Visit Our UNIX and Linux User Community

developing a Kernel for old old Unix?

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Top Forums UNIX for Dummies Questions & Answers developing a Kernel for old old Unix?
# 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,
# 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

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,


Previous Thread | Next Thread
Test Your Knowledge in Computers #254
Difficulty: Easy
'Steppenwolf' was the code name given to the first Apple Computer before it was announced publicly.
True or False?

10 More Discussions You Might Find Interesting

1. What is on Your Mind?

Developing Applications for UNIX.COM

A number of people have asked me about the best way to develop some cool new web app for UNIX.COM. In today's "very easy web dev" world, developers do not need to be burdened (like I am) to the "back end" of the site. The best way to develop web apps is to build the application on your desktop... (2 Replies)
Discussion started by: Neo
2 Replies

2. SCO

Study UNIX Kernel

Hi all, I hope you are fine, I'd like study Os I tried a book like Silberschatz it's a good book but like other books it talks about the concepts abstractly and that's due to it try to encompass many concepts from many operating systems in GENERAL. i am not too much comfortable from these... (20 Replies)
Discussion started by: Abdo_8008
20 Replies

3. UNIX for Dummies Questions & Answers

can i get UNIX kernel and compile it like Linux ?

I am not a newbie to Linux, i have been using Linux as my desktop for 4 years, but i am just an end user to Linux, no advanced knowledge to it. I knew that, i can download generic linux kernel and compile it by myself, but how about Unix? how can i get an Unix kernel and compile it ? or no this... (5 Replies)
Discussion started by: wong.sie.ung
5 Replies

4. UNIX for Dummies Questions & Answers

UNIX kernel type?

Hai guys,This is my first question. What type of UNIX kernel is? (W.K.T linux kernel is monolithic) Thank you (2 Replies)
Discussion started by: Felicia23
2 Replies

5. Programming

Rebuild the Dev of a non UNIX kernel...

My name for this post may be a bit off but basically I would like to take go though the same proses that kernel developers went though to build other kernels that are based on UNIX such as Linux, And do it from scratch IE. starting with the base UNIX and building on to it. So I in theory could... (0 Replies)
Discussion started by: DevSer2279
0 Replies

6. UNIX for Dummies Questions & Answers

Unix Kernel Switching?

How do I go about switching from one Kernel to another? I figure the process is somewhat like "compile -> remove old boot reference -> add new boot reference -> reboot/restart kernel"... but honestly I have no idea how to do this... I'm trying to test out a piece of software, but it only runs... (3 Replies)
Discussion started by: jjinno
3 Replies

7. UNIX for Dummies Questions & Answers

Unix Distribution and Kernel

By way of a small report what is involved in the updating of the unix distribution and kernel (1 Reply)
Discussion started by: Dipset
1 Replies

8. UNIX for Dummies Questions & Answers

Why does UNIX kernel does not shrink?

Hello this is a book problem of chapter 8 william stallings's operating systems..can anyone tells me the accurate solution of it?? The Unix kernel will dynamicaly grow a process's stack in virtual memory as needed, but it willnever try to shrink it. Consider the case in which a program calls a C... (7 Replies)
Discussion started by: dillidamunda
7 Replies

9. UNIX for Advanced & Expert Users

Unix Kernel Designing

Hello, I want to know what a kernel is? what are its functions and uses. what is a unix kernel? can i make a new kernel like unix or any other OS. if yes what type of programming is needed or can i use C programming language.if there is C, then what kind of C is required (hardware like... (2 Replies)
Discussion started by: vibhory2j
2 Replies

10. OS X (Apple)

Mac OS X - UNIX kernel based.

I'm at the new Apple store in Tysons Corner, VA and have been looking at the new MAC OS based on the UNIX kernel. It is really fabulous. A UNIX kernel with incredible MAC graphics and apps running on top! and for Darwin, the UNIX opensource project: ... (0 Replies)
Discussion started by: Neo
0 Replies

Featured Tech Videos