Andrew User Environment

Andrew Project

The Andrew Project was a distributed computing environment begun in 1983, driven by the Information Technology Center, a joint Carnegie Mellon University and IBM project.


In its initial phase it involved both software and hardware, including wiring the campus for data and developing workstations to be distributed to students and faculty at Carnegie Mellon University and elsewhere. The proposed "3M" workstations included a million pixel display and a megabyte of memory, running at a million instructions per second. Unfortunately a fourth M, cost on the order of a megapenny, proved the 3M beyond the reach of students' budgets, so the initial hardware deployment in 1985 established a number of university-owned "clusters" of public workstations in various academic buildings and dormitories. The campus was fully wired and ready for the eventual availability of inexpensive personal computers.

Early software development within the Information Technology Center was organized into

  • centralized tools (primarily a file server) and
  • workstation tools (a window manager, editor, email, and file system client code),

called VICE (Vast Integrated Computing Environment) and VIRTUE (Virtue Is Reached Through Unix and Emacs) respectively.

The project was extended several times after 1985 in order to complete the software, and was renamed "Andrew" for Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon, the founders of the institutions that eventually became Carnegie Mellon University. Mostly rewritten as a result of experience from early deployments, Andrew had four major software components:

  • The Andrew Toolkit (ATK), a set of tools that allows users to create and distribute documents containing a variety of formatted and embedded objects,
  • The Andrew Messaging System (AMS), an email and bulletin board system based on ATK, and
  • The Andrew File System (AFS), a distributed file system emphasizing scalability for an academic and research environment.
  • The Andrew window manager (WM), a tiled (non-overlapping windows) window system which allowed remote display of windows on a workstation display. WM was later replaced by X11 from MIT.

AFS moved out of the Information Technology Center to Transarc in 1988. AMS was fully decommissioned and replaced with the Cyrus IMAP server in 2002.

The Andrew User Interface System

After IBM's funding ended, Andrew continued as an open source project named the Andrew User Interface System. AUIS is a set of tools that allows users to create and distribute documents containing a variety of formatted and embedded objects. It is an open-source project run at the Department of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. The Andrew Consortium governs and maintains the development and distribution of the Andrew User Interface System.

The Andrew User Interface System encompasses three primary components. The Andrew User Environment (AUE) contains the main editor, help system, user interface, and tools for rendering multimedia and embedded objects. The Andrew Toolkit (ATK) contains all of the formattable and embeddable objects, and allows a method for developers to design their own objects. ATK allows for multi-level object embedding, in which objects can be embedded in one another. For example, a raster image object can be embedded into a spreadsheet object. The Andrew Message System (AMS) provides a mail and bulletin board access, which allows the user to send, receive, and organize mail as well as post and read from message boards.

Components of AUIS

As of version 6.3, the following are all components of AUIS:


  • Word processor (EZ)
  • Drawing Editor (Figure)
  • Mail and News Reader (Messages)
  • Mail and News Sender (SendMessage)
  • Font Editor (BDFfont)
  • Documentation Browser (Help)
  • Directory Browser (Bush)
  • Schedule Maintainer (Chump)
  • Shell Interface/Terminal (Console, TypeScript)
  • AUIS Application Menu (Launch)
  • Standard Output Viewer (PipeScript)
  • Preferences Editor (PrefEd)

Graphical and Interactive Editors

  • Equation Insert (EQ)
  • Animation Editor (Fad)
  • Drawing Editor (Figure)
  • Insert Layout Insert (Layout)
  • Display Two Adjacent Inserts (LSet)
  • Extension and String Processing Language (Ness)
  • Display and Edit Hierarchies (Org)
  • Page Flipper (Page)
  • Monochrome BMP Image Editor (Raster)
  • Spreadsheet Insert (Table)
  • Text, Document, and Program Editor (Text)

See also


  • Morris, J.H., Van Houweling, D., & Slack, K., The Information Technology Center Carnegie Mellon Technical Report CMU-ITC-025, 1983.
  • Morris, J.H., Satyanarayanan, M., Conner, M.H., Howard, J.H., Rosenthal, D.S.H., & Smith, F.D. "Andrew, a Distributed Computing Environment". Communications of the ACM 29 (3):

External links

  • AUIS Components - list of additional components for file formats, file management, and document editing.
  • The Andrew Consortium - has more information on this project as well as downloads
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