History on Cyphernetics and the Ford Time Sharing System

By 1965, time sharing became available within Ford via the purchase of a GE 265 running Dartmouth Basic. It quickly became obvious that Ford wanted to have time sharing, but with significantly more capability than the 265's could supply; something more like the Project MAC equipment. When things didn’t move fast enough in the public market (and if you recall, IBM dragged its feet on time-sharing at that time), Ford decided to create its own. Chuck Missler, then the manager of Engineering computer operations, hired Ken Lochner and several other graduates/programmers from Dartmouth to create such a system. They took the Philco 212[1] that they were presently operating in batch mode, added a Bryant disc, and had Philco design special circuitry so that the computer could use 65K memory. The Bryant disc was brand new on the market, and it was huge. The disc heads were hydraulically activated, and when it did a disk seek, the false floor shook. The programming team looked at the situation and decided to develop the time sharing system (almost) entirely in MAD. After it was completed and operational, they told me that about 98% of the code was MAD, only about 2 % machine code. That system supplied most of the time sharing computing to Ford Engineering until the installation of the GE Multics. After some time, the Bryant disk died, the company went out of business, and Ford had a problem. So, someone in Philco or in Ford (I don’t know which) designed a custom interface between the Philco and a DEC RP06. The Philco 212[1] ran the rest of its life (many years) on that RP06. Some time after the startup of this system, Ford acquired a Philco 102 to be the communications processor for the 212. The MAD compiler was modular enough that it required only small changes to make it generate code for the 102, running on the 212. So, it too was coded in MAD. After the system had been running for a while, Missler and many of his staff left Ford to form Cyphernetics in Ann Arbor. There they sold computer services on an array DEC -10s. Meanwhile, Ford turned its attention back to GE Multics. But the Philco 212 continued to operate at Ford for many years after the Multics system was installed.[2]

A News clipping on the beginning of Cyphernetics

CYPHERNETICS CORPORATION, NEW NATIONAL COMPUTER SERVICE COMPLEX Alan E. Schwartz, Detroit business executive and civic leader, and Charles W. Missler, formerly director of the Technical Computer Center of the Ford Motor Company, have announced the formation of The Cyphernetics Corp. (Ann Arbor, Mich.), a national computer service. The Cyphernetics Corporation is expected to be in full operation by the first of June and will serve business and industry through a time-sharing network. The new firm will offer its clientele: an advanced time-sharing network; advanced software development; computer graphics; and computer management services. The founders of the corporation include senior systems personnel from the original Dartmouth project (the GE-265 and GE-635 time-sharing systems) who, with Missler, established the Ford Motor Company world-wide time-sharing network. Alan E. Schwartz will serve as chairman of the board and chief financial officer of the new firm; Charles W. Missler will be president and chief operating officer.[3]


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