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It was a descendant of the RUNOFF type-setting program from CTSS and was originally written by Jerome H. Saltzer. Bob Morris and Doug McIlroy translated that from MAD assembler to BCPL; they then moved the BCPL version to Multics when the IBM 7094 on which CTSS ran was being shut down.
Other versions of Runoff were developed for various computer systems including Digital Equipment Corporation's PDP-11 minicomputer systems running RT-11, RSTS/E, RSX on Digital's PDP-10 and for OpenVMS on VAX minicomputers, as well as UNIVAC Series 90 mainframes using the EDT text editor under the VS/9 operating system. These different releases of Runoff typically had little in common except the convention of indicating a command to Runoff by beginning the line with a period.