<networking, history> A United States-wide commercial computer network,
created by Tymshare, Inc. some time before 1970, and used for remote login and
file transfer. The network public went live in November 1971.
In its original implementation, it consisted of fairly simple circuit-oriented
nodes, whose circuits were created by central network supervisors writing into
the appropriate nodes' "permuter tables". The supervisors also performed login
validations as well as circuit management. Circuits were character oriented and
the network was oriented toward interactive character-by-character full-duplex
The network had more than one supervisor running, but only one was active, the
others being put to sleep with "sleeping pill" messages. If the active
supervisor went down, all the others would wake up and battle for control of the
network. After the battle, the supervisor with the highest pre-set priority
would dominate, and the network would then again be controlled by only one
supervisor. (During the takeover battle, the net consisted of subsets of itself
across which new circuits could not be built). Existing circuits were not
affected by supervisor switches.
There was a clever scheme to switch the echoing function between the local node
and the host based on whether or not a special character had been typed by the
user. Data transfers were also possible via "auxiliary circuits".
The Tymshare hosts (which ran customer code) were SDS 940, DEC PDP-10, and
eventually IBM 370 computers. Xerox XDS 940 might have been used if Xerox, who
bought the design for the SDS 940 from Scientific Data Systems, had ever built
The switches were originally Varian Data Machines 620i. The Interdata 8/32 was
never used because the performance was disappointing. The TYMNET Engine, based
loosely on the Interdata 7/32, was developed instead to replace the Varian 620i.
In the early 1990s, newer "Turbo" nodes based on the Motorola 68000 began to
replace the 7/32s. These were later replaced with SPARCs.
PDP-10s supported (and still do in 1999) cross-platform development and billing.
Tymshare, Inc. originally wrote and implemented TYMNET to provide nationwide
access for their time-sharing customers.
La Roy Tymes booted up the public TYMNET in November of 1971 and, as of March
2002, it had been running ever since without a single system crash.
TYMNET was the largest commercial network in the United States in its heyday,
with nodes in every major US city and a few overseas as well. Tymshare acquired
a French subsidiary, SLIGOS, and had TYMNET nodes in Paris, France.
Tymshare sold the TYMNET network software to TRW, who created their own private
network (which was not called TYMNET). In about 1979, TYMNET Inc. was spun off
from Tymshare, Inc. to continue administration and development of the network.
TYMNET outlived its parent company Tymshare and was acquired by MCI. As of May
1994 they still ran three DEC KL-10s under TYMCOM-X, although they planned to
decommission them soon.
The original creators of TYMNET included: Ann Hardy, Norm Hardy, Bill Frantz. La
Roy Tymes (who always insisted that his name was NOT the source of the name)
wrote the first supervisor which ran on the 940. Joe Rinde made many significant
technical and marketing contributions. La Roy wrote most of the code of the
network proper. Several others wrote code in support of development and
administration. Just recently (1999) La Roy, on contract, wrote a version of the
supervisor to run on SPARC hardware.
The name TYMNET was suggested by Vigril Swearingen in a weekly meeting between
Tymshare technical and marketing staff in about 1970.
[E-mail from La Roy Tymes]
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