historical:
Michael T. Alexander joined the University of Michigan's Computing Center in 1965 as a Research Assistant.
In the mid-1960s, the staff of the UM Computing Center relied on IBM 7090 hardware and an operating system, the UM Executive System (UMES), of their own design. The limited memory available to the IBM 7090 and the high cost of its operation demanded the use of "batch processing," in which programs were run immediately after one another with minimal human intervention. Batch processing ensured that the university's expensive computing resources were used cost-effectively, but did so at the price of requiring users to wait hours or days for project results. However, in 1966 new developments in virtual memory architecture inspired the staff of the Computing Center to draft a proposal for a terminal-oriented, time-sharing operating system that would allow users to interact with their programs and receive immediate results.
The Computing Center staff took their time-sharing proposal to IBM which led, after a period of close collaboration, to the development of a one-of-a-kind IBM System 360/66M computer ('M' for 'Michigan'). When project delays prevented IBM from delivering software to support the new hardware's time-sharing capability, Michael T. Alexander and Donald W. Boettner led the development of an in-house time-sharing operating system, the Michigan Terminal System (MTS). The low level supervisor or kernel of the system was the UM Multiprogramming Supervisor (UMMPS) which controlled the execution of multiple instances of "job programs," one of which was MTS which made time-sharing possible.
MTS was released to the UM campus in May, 1967. By 1970 the system could support 58 simultaneous users on nearly 200 terminals providing access to MTS on the UM campus and from other universities. While MTS had little difficulty responding to requests for 100,000 jobs per month or more, such demands were growing beyond the capacity of the IBM 360/67 computers on which it ran. The University of British Columbia Computing Centre had adapted MTS to run on IBM 370 and Extended Architecture (XA) systems, but the UM Computing Center preferred the superior speed and reliability of the Amdahl 470V/6 computer. UM was the first university to use the Amdahl computer. While other universities soon migrated to Amdahl, the system would remain a part of the UM computing infrastructure through the mid-1980s.
In addition to the University of Michigan and the University of British Columbia, there were five other member institutions of the MTS Consortium: the University of Alberta, Wayne State University, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Simon Fraser University, and NUMAC ("Northumbrian Universities Multiple Access Computer," a collaboration between the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, the Durham University, and Newcastle Polytechnic). Each of the member institutions played a significant part in the development of MTS, particularly in the design, implementation, and testing of features and services. Other notable users of MTS included Michigan State University, Hewlett-Packard, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
In the early 1970s a parallel initiative, the Michigan Educational Research Information Triad (MERIT) linked the computer systems of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University. The MERIT network was independent of MTS, but in practice the two projects were closely associated, and the University of Michigan provided all hosting and staff support for the new network. By the late 1970s, Merit had begun to expand to other Michigan universities as part of its mission to provide advanced and expensive computer resources to smaller institutions that could not otherwise afford them. Services provided by the Merit network would include access to the Telnet network by 1976 as well as access to the Internet in 1985. Communication processing technology developed for Merit would lead to the creation of UMnet in 1983.
MTS also provided innovative services. In 1975 graduate student Robert Parnes created CONFER, an early conferencing system for private electronic mail exchange, open or invitation-only group discussion on MTS and on other systems linked to MTS via the Merit network. Email service to remote users on other systems was added in September 1983 when MTS joined the MAILNET project, a joint effort by sixteen universities and EDUCOM (the precursor to EDUCAUSE). The increasing popularity of microcomputers in the early 1980s also led the Computing Center staff to develop programs, which would allow the use of Apple II and IBM PC computers as terminals on the MTS system.
The development of popular features, such as remote access from other networks, added to the growing demand placed on MTS by students and faculty. In 1985, a second system was secured for the increased use. This second system was named "UB" or "U-Blue" to distinguish it from the first system, which was retroactively, designated "UM" or "U-Maize." A third MTS system was created for the UM Department of Human Genetics. 
In 1985 the Computing Center was merged into the Information Technology Division, a new unit intended to shift the university's computing resources away from centralized mainframes in favor of distributed networks and support for microcomputers, such as the Apple II. The increasing popularity of microcomputers coupled with other trends in computer technology during that time eventually led to the replacement of MTS largely by Unix-based networked servers with TCP/IP support for internet connectivity. End-user support for MTS ended on June 30, 1996, and the UM systems themselves were shut down on May 30, 1997.
The last member of the MTS Consortium to have an MTS system in operation was Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. That system was shut down in June 1999. However, MTS can still be run on IBM System 370 emulators. 
- 1. "A Faster Cratchit," Blanchard Hiatt. Research News, Vol XXVII. No. 1, January 1976, pp 9-10; "MTS: An Overview," Susan Topol. May 1996 Information Technology Digest, published by the University of Michigan Information Technology Division. Retrieved on October 11, 2001, from http://www.clock.org/~jss/work/mts/overview.html; Email message from Bob Alexander, April 16, 2012 to Nancy Deromedi.
- 2. "A Faster Cratchit," p. 16, 18-21; "Michigan Terminal System," Donald W. Boettner and Michael T. Alexander. ACM SIGOPS Operating Systems Review, Vol. 4 Issue 4, December 1970, p. 7; Jeff Ogden, "The Michigan Terminal System." Retrieved on January 11, 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_Terminal_System
- 3. "MTS: An Overview," Susan Topol. May 1996 Information Technology Digest, published by the University of Michigan Information Technology Division. Retrieved on October 11, 2001, from http://www.clock.org/~jss/work/mts/overview.html
- 4. "Merit-Who, What, and Why," Eric M. Aupperle. Retrieved on January 24, 2012, from http://www.merit.edu/about/history/pdf/NSFNET_final.pdf; "Faster Cratchit," p. 22; "Merit Network," Mark Riordan. Retrieved on January 24, 2012, from https://www.msu.edu/~mrr/mycomp/mts/merit.htm; History timeline of the Merit Network. Retrieved on January 25, 2012, from: http://www.merit.edu/about/history/timeline_1980.php
- 5. "CONFER (software)," Jeff Ogden. Retrieved on January 25, 2012, from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CONFER_%28software%29; "MTS System Architecture," Jeff Ogden. Retrieved on January 25, 2012, from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MTS_system_architecture#Electronic_mail; "Computing at Michigan," Thomas Madden. Retrieved on January 4, 2012, from: http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/79605
- 6. "Michigan Terminal System," Jeff Ogden. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_Terminal_System on February 3, 2012.
- Acquisition Information:
- Records received through Michael Alexander (donor no. 10570 ).
Periodic additions to the collection are expected.
- Rules or Conventions:
- Finding aid prepared using Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
- Additional Descriptive Data:
Material at the Bentley Historical Library related to the Michael T. Alexander papers include the following:
- Units and departments:
- Individuals associated with the Computing Center and its work:
The HathiTrust Digital Library (http://hathitrust.org) also contains various publications and papers by or about the U-M Computing Center. These materials have been collected into a UM Computing Center Collection
Michigan Terminal System Archive: http://archive.michigan-terminal-system.org/home (Accessed on February 3, 2012.)
MTS page on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_Terminal_System (Accessed 2012.)
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Using These Materials
The collection is open without restriction.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Copyright is held by the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright is not held. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.
- PREFERRED CITATION:
[item], folder, box, Michael T. Alexander papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan