All Unix, Linux and other Unix-like operating systems are families of computer operating
systems derived from the original Unix System from Bell Telephone
Laboratories. Today, the largest Unix descendent directly certified as
"UNIX" is macOS by Apple. The original commercial Unix derivatives included
HP-UX, AIX and SunOS, to name a few. The diversity and perceived
incompatibility between various Unix systems led to the creation of
interoperability standards including the Portable Operating System Interface
Unix is the original and most powerful and popular multi-user and
multi-tasking Operating System. The basic concepts of Unix were originated
in the Multics project of 1969. The Multics system was intended as a
time-sharing system that would allow multiple users to simultaneously access
a mainframe computer. Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and others developed the
basic building blocks of Unix including a hierarchical file system and a
command line interpreter for the PDP-7. Multiple generations of Unix systems
were developed for myriad computers.
As mentioned, historical perceived incompatibility between the various early
Unix systems led to the creation of POSIX and the Single Unix Specification.
Historically, the rigid "standardization" approach led to the creation of
various open source approaches to Unix including the Free Software
Foundation (FSF), GNU and Linux. Unix programs were originally created
around core design philosophies that included requirements like single
purpose, interoperable, and working with a simple standardized text
interface. Unix systems are built around a core kernel that manages the
system and the other processes. Kernel subsystems may include process
management, file management, memory management, network management and
Unix is a multi-user system where the resources can be shared by various
Unix provides multi-tasking. Users can execute many processes at
the same time (practically speaking).
Unix was the first computer operating system that was written in a
high-level language (C Language).
Unix provides a hierarchical file structure which facilitated fast data
Unix has built-in networking functions so that computers can easily exchange
Unix functionality can be extended through user programs built on a
standard programming interface.
UNIX certifies compliance with a full set of interoperability standard, managed and maintained by the Open Group, which includes, not only the kernel, but the entire operating system.
What is Linux?
Linux is a Unix-like operating system created by Linus Torvalds at the
University of Helsinki in 1991. The name Linux refers to
the Linux kernel, the software on a computer which permits applications and
users to access the devices on the computer to perform specific
functions. The development of Linux was a landmark example of global, free
and open source software collaboration. Many companies and similar numbers
of individuals have released their own version of Unix-like operating
systems based on the Linux Kernel.
Similar to Unix kernels, the Linux kernel relays instructions from an
application from the computer's processor and sends the results back to the
Broader in scope than commercial Unix products, Linux has been installed on a variety of platforms including mobile phones, tablets, video game consoles, NAS storage arrays, routers and small embedded controllers.
Currently the world's largest and most powerful data centers and scientific
research centers use some "flavor" of Linux.
The development of Linux is a stellar example of the power of free and open
source software development and global human collaboration.
A Linux "distribution" is a release of a Unix-like operating system based on
the specifications of the Linux kernel.
Linux, like Unix, is a multi-user
system where the resources can be shared by various system users.
Linux, like Unix, provides
multi-tasking. Users can execute many processes at the same time
Linux, like Unix, was written in C.
Linux, like Unix, provides a
hierarchical file structure which facilitated fast data access.
Linux, like Unix, has built-in
networking functions so that computers can easily exchange information.
Linux, unlike UNIX, specifies only the kernel but
not the entire operating system.
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An Interest Fact about the History of Unix and Linux
UNIX and Linux
Unix (trademarked as the UNIX certification mark) is a very mature
family of multitasking, multiuser computer operating systems that
evolved from the original AT&T Unix. Unix development starting in the
1970s by legendary Bell Labs programmers Ken Thompson, Dennis
Ritchie, and others. Unix was first targeted for the Bell System
and AT&T licensed Unix to outside parties. In the 1970s time period,
this lead to a variety of for-profit as well as not-for-profit Unix
In the early days, this included the University of
California, Berkeley (BSD), Microsoft (Xenix), IBM (AIX), and Sun
Microsystems (Solaris). In the early 1990s, AT&T sold their Unix
rights to Novell. In 1995 Novell sold their Unix business to the
Santa Cruz Operation (SCO). The UNIX trademark was passed to The
Open Group, a "neutral" industry consortium. The Open Group promoted
the use of the UNIX trademark for certified operating systems that
comply with the Single UNIX Specification (SUS). In 2014 Apple's
macOS became the Unix version with the largest global install base
and macOS remains the largest Unix-user base today.
Linux is a family of open source Unix-like operating systems based
on the Linux kernel. The Linux kernel is an operating system kernel
first released by Linus Torvalds on 17 September 1991. Linux
distributions include the Linux kernel, system software and
libraries. Popular free open source Linux distributions include Debian, Fedora, and
Ubuntu. Commercial Linux distributions include Red Hat Enterprise
Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. Linux may be freely
modified and redistributed. Anyone on the planet may create a Linux distribution for any
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