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    “As you may already know, UNIX is not a single operating system; it refers to a family of operating systems which includes AIX, BSDI, FreeBSD, HP-UX, IRIX, Linux, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Pyramid, SCO (UnixWare and OpenServer), Solaris, SunOS, Tru64 UNIX, just to name the more prominent ones.” —Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 versus UNIX w51

    The following operating systems are variations of UNIX:

    UNIX was orginally developed in a laboratory at AT&T’s Bell Telephone Laboratories (now an independent corporation known as Lucent Technologies) by Kenneth Thompson and Dennis Ritchie in 1969. At the time, AT&T was prohibited from selling computers or software, but was allowed to develop its own software and computers for internal use. A few newly hired engineers were unable to get valuable mainframe computer time because of lack of seniority and resorted to writing their own operating system (UNIX) and programming language (C) to run on an unused mainframe computer still in the original box (the manufacturer had gone out of business before shipping an operating system).

    In 1970 Ken Thompson of AT&T Bell Labs suggested the name “Unix” for the new operating system that had been under development since 1969. The name was an intentional pun on AT&T’s earlier Multics project (uni- means “one”, multi- means “many”).

    In 1973 the kernel of Unix was rewritten in the C programming language. This made Unix the world’s first portable operating system, capable of being easily ported (moved) to any hardware. This was a major advantage for Unix and led to its widespread use in the multi-platform environments of colleges and universities.

    AT&T’s consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department on monopoly charges was interpretted as allowing AT&T to release UNIX as an open source operating system for academic use. Ken Thompson, one of the originators of UNIX, took UNIX to the University of California, Berkeley, where students quickly started making improvements and modifications, leading to the world famous Berkeley Standard Distribution (BSD) form of UNIX.

    Ken Thompson, on how he started writing UNIX: “I allocated a week each to the operating system, the shell, the editor, and the assembler… Yeah, essentially one person for a month.”e116

    UNIX quickly spread throughout the academic world, as it solved the problem of keeping track of many (sometimes dozens) of proprietary operating systems on university computers. With UNIX, all of the computers from many different manufacturers could run the same operating system and share the same programs (recompiled on each processor).

    “Unix was originally developed by AT&T. They shared their source with the University of California at Berkeley. BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) is the Unix that evolved at UC-Berkeley. Note that the xBSD (FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD) distributions are all free of any AT&T code. AT&T continued development of its Unix for a while, and that finished with System V. Several years ago, the various Unix vendors (AT&T, Sun, HP, and others) pledged to bridge the incompatibilities between their versions. This is what System V Release 4 (SVR4) refers to the ‘standard’ that they created.” — Mukesh Agrawale58

    When AT&T settled yet another monopoly case, the company was broken up into “Baby Bells” (the regional companies operating local phone service) and the central company (which had the long distance business and Bell Labs). AT&T (as well as the Baby Bells) was allowed to enter the computer business. AT&T gave academia a specific deadline to stop using “encumbered code” (that is, any of AT&T’s source code anywhere in their versions of UNIX).

     This led to the development of free open source projects such as FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD, as well as commercial operating systems based on the BSD code.

    Meanwhile, AT&T developed its own version of UNIX, called System V. Although AT&T eventually sold off UNIX, this also spawned a group of commercial operating systems known as Sys V UNIXes.

     UNIX quickly swept through the commercial world, pushing aside almost all proprietary mainframe operating systems. Only IBM’s MVS and DEC’s OpenVMS survived the UNIX onslaught.

    “Unix is a trademark that was transferred by Novell Unixware (the result of Novell’s purchase of AT&T Bell Lab’s Unix group) to the non-profit X/Open Company, Ltd, and is now apparently owned by ‘The Open Group’ (the result of a merger between X/Open and OSF). To get their permission to call a product ‘Unix’, The Open Group requires one to pass a number of validation suites that check conformance of APIs, commands and utilities, and the C compiler.” — Steve Byane56 (See also: http://www.opengroup.org/testing/checklist/u98brand.html)

     “Vendors such as Sun, IBM, DEC, SCO, and HP modified Unix to differentiate their products. This splintered Unix to a degree, though not quite as much as is usually perceived. Necessity being the mother of invention, programmers have created development tools that help them work around the differences between Unix flavors. As a result, there is a large body of software based on source code that will automatically configure itself to compile on most Unix platforms, including Intel-based Unix.

    Regardless, Microsoft would leverage the perception that Unix is splintered beyond hope, and present Windows NT as a more consistent multi-platform alternative.” —Nicholas Petreley, “The new Unix alters NT’s orbit”, NC Worldw74

     To date, the most widely used desktop version of UNIX is Apple’s Mac OS X, combining the ground breaking object oriented NeXT with some of the user interface of the Macintosh.

