I delved a bit into the origins of (commercial) timesharing and it seems there have been very interesting computing hardware and software (architectures) which have become relatively unknown but may experience a revival in the future.

I read the book The Tym Before ...: The Untold Origins of Cloud Computing, can you recommend any other sources?

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    This seems destined to be closed for 'overly broad'. But let's try and narrow it down. Firstly, practically all mainframe and mini operating systems with interactive access were timesharing systems. I guess you specifically mean timesharing sold as a service? (What we'd now call PaaS). 'Which companies?' - just the service providers, or the makers of the hardware and/or OS? Jan 19 at 13:22
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    @another-dave The question is not overly broad. There is exactly one question: What are other sources in addition to the one mentioned, expounding the history of timesharing.
    – Leo B.
    Jan 19 at 21:29
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    I count five separate questions - the bulleted list. Still, I'm happy to leave it open if others agree, Jan 19 at 21:31

This answers your question by suggesting some avenues of further research. This is one of those cases where just knowing the right buzzwords helps with the search.

You could start by doing some research on Fernando Corbato and the Compatible Time Sharing System (CTSS) for the IBM 7090/7094. This was one of the pioneering projects in timesharing. You could follow up with Multics, and maybe even unix, although unix was initially not built for multiple concurrent users.

Also look into Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and Bolt, Beranek, and Newman (BBN). Also Scientific Data Systems (SDS) which was bought out by Xerox, and the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). PARC was more geared towards servers in a local area network, where each user has a personal computer on the desk.

Early DEC machines like the PDP-1 were adapted for timesharing, and the PDP-6 was specifically organized to run a timeshared operating system. The PDP-10, a successor to the PDP-6, was a major player in the timesharing vendor field in the early 1970s. You might look up the corporate history of Compuserve, as an example of a timesharing service bureau. The VAX, a successor to the PDP-11, was a scalable timesharing system, and was DEC's flagship product through the 1980s. VMS was the culmination of a lot of evolution in timesharing operating systems.

Eventually, the minicomputer and the microcomputer eroded the market for timesharing systems. Cloud computing did not take off until communications progressed to where broadband was cheap and ubiquitous.

As far as hacking is concerned, you might want to start with Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. This book deals with the history of hacking, which intersects with the history of timesharing.

This is only a partial answer, as your question is very broad.

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    Also don't forget about machines such as the LEO which provided payroll services.
    – PeterI
    Jan 19 at 14:48
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    * the minicomputer and the microcomputer eroded the market* - Not as much the microcomputer (though there were quite a few) but especially the minicomputer was quite big for timesharing - if you were a small to medium size business your choice in the 70s was rent timesharing on a mainframe or buy your own minicomputer and use it as your own timesharing system (and possibly even rent access to even smaller companies). That continued with micros (including the DR family of MPM, etc. but also Alpha Micro and others) in the 80s and even 90s until PC networks became cheap & fast enough. Jan 19 at 15:55
  • Good answer about timesharing in general (and +1 from me), but is the OP really asking about timesharing bureaux? Seems unclear to me. Jan 19 at 21:32
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    It is a little unclear. But timesharing as a commercial venture has to be part of the timesharing story, and hacking of commercial timesharing vendors was certainly part of the story. Some timesharing company out in Seattle hired a couple of high school kids, Paul Allen and Bill Gates to see if they could find flaws in the system. Jan 19 at 21:54
  • Well, we had an interesting way to get a copy of PIP running with .JACCT set. Not that we did anything bad, no way, and the CTY printout that says we did has never been found. Jan 20 at 0:48

Another aspect to consider in this discussion is the EDI VANs. EDI is Electronic Data Interchange, and is part and parcel to the wholesale/retailer supply chain. In brief terms, it's a way for retailers to send purchase orders to wholesalers, and get information back.

VAN is the Value Added Network. The VAN is the backbone which integrates these disparate enterprises. It's the routing infrastructure. Rather than connecting directly to each other, the participants connect to the VAN, and it routes the messages. Consider it Financial Email.

These have been around since the mid-70's.

I bring it up because it was a large, and mostly hidden, component of the early computing landscape and helped modernize the supply chain.

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