Concept

Burroughs MCP

Summary
The MCP (Master Control Program) is the operating system of the Burroughs B5000/B5500/B5700 and the B6500 and successors, including the Unisys Clearpath/MCP systems. MCP was originally written in 1961 in ESPOL (Executive Systems Problem Oriented Language). In the 1970s, MCP was converted to NEWP which was a better structured, more robust, and more secure form of ESPOL. The MCP was a leader in many areas, including: the first operating system to manage multiple processors, the first commercial implementation of virtual memory, and the first OS written exclusively in a high-level language. In 1961, the MCP was the first OS written exclusively in a high-level language (HLL). The Burroughs Large System (B5000 and successors) were unique in that they were designed with the expectation that all software, including system software, would be written in an HLL rather than in assembly language, which was a unique and innovative approach in 1961. Unlike IBM, which faced hardware competition after the departure of Gene Amdahl, Burroughs software only ever ran on Burroughs hardware due to a lack of compatible third party hardware. For this reason, Burroughs was free to distribute the source code of all software it sold, including the MCP, which was designed with this openness in mind. For example, upgrading required the user to recompile the system software and apply any needed local patches. At the time, this was common practice, and was necessary as it was not unusual for customers (especially large ones, such as the Federal Reserve) to modify the program to fit their specific needs. As a result, a Burroughs Users Group was formed, which held annual meetings and allowed users to exchange their own extensions to the OS and other parts of the system software suite. Many such extensions have found their way into the base OS code over the years, and are now available to all customers. As such, the MCP could be considered one of the earliest open-source projects.
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