    “The trademark is transfered by Novell, not ‘Novel Unixware’. UnixWare is an Operating System, not a group And UnixWare as well as the UNIX source code (the original AT&T one) was puchased by SCO from Novell in 1995.” — Nasser K. Maneshe116

    “Also unless an operating system has officially passed the X/OPEN UNIX branding, it can not be considered a UNIX. It can only be considered to be UNIX like or compatible. Because UNIX is a registered trademark of X/OPEN, this is a legal issue. In trademark law, the owner of a trademark must prosecute any known generic use of their trademark or they can lose their trademark. I know it seems petty, but that is the way the U.S. legal system works.” — John Malmberge85

    “Technically, Windows NT Server 4.0 is no match for any UNIX operating system, not even the non-commercial BSDs [FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD] or Linux.” —Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 versus UNIX w51

    “Unix is making a comeback on several fronts. The Internet is Unix. It was built on Unix. It has drawn attention to Unix. And today’s college graduates were weaned on Unix as a result. This is the generation that is now entering the IT workplace. And eventually they will be IT managers.” —Nicholas Petreley, “The new Unix alters NT’s orbit”, NC Worldw74

    “UNIX is a mature, technically superior group of operating systems with a proven track record for performance, reliability, and security in a server environment. The almost thirty years of continual development, performed often by volunteers who believe in what they’re doing, has produced a group of operating systems—and extremely powerful multiprocessor server hardware tailor-made to its needs, whose performance is still unparalleled by Intel hardware—that not only meets the demands of today’s computing needs, but in many cases exceeds them.” —Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 versus UNIX w51

    “If you’re a UNIX user, all UNIX [systems] are pretty much the same. If you’re a UNIX programmer, all UNIX are a little bit different. If you’re a UNIX system admin, all UNIX are completely different! That’s coming from ULTRIX, AIX, HP-UX, Solaris, and Digital UNIX experiences. Might as well count linux, too.” —Bob Koehler, Hubble Space Telescope Payload Flight Software Team

    “As UNIX evolves into a 64-bit operating system, AIX 4.3 and Digital UNIX 4.0d share the lead for delivering commercial UNIX functions.” —D.H. Brown Associatesw42

    “The “holy war” of computing these days — Microsoft’s Windows NT Server vs. UNIX — is, strangely enough, being upstaged by a johnny-come-lately called Linux. And while UNIX-clone Linux’s emerging popularity gives small businesses another attractive alternative when plotting their network operating system (NOS) strategies, it also adds confusion to an already muddled issue.” — Jim Carrm1

    “As Windows NT continues to grow in size, instability, and price, Unix continues to become more mature, streamlined, and less expensive.” —Nicholas Petreley, “The new Unix alters NT’s orbit”w74

X Window screen shot

click on the preview image for a larger version

screen shot courtesy of Pat Gunn’s Operating Systemsw57

    In 1983 the University of California at Berkeley released a version of UNIX that included TCP/IP.


references within this web site

    See listings under each UNIX operating system (above).

further reading: web sites

Please send recommendations on additional URLs to Milo.

official web sites



(Frequently Asked Questions)

user group web sites

other related web sites

    http://www.unixguide.net/unixguide.shtml “UNIXguide.net (AIX, FreeBSD, HP-UX, LINUX, SOLARIS & Tru64)”; a guide for comparable commands and directories in several popular forms of UNIX.

    http://home.earthlink.net/~bhami/rosetta.html “Rosetta Stone for Unix”; a guide for comparable commands and directories in several popular forms of UNIX (AIX, Darwin, DG-UX, FreeBSD, HP-UX, IRIX, Linux, NetBSD, OpenBSD, SCO OpenServer, Solaris, SunOS, Tru64, and ULTRIX).

    http://perso.wanadoo.fr/levenez/unix/ “UNIX history”

    http://www.stokely.com/unix.sysadm.resources/index.html “Stokely’s UNIX System Administrator’s Resources links”

    http://www.stokely.com/unix.sysadm.resources/faqs.t-z.html#faq.link.unix “Stokely’s UNIX System Administrator FAQ links”

    http://www.unix-vs-nt.org/kirch/ John Kirch’s article “Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 versus UNIX”

    http://www.dhbrown.com/pdfs/osscorecard.html “Operating System Scorecard — D.H. Brown Associates”

    http://www.stokely.com/unix.sysadm.resources/faqs.a-m.html#faq.link.freeunix “Stokely’s Free UNIX Versions FAQ links”

    http://www.stokely.com/unix.sysadm.resources/faqs.t-z.html#faq.link.shells “Stokely’s UNIX Shell FAQ links”

    http://www.stokely.com/unix.sysadm.resources/faqs.t-z.html#faq.link.vi “Stokely’s vi & friends FAQ links”

    http://www.stokely.com/unix.sysadm.resources/faqs.t-z.html#faq.link.link.x11 “Stokely’s X11/Motif FAQ links”

    http://www.stokely.com/unix.sysadm.resources/faqs.n-r.html#faq.link.pcnfs “Stokely’s PC & Mac NFS, AppleShare, Unix Integration FAQ links”

    http://www.isc.org/products/DHCP “Internet Software Consortium DHCP Server, Client, and Relay agent” freely redistributable tools: source builds on most Unix platforms, Mac, NeXTStep, and Rhapsody.

further reading: books

    For more UNIX book listings, see also each individual UNIX operating system listing (above).

