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# 1  
Old 08-11-2009
developing a Kernel for old old Unix?

Hello all ,

My father has been running the last version of unix before all the liscensing began 20 or so years ago. In his particular field his programmer has written a great deal of software to work with this version. Emulating so newer computers could speak to the unix server as well. Im sure none of that is uncommon. However the unix OS being as old as it is will only recognize hardware parameters of old. I was wondering if it is possible to develope a kernel that would recognize some of the faster and more advanced hardware we have today. I know it would seem the easy solution is just get the newer versions of unix / cobalt and rewrite some software. However his business isnt exactly what is use to be and the cost of liscensing would outweigh the need. I haven't the slightest clue if this is possible or what it would take if it were. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

It's my understanding that the kernel of old unix system is kind of like a bios of a newer system. I don't know if thats true either. I know windows has a kernel as well but the bios is what boots first to recognize the hardware.

Thanks in advance,
Bill
# 2  
Old 08-11-2009
Hi Bill.

I would just like to say, that like you I wouldn't really have a clue where to begin, but it sounds like a great challenge. This is a fantastic forum, and I'm sure in time the suggestions will come flooding in. I'd like to wish you the very best of luck.

Best Regards
# 3  
Old 08-11-2009
Thanks Scott,

Im sure you are right. The idea in itself seems pretty daunting to me if it is possible. I have read over some of the other threads though and quickly came to the conclusion , If there ever were a place to find out it would be here.
# 4  
Old 08-11-2009
The usual way to handle this problem is with a HAL - a hardware abstraction layer.
It is also called a microkernel - kind of like a layer between a BIOS and the OS, like what Linux does.

If you go to Dissertation Abstracts, you will find a lof of Master's Thesis that did exactly that - a microkernel. You may even find one for the version of Unix your Dad is running.

Try googling for 'unix microkernel' to start off. In the late 70's we had tapes from Bell Labs: you built C first, then compiled the OS.
# 5  
Old 08-13-2009
Yes, it is possible to modify an old version of Unix to support modern hardware but unless you are going to do it yourself it is probably not worth the cost of doing so.

Surely the more important issue is can the applications be ported to run on modern hardware for relatively low cost. You say that they are written in Cobol. Have you got the source for the Cobal compiler and runtime? If so, I would try and port these items onto something like 32-bit OpenBSD or NetBSD and if successful, recompile the applications to run on one of these platforms.
# 6  
Old 08-13-2009
Hi.

If by cobalt, you mean COBOL, the business-oriented language, then you may be interested in: OpenCOBOL - an open-source COBOL compiler

I have used that compiler (really a translator, it "compiles" to c, but that's a minor detail) for demonstration tasks. The version I used was in the Debian GNU/Linux repository so it was very easy for me.

The COBOL programmers with whom I had contact were fairly isolated from the raw machine (although I knew a few who did binary patches ! ), so unless there are real hardware dependencies, I don't think you would need a custom kernel.

So, I agree with fpmurphy -- try porting the COBOL user programs first to a new computer with a new OS (but one that is easy to install and use -- ubuntu comes to mind), and something like OpenCOBOL, then if that fails, you might try a custom kernel, but I consider the latter more difficult.

Best wishes ... cheers, drl
# 7  
Old 08-14-2009
Hey all, Thank you for all the information and tips. My father is currently looking into your suggestions.


Thanks again,

Bill
 

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