[ih] Dave Farber's DCS

Karl Auerbach karl at cavebear.com
Wed Jul 22 16:48:11 PDT 2020

When I was at SDC during the 1970's I met Frank Heinrich (who eventually 
became my Best Man at my wedding.)  Frank was a student of Dave Farber 
on the Distributed Computing System (DCS) at UC Irvine during the late 

DCS used distributed services (via a ring network) to build the chunks 
of an operating system.  It used a bid-and-contract system to bind the 
pieces together - if you needed file storage you put out a bid for 
storage and machines that had that facility would send back a response, 
with a cost.  Then there was a contracting phase to bind the relationship.

(IBM had to concede to DCS that IBM did not invent the token ring 
network concept.)

Frank H. taught Dave Kaufman and me about DCS.  That had a lot of 
influence on some of the things we were working on under wraps of 
government secrecy.  Dave K. and I were fascinated with the idea of 
extending capability-system like protection domains, with privilege 
delegation, across the net to create encapsulated DCS-like network 
services.  (This was before one of our consultants, Whit Diffie, did his 
public-key cryptography stuff.)

I don't think that DCS had much of a practical impact on the net.  That 
is, not until the last decade or so.

That concept kinda went dormant for a long time.  But it came back with 
the rise of HTTP/S based web APIs, such as in Amazon's AWS and many of 
Google's APIs to things like graphing tools and such.

It has also come back with people using Docker containers as services 
that are created and scattered around the net as needed, often with DNS 
or a higher-level naming service used to locate and bind them.

Is there a description of DCS that is better then the inadequate 
snippets and fragments that one finds occasionally?

(BTW, I did a multi-hour interview with Dave Farber some years ago and a 
sizeable part was about DCS.)


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