If you want your book reviewed, please send a copy to: Milo, POB 1361, Tustin, CA 92781, USA.

Price listings are for courtesy purposes only and may be changed by the referenced businesses at any time without notice.

further reading: books: introductory/general

A Practical Guide to the Unix System; by Mark G. Sobell; Addison-Wesley Pub Co; October 1994; ISBN 0805375651; paperback; 800 pages; $37.95

    Learning Unix; 2nd edition; by James Gardner, Systems Mks; Sams; January 1994; ISBN 0672304570; paperback (with disk); 646 pages; $31.96

    Beginning Unix (Tutorial Guides in Computing and Information Systems); 2nd edition; by Mike Joy, Michael Joy; International Thomson Publishing; November 1997; ISBN 1850322635; paperback; $29.95

further reading: books: administration

Essential System Administration: Help for Unix System Administrators (Nutshell Handbook); 2nd edition; by Aeleen Frisch; O’Reilly & Associates; December 1996; ISBN 1565921275; paperback; 788 pages; $27.96

    Modern Unix (Wiley Professional Computing); by Alan Southerton; John Wiley & Sons; October 1992; ISBN 0471549282; paperback; 336 pages; $50.00

A Practical Guide to the Unix System; by Mark G. Sobell; Addison-Wesley Pub Co; October 1994; ISBN 0805375651; paperback; 800 pages; $37.95

    Universal Command Guide; by Guy Lotgering (UCG Team); Hungry Minds, Inc; April 2002; ISBN 0764548336; hardcover with CD-ROM; 1,600 pages; $69.99; cross references all of the commands from: AIX; Solaris; RedHat Linux; Berkeley BSD; NetWare 3.2, 4.11, 5, and 6; DOS 6.22; Windows 95, 98, ME, XP, NT 4 Workstation, NT 4 Server, NT 4 Terminal Server, 2000 Professional, 2000 Server, 2000 Advanced Server; Citrix Mainframe 1.8; and Mac 9

The Complete Guide to Netware 4.11/Intranetware; 2nd edition; by James E. Gaskin; Sybex; December 1996; ISBN 078211931X; paperback; $47.99; includes information on getting NetWare working with Windows, Macintosh, UNIX, and OS/2

    MVS and Unix: A Survival Handbook for Multi-Platform Users, Developers, and Managers (McGraw-Hill IBM Series); by Richard J. Bambara; Computing McGraw-Hill; May 1998; ISBN 0070066639; paperback; 560 pages; $65.00

further reading: books: internet

Building a Unix Internet Server; by George Eckel; New Riders Publishing; June 1995; ISBN 1562054945; paperback (with CD-ROM); 325 pages; $30.40

further reading: books: enterprise/business

further reading: books: content creation

further reading: books: programming

    Software Implementation Techniques: Writing Software in OpenVMS, OS/2, Unix, and Windows NT; 2nd edition; by Donald E. Merusi; Digital Press; November 1995; ISBN 155558134X; paperback; 567 pages; $52.95

Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment (Addison-Wesley Professional Computing Series); by W. Richard Stevens; Addison-Wesley Pub Co; June 1992; ISBN 0201563177; hardcover; 744 pages; $63.95

further reading: books: hardware

further reading: books: miscellaneous

In Association with Amazon.com

If you want your book reviewed, please send a copy to: Milo, POB 1361, Tustin, CA 92781, USA.

geek humor

    Actually, unix is a very user-friendly system. It’s just that it is particular about which users it chooses to be friendly with.

    Real friends don’t let friends use UNIX.

    “Hey, it’s Unix! I know this!” —Lex, Jurassic Park

    “Software means never having to say you’re finished.” —J. D. Hildebrand in UNIX REVIEW

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    If you have an extra or unwanted copy of any official manuals or documentation on this operating system, please send them to: Milo, POB 1361, Tustin, CA 92781, USA. I have the following items: NONE.

    NOTE: I am looking for a fan of UNIX who has the time to check this web site for completeness and accuracy regarding UNIX. Just check through the site about once a week or so and report back with any information (including the URL of the web page you are reporting).

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    Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004 Milo

    Last Updated: July 27, 2004

    Created: June 22, 1998

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