Rudd Canaday wrote his first computer program in 1958 while an undergraduate at Harvard. He has been designing and writing software professionally, as well as managing software projects, ever since. The first program he wrote was in assembly language for the Univac Scientific. The latest program is in Ruby on Rails for an Amazon EC2 server. He has written in dozens of languages for dozens of environments.

At MIT he wrote his Master’s thesis in LISP, exploring artificial intelligence under the legendary Marvin Minsky (The Description of Overlapping Figures), and his doctoral thesis on logic design (Two-dimensional Iterative Logic). On graduation he joined AT&T Bell Laboratories on the NIKE-X antiballistic missile project. Unhappy with this assignment, he convinced his management to let him form and lead a team of contractors to build a time-sharing system for the NIKE programmers, modeled on the pioneering MIT CTSS system.

Rudd and his team completed this project on time and on budget. Meanwhile the Bell Labs Research computing science division was struggling with the ill-fated MULTICS system, a joint venture with GE and MIT to build a second generation time sharing system. Rudd was invited to join this project.

Rudd quickly decided that MULTICS needed a better language. He ported the BCPL language to the GE 645 computer (the MULTICS machine). Dennis Ritchie implemented the run-time functions. BCPL was a great success with MULTICS and elsewhere in Computing Science Research, and later was the genesis of the “C” language.

Bell Labs abandoned MULTICS. Ken Thompson believed we could build a small, efficient time sharing system. Ken, Dennis, and Rudd designed the system that became UNIX (UNIX Oral History Project). They needed a machine on which to implement UNIX, but their management, badly burned by MULTICS, refused to buy them a machine. Discouraged by this, Rudd accepted an invitation to form a new research group. Ken and Dennis, undeterred, convinced the Patent department to buy them a machine and UNIX was born.

Interested in the then very new relational databases, Rudd and his team implemented a relational database server. Possibly the first database server ever invented, this work resulted in the first published description of a database server (A Back-end Computer for Database Management CACM, 1974, R. H. Canaday). While working on the server, Rudd was promoted to research department head (at an unusually young age).

Unix was becoming increasingly popular within research. Rudd decided to make it available more widely. He and his department implemented the Programmer’s Workbench, which became the first Bell-Labs-wide application of UNIX (Programmers Workbench).

After the Programmer’s Workbench, Rudd was asked to form a new department, this time not research, to design and build a new AT&T White Pages system. Heading a department of 50 people, Rudd and his team developed the first AT&T internal product using UNIX. During this time his department also created the first automated directory assistance system and an automated testing system for interactive systems (The LEAP Load and Test Driver).

After the white pages system, Rudd returned to research, this time in an area of Bell Labs called “Business Information Systems.” He formed a research department to build a distributed version of UNIX. When AT&T was divested of the local telephone companies. Rudd’s department was scheduled to leave Bell Labs. As a condition of agreeing to the divestiture, the Vice President of Research, Arno Penzias, insisted that Rudd’s department be transferred into Bell Labs research. This was the only department so transferred.

The distributed UNIX project was not a success. Rudd took on an existing research department of about 20 independent researchers. During this time Rudd and W. D. Roome developed the “Three-dimensional File System,” a UNIX file system with time as the third dimension. This was one of the earliest if not the first file system to include the time dimension. It was a very early example of systems like the MAC “Time Machine,” which it closely resembled. This was in use at Bell Labs before Rudd left in 1989, but was published and made into an AT&T product after he left. (“3DFS: A time-oriented file server” WD Roome – Proceedings of the Winter 1992 USENIX Conference, 1992)

After retiring from Bell Labs Rudd wrote a billing and practice management system for a psychotherapist friend. He founded a company to market this system ( After this, he founded Cima Systems ( to market another of his systems. Then he founded RHC Software with Steven Kiefel to market both his work and Steven’s. His current enthusiasm is tutoring all ages in computer hardware and software.