A data communication subsystem for operation with a main host computer, the subsystem involving a plurality of Front-End Controllers (each of which handles data transfers for a particular type of peripheral terminal and type of transmission line), a Data Communication Processor which controls the activity of the Front-End Controllers, a local "autonomous" memory (sometimes called data communications memory) dedicated to storing instructions, control data, and information data primarily for data transfer operations, and a Basic Control Interface unit which ties together the autonomous memory, the Data Communications Processor, and the Front-End Controllers. The data communication subsystem includes means for sensing a halt or failure in the main host system and then operating in an "autonomous" mode to continuously provide for data transfer operations independent of the main system condition. The data communication subsystem also provides means for storage of data (tanking) on disk files when the main system is halted. Such disk storage also alleviates memory space requirements for the main memory and the local autonomous memory. The concept of "data communications memory" is applied as a memory space dedicated for data transfer operations. This memory space called "data communications memory" may be made to reside in host system main memory, a local autonomous memory, or even in internal memory space within the Data Communications Processor. However, on halt of the main host computer system, the local autonomous memory will operate as the data communications memory directly available to the data communication subsystem and will work independently of a halt in the main host computer system.