Description of JOSS
"1. Implementing an Ideal
Shortly after the Rand Corporation moved to its present location in
The first truly simple on-line system, JOSS represents a milestone in the
history of conversational timesharing. In the years of its operation at
JOSS was the result of an experimental project at
As new applications were promoted, the language of computer instruction sets rose from the level of machine code to that of assemblers and compilers. At the same time, professional programmers were replacing those pioneering scientists and engineers who had learned to cope with the complexities of the machine in order to use this remarkable tool. Formerly a researcher seated at the computer's console had had its immediate and undivided attention. Now such dedicated personal usage was generally an unaffordable luxury.
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At the Rand Corporation, Cliff Shaw envisioned the possibilities for a
particular type of user not likely to be satisfied by the prospective
commercial or governmental systems. In 1955 Cliff expressed his concern for the
A 1959 memo from
Cliff recommended that the JOHNNIAC be used full time to service the open shop by means of hard-copy stations, and he looked forward to the challenge of resolving communication and monitoring difficulties. The JOHNNIAC, in its youth, had served well as a production machine. When its storage and speed limitations eventually caused a shift to more modern equipment, this aging home-grown computer became attractive for the JOSS experiment.
There have been many creative contributors to JOSS's evolution from experimental to operational system (see the Appendix for the JOSS "Cast of Characters"). Among them, Cliff Shaw set out to establish the JOSS precept of "easy to learn and easy to use as a principle to govern the entire system design. As Cliff later recalled, his intent was not to make JOHNNIAC machine language available, but instead to provide a computational service through a new, machine-independent language. The system would be designed specifically to show the value of on-line access to a computer via a language tailored to a special class of user (the non programmer) and a special type of application (small and numerical).
It was in March 1961 that JOSS was formally proposed as "an exploration
into continuous and intimate contact between a human user and a computer."
So began the first phase of the U.S. Air Force sponsored Information Processor
Project, whose goal was to improve communication between human and machine An
unsung hero of the project, recalls Chuck Baker who directed the second phase,
was John Williams! the head of
2. From JOSS I to JOSS In
Participants with Cliff Shaw in project discussions were Tom Ellis, Ike Nehama, Al Newell, and Keith Uncapher. Included in their plans were 10 typewriter terminals in fixed locations. Tom Ellis and Mal Davis directed the construction of the required multiple typewriter communication system during 1961 and 1962. Meanwhile Cliff was designing the interdependent details of language, terminal, and conversational environment.
JOSS was inaugurated in May 1963 with an initial five terminals and a minimal system. One terminal was
installed at the JOHNNIAC, and four were located in the offices of
The first schedule of operation, each weekday morning, was announced on June 17. It was hoped that this limited edition of the system could provide a controlled feedback that would help shape the complete version. But the new users taught others so quickly that the experimenters had to resort to after-the-fact questionnaires.
January 1964 marks the official birth of the full JOSS implementation on the
JOHNNIAC. By July of that year, JOSS service was extended into the evening
hours to accommodate