The year was 1973, and the computer operating system UNIX, invented at Bell Labs by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie, had just morphed into its third iteration or improvement, and had just been rewritten in the C programming language.
This film, made as an orientation for the computer center at the Bell Labs Holmdel location, is a rare glimpse into the operations and procedures of an early 1970s research-oriented computing center. And as the 1973 Holmdel Computer Center only had IBM computers, it wasn't running a UNIX installation: the system was only ported to IBM computers in the years to come. In 1973, UNIX as a system was limited to installations on DEC computers, and there were UNIX installations at other locations of Bell Laboratories such as Indian Hill, Whippany, and, of course, Murray Hill (where UNIX and C were developed).
Computers in the Bell System weren't just relegated to computer science or the development of computer language. They were employed for all kinds of complex engineering calculations, telecommunications applications, and, very occasionally, for making art and music.
Deeper perspectives/history on computing at Bell Labs:
- An Issue of the Bell System Technical Journal from August 1978 was devoted to UNIX development at Bell Laboratories.
- The computing environment at Bell Labs at the time, from a UNIX history
- Computer language evolution at Bell Labs, published at ACM
- The Development of the C Language by Dennis Ritchie
Footage Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