Tracking down old sources (was Re: [rescue] Interesting bit on Multics)

Francois Dion fdion at
Mon Oct 20 08:24:17 CDT 2003

There is another possibility: Nobody knows about Multics anymore at Bull 
and/or they have no idea where the source is, even!

I worked for Videotron/Videoway in Montreal, QC some years ago. We had 
settop boxes running our own OS since forever, in a lot of households. 
The last revision of the boxes made at Videoway back in the mid 90s had 
games, mail, interactive TV and the like. Not a bad little OS (I believe 
there are still quite a few of these boxes around in Quebec). The box 
lacked enough RAM for applications IMHO, but it did have a cable modem 
in it (that was more than 10 years ago). Lots of programs and 
development tools (a mix of Windows NT and OS/2 mostly - ah the 
annoyance of writing device drivers under non Unix systems), emulators, 
editors etc were made. I also worked on another project that didn't get 
to production, UBI (for the proto/market tests, it was a merge of a 
beefed up videoway and a GTE Mainstreet box). Again lots of cool stuff 
like tools to encode audio into video frames, openGL 3d worlds generated 
in realtime on the server and sent as frames and stuff like that.

With digital TV and settop boxes from other vendors now, and most people 
leaving Videoway as it was merging with the corporate office (no more 
lavish R&D budgets). I'm pretty sure that there are maybe 2 people left 
at Videotron that know where this stuff is at. I doubt the Sun server on 
which the source resided has been upgraded or is still under support. I 
wouldn't be surprised it's been powered off in a closet somewhere. Who 
knows where the tape backups are, or if anyone knows the format they are 

If someone was to ask anybody in the administrative layer at Videotron, 
they would get 100% failure rate. You'd have to track down the right 
person, assuming someone was still there that knew this stuff...

I suspect the endeavor to find the Multics sources at Bull might be even 
more monumental.


Lionel Peterson wrote:

>I choose to understand it this way:
>"For fear of giving away (literally or figuratively) something that
>prove to have value down the line, they would rather sit on their
>assetts than risk a mistake."

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