Multics > Sites
06 Dec 2009

Site History: AFDSC


United States Air Force Data Services Center, The Pentagon, Arlington VA, USA.

First Installed

November 1973


This site had 6 systems: four were multilevel secure, two were unclassified.

[MAJ Jennifer Lyon] At the time I left the Pentagon in 1988, we had 6 systems:

4 were multi-level (D, H, M, & Z)

2 were unclassified (T & X). T & X could be run as a single system or split to be 2 separate systems.

System Z was brought operational soon after I got there in 1983. Sys X came along sometime around 1986.

Some data from 1986

Application areas

[CDT] Big Consistent System users. Lots of database-type work. Financial chartsy-graphsy applications, budget analysis, program analysis and evaluation. Air combat simulations and their graphical interpretation. Lots of "critical reports for the Secretary."

Honeywell Marketing

Jesse McDuffy, Bill Cratty, Jane Brady

Site Analysts

[John Ata] The following AF personnel worked on Multics and were fairly knowledgeable about the OS (more so than some Site SAs):

[Ed Rice] Joan Shields was the head of the entire system support shop at AFDSC.

Umar Khan said he was a "Master Multician" in the Pentagon from 1982 to 1990 in a 1993 USENET posting.

System Administrators

Final Shutdown


The Wartime Manpower Programing System (WARMAPS) was designed and implemented by General Research Corporation starting in 1978. It is described in a final report and in DoD 1100-19-M (March 1987).

[Jim Densmore] I was on the TAC BRAWLER team at AFSA. We didn't just run graphical interpretation programs. We ran the simulation programs themselves on Multics as well. The over 200,000 line FORTRAN program that ran at that time was eventually ported to many machines using ANSI standard FORTRAN 77, and is over 500,000 lines now. Because of the object-oriented technology we had in play at that time (though we certainly didn't call it that), the program is still in use and still quite maintainable.


[CDT] I once had a GSA security guard storm into the terminal room with his gun pointed at me when the "BEL" beeper on a Tektronix 4014 got stuck on. Does that count?

[CDT] The operators were relatively untrained. One noticed disk errors from a certain drive two days in a row in the early afternoon. He logged them for the FE without bothering to go into the next room to check out the drive. When the FE arrived to run tests on the drive, he noticed fiberglass dust all over the room from the ceiling repair work -- except for two clean shoe-shaped areas on top of this particular drive. The contractor was standing on it and drilling into the ceiling.

[CDT] The ceiling work was constant, due to the incredibly fragile chilled water system. In 1973, the system blew, damaging nearly every computer and device in the room. After that, the Air Force bought plastic covers for the equipment. Next time the system blew, they put the covers on, but didn't shut the equipment down. Of course, it burned out. From then on, they simply strung up dropcloths like huge tents whenever the water blew. It was like working in an electronic orchard infested with gypsy moths.

[CDT] AFDSC was one of the pioneer sites for Halon fire control. They needed a lot of tanks to flood the huge room, and located them centrally in the same room as a D270 disk farm. They girdered them up at head height to one of the walls. Then they foolishly rigged up the sensors so that any ONE going off would trigger the system. A couple months later, one sensor falsed. The force of the discharge blew the tanks, girders, and all right off the wall and across the room, completely scalping the D270's.

[CDT] GSA personnel upgraded the systems from core bulk store to MOS bulk store by wheeling the MOS box into the Top Secret area, cabling it up, and wheeling out the core bulk. The core bulk had been sitting in the hallway for three days before someone discovered that it had never officially been wiped of classified data.

[CDT] In about 1975, there was a huge five-alarm fire after hours that took out a corner of the Pentagon. It was blamed on spontaneous combustion in the cafeterias, which were being renovated. I got caught in the smoke leaving the building, and had to leave by an unfamiliar exit. It wasn't until I got home and saw the fire live on the news that I realized that the computer room was under that particular corner, and there had been no fire bells and no warning. I called the chief operator and informed them there had been a fire going on over his head for about two hours. He said he had only found out about 15 minutes ago, "when all the water started coming in." I told him to put the plastic covers on and shut everything down. He replied that there were plastic covers for everything BUT the Multics equipment. It seemed to be a good time to take some vacation, so I did.

[CDT] The one about the feral cat that lived under the raised flooring is not particularly Multicious. All the other good stories I know are classified.

Most of this info is from Chris Tavares, with updates from Jennifer Lyon, Ed Rice, and Jim Densmore.