Frankston: resource allocation with microtransactions ... in '73!

Rohit Khare (
Fri, 14 Nov 1997 19:21:16 -0800

Date: Fri, 14 Nov 1997 09:21:17 -0500
From: Bob Quinn <>
Subject: Internet Commerce circa 1973

Here's an interesting blast from the past from Bob Frankston, who=20
did Visicalc--the first killer (Apple II) app--with Dan Bricklin.
The topic is microtransactions.

This Master=92s Thesis was written in 1973 when the ARPA Network,=20
the predecessor of the Internet was still new and experimental. The
MIT Multics system was intended to be the prototype of a computer=20

The original topic of the thesis was the management of resources in=20
such a system. But it soon became obvious that the user=92s could only
manage resources if they were in terms meaningful to the user and not=20
in terms of CPU cycles and other meaningless measurements. This
lead to the realization that user=92s were really buying services and=20
that the service providers are the ones who are the ones to worry about
their consumables (the computer resources) and the prices they charge=20
are not directly related to these costs since the requirement on the
merchant is to be effective in a competitive marketplace. The merchants
themselves are consumers of various resources so that this
process is recursive.

In the interest of being pragmatic, I give some specific implementation=20
details for Multics using PL/1 as the language, but the points are
independent of these specifics.

You can send comments to me at

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