5.0595 Etymology of "SPOOL" (5/131)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 15 Jan 1992 20:11:53 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0595. Wednesday, 15 Jan 1992.

(1) Date: 14 Jan 92 01:25:00 EST (23 lines)
From: "Mary Dee Harris" <MDHARRIS@guvax.georgetown.edu>
Subject: SPOOLing

(2) Date: Tue, 14 Jan 1992 09:13:27 (22 lines)
From: koontz@bldr.nist.gov (John E. Koontz)
Subject: Re: 5.0578 Spooling

(3) Date: Tue, 14 Jan 92 10:10:50 SET (13 lines)
From: Marc Eisinger <EISINGER@FRIBM11>
Subject: Re: 5.0578 Spooling

(4) Date: Tue, 14 Jan 92 11:18:46 CST (49 lines)
From: (Gerhard Obenaus) <gobenaus@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: Re: 5.0578 Spooling

(5) Date: Tue, 14 Jan 92 13:23:39 CST (24 lines)
From: "C. M. Sperberg-McQueen" <U35395@UICVM>
Subject: Re: 5.0578 Spooling

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 14 Jan 92 01:25:00 EST
From: "Mary Dee Harris" <MDHARRIS@guvax.georgetown.edu>
Subject: SPOOLing

Spool was originally an acronym for a program on IBM mainframes (as late as
the mid-1970's); I don't remember for certain, but it stood for (something
like) System Peripheral Output Off-Line. It was designed to send print files
to a disk file rather than straight to the printer. Then the accumulated
disk files could be printed in priority order. That methodology only arose
when computers become fast enough and had large enough memories for multi-
processing -- having more than one program sharing processor time and memory.

Some of you 'youngsters' don't have any idea what you missed in those days.
I remember when the SPOOLing program was installed at the university where
I taught and turnaround time dropped from three days to 6-8 hours. Serious
progress! (btw -- 'turnaround time' applied to the amount of time that
elapsed from when you submitted a job until you got a listing back showing
your results.) I'm sure I'm not the only one that remembers those days.

Ye Olde Computer Historian,

Mary Dee Harris

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------31----
Date: Tue, 14 Jan 1992 09:13:27
From: koontz@bldr.nist.gov (John E. Koontz)
Subject: Re: 5.0578 Spooling

Origin of computer term `to spool'.

I looked in:

1976. Encyclopedia of Computer Science. Anthony Ralston, Ed., Chester L.
Meek, Asst. Ed. New York: Petrocelli/Charter.

p. 1318: "Spooling (simultaneous peripheral operations on line) is a method
of handling low-speed input / output devices commonly implemented in
operating systems to increase throughput. ... (details follow)" (Article by
R.W. Taylor, Univ. of Mass.) This suggests an origin in an acronym, but
since things are ordinarily spooled to disk (or, originally, to a
predecessor of the disk called a drum), I wonder if the acronym wasn't
suited to an appropriate sounding word, cf., e.g., spooling thread. Some
sort of deliberate coinage seems to be involved. It would probably be
possible to discover who and when. The individual in question might even
still be living.

(3) --------------------------------------------------------------20----
Date: Tue, 14 Jan 92 10:10:50 SET
From: Marc Eisinger <EISINGER@FRIBM11>
Subject: SPOOL

To my knowledge, SPOOL is an acronym for "Silmultaneous Peripherical
Operation On-Line". The original idea was to have the system running
the printer, the card reader and the card punch during the "waiting"
time of the main program(s).
In VM systems, each user has (virtual) reader, punch and printer
handled (spooled) by the system (the so-called CP). The virtual reader
is used to store the incoming file explaining the "xxxx spooled to user".
Would you need more, ask me directly.
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------60----
Date: Tue, 14 Jan 92 11:18:46 CST
From: (Gerhard Obenaus) <gobenaus@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: RE:5.0578 F Word Etymology &c. (4/76)

>Date: Sat, 28 Dec 91 20:22:27 EST
>From: Christy Cousineau <CCOUSINO@ucs.indiana.edu>
>Subject: the computer term "to spool"
>I am interested in learning more about the use of the word
>"spool" in computer terminology. My former employer tells me
>that to spool means "to store . . . for later use" in order to
>"free up the system." Does anyone know anything about the origin
>of the use of the term among computer users? About the various
>electronic contexts in which it was once used and/or continues to
>be used? I noticed, for example, that when a bitnet message I
>have sent arrives at its addressee, a line appears on my screen
>telling me that a file has been spooled to the addressee's account
>(e.g. "File (xxxx) spooled to USERNAME"). I would appreciate any
>help that any humanist subscriber could offer. Thanks.
>Christy Cousineau
SPOOL is an abbreviation which stands for _simultaneous peripheral
operations online_

It is a way to use peripherals more effectively. This refers especially
to printers. If you have several programs running at the same time, for
example, all of which want to send data to the printer, then you'd have
to provide a printer for every program. Since this is too expensive, the
data to be printed by the various programs are not sent to the printer
directly, but are stored in a spooling buffer. Once the data are complete
they are then sent to the printer in the order which they have been
received. This technique can also be used for other purposes. Printing
is just one of them. It is common on systems designed for multi-tasking,
as are all mainframes, etc. You'll also see the term come up in Windows,
OS2, etc. where several programs may send their data to the buffer, before
they are printed. I hope this helps.


Gerhard Obenaus
Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures
University of Illinois
707 S. Mathews e-mail: g-obenaus@uiuc.edu
Urbana, IL 61801 phone: (217)333-1288

(5) --------------------------------------------------------------31----
Date: Tue, 14 Jan 92 13:23:39 CST
From: "C. M. Sperberg-McQueen" <U35395@UICVM>
Subject: Re: 5.0578 F Word Etymology &c. (4/76)

On Mon, 13 Jan 1992 22:12:55 EST Christy Cousineau (ccousino@iubacs)
>I am interested in learning more about the use of the word
>"spool" in computer terminology.

'spool' is a standard term in the VM/CMS operating system, where it
has been given the pseudo-expansion 'Simultaneous Peripheral Operation
On-Line' (or is it 'Off-Line'?). It is used as a verb ('to spool a file
to tape', meaning 'write it on a tape'; 'to spool a file' or 'to spool
some data' meaning 'copy it to the special disk area used to store
temporary files'; and 'to spool a temporary file'), noun ('the spool is
full', meaning the operating system disk storage area for these
temporary files is out of space), and denominative adjective (the files
in the spool are 'spool files'). Since it is deeply rooted in VM, my
guess is that it originated no later than the mid-1960s, most likely in
a metonymic usage of 'spool' for 'spool of tape'. The specific link
to spools of tape, however, is no longer present for most VM systems
programmers I have spoken to.

-C. M. Sperberg-McQueen, University of Illinois at Chicago