The JOSS Years

Reflections on an Experiment

by Shirley L. Marks

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JOSS, a personal time-shared computing service, was proposed in March 1961 as "an exploration into continuous and intimate contact between a human user and a computer." The JOSS experiment began in May 1963 with one typewriter console at the JOHNNIAC computer and four installed in offices of selected RAND staff. By the end of 1970, there were 500 to 600 users at RAND and at Air Force sites across the country. JOSS was designed for solution of the small numerical problem. The readability of the English-like commands and messages contributes to easy program creation and modification. Mobile JOSS consoles permit easy access to the system from RAND offices equipped with special plugs. Such language and console characteristics have enhanced the personalized, open-shop approach to computing power for the nonprogrammer. To serve more users, however, JOSS resources can probably be managed more formally than at present.

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