Unix did not exist in the first two years of Unix history. The first actual unix man pages were written by Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson at the direction of Doug McIlroy in 1971.
The Unix Programmer's Manual was first published on November 3, 1971. The Unix Programmer's Manual also contained a set of short papers describing of operating system features.
The printed version of the Unix Programmer's manual was originally contained in a single binder. As of PWB/UNIX and the 7th Edition of Research Unix these documents were split into two volumes with the printed man pages forming Volume 1.
Later versions of the Unix documentation followed the concise style of the early man pages.
Dennis Ritchie added a "How to get started" section to the Third Edition introduction.
Lorinda Cherry provided the "Purple Card" pocket reference for the Sixth and Seventh Editions. For the Fourth Edition the man pages were formatted using the troff typesetting package and its set of -man macros. These macros were completely revised between the Sixth and Seventh Editions of the Unix Programmer's Manual and have not changed much since the "good ole' days".
In the early days of Unix the availability of online documentation through a man page system was regarded as a great advance in computing. The modern descendants of 4.4BSD also distributed man pages as system documentation.
Virtually every Unix command line application comes with a man page and many Unix users perceive a command's lack of a man page as a sign of low quality. Debian, for example, has written man pages for numerous programs which originally had no man page.
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