The history of UNIX and the ideas behind it


 
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# 1  
CPU & Memory The history of UNIX and the ideas behind it

Hi. I am new here, and this is my first post at the UNIX.com forums. I have read the book Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer, and I noticed that neither UNIX nor Linux was mentioned once in the book. Why is this? What was UNIX's place in the early days of personal computers?

I realize that mainframes probably had proprietary operating systems specific to the manufacturer, or even the model of the computer. And it is also true that personal computers either had homebrewed operating systems or basic operating systems like Q-DOS or CP/M.

But what about UNIX? Where does that fit in? I've given it some thought, and it seems sensible that minicomputers (note that I refer to minicomputers as computers such as the PDP-8) might have used UNIX. It sounds like that would fit. Mainframe computers have their own proprietary operating system, minicomputers have a good operating system, such as UNIX, and UNIX probably won't fit on personal computers, so developers made homebrewed operating systems. Am I right?

Also, I have another question about the structure and basic ideas of UNIX. A small portion of the book Just for Fun, of which my copy is signed by Linus Torvalds, states that UNIX was a small-is-beautiful operating system. So I thought about how that would work. I would have the operating system take care of tasks such as the filesystem and the management of processes. But if thats roughly what UNIX does, what is Unix then? Is it just a central control station of the computer that manages processes, and manages the file system?

I also gave some thought about the notion of processes. Say I was making an operating system. I would either make a process for or integrate into the shell something like saving files and opening them. This process would take care of all of the stuff having to do with files. Maybe the file system itself would be embedded into the operating system, but this would not. Since it would be a modern operating system, it would seem sensible and convenient to not only add support for the hard drive, but for the floppy disk and the CD-ROM drive and CD-RW. I would want to have the desired effect of something like this:

> write E: doc1.txt, doc2.txt, doc3.tga, doc5.pdf

Even if this was a CD-RW, it would write the files to the E: drive. Would this be what a file i/o process would do, or would it have a special process for the floppy disk, the hard drive, and the CD-RW?

One last thing: in the shell sample I wrote above, write would be a command of the shell, and the word write would signal to start the process FILEio.exe with the parameters of E:, doc1.txt..., right?

I am sorry if I have bored you with my endless post. Thanks!
# 2  
This may shed some light on your first question regard Unix and its history.
Sorry didn't have the staying power to read the rest. Smilie
# 3  
elendil,

http://cm.bell-labs.com/cm/cs/who/dmr/ - Dennis Ritchie's homepage (one of the founders of UNIX). Good information on origin and history of UNIX.

Based on the books you have listed, you might enjoy the book "Accidental Empires" by Robert X. Cringely. I also really enjoyed Clifford Stoll's "Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage." In addition to being educational, they are also interesting reads.


Biker
Systems/Network Administrator
LiveFire Labs - Hands-On Technical e-Learning
www.LiveFireLabs.com
# 4  
Levenz is an excellent read...and if u really want to get a rounded story about the basis of unix and the evolution to Gnu and Linux, try reading any documents on Linus Torvalds...
# 5  
Quote:
Hi. I am new here, and this is my first post at the UNIX.com forums. I have read the book Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer, and I noticed that neither UNIX nor Linux was mentioned once in the book. Why is this? What was UNIX's place in the early days of personal computers?
To be fair, UNIX did not have much role in the early days of the personal computer. UNIX was more of a research operating system favored by scientists with little patience for fuffy user graphics. Also, UNIX was used as the core operating system for server projects and applications, NOT the desktop.

I think it is fair to say that UNIX did not make much of a contribution to desktop computing in the early days... Apple and the folks at Xerox Park took computing to the everyday user (and blew the socks off DOS!!!)... As you may recall, Microsoft copied the success of Apple (innovated) and responded with Windows... a still evolving architecture that is beginning to show promise in modern versions like W2K and XP.

Linux also made most of its early marks on the server side as web servers, DNS servers, mail relay servers, etc. Many people, like myself, use a combination of Linux and UNIX in the server side and MS on the desktop (I use XP Pro on the desktop and have to say that MS is moving in the right direction!!) I was using Linux in 1992, BTW, and still do.

UNIX and Linux are making inroads on the desktop and the new strategy of Apple with OS X will help that greatly (if the prices come down!!!) Most people running MS Office and other MS desktop software simply cannot afford the transition!!!! Imagine the expense of doing this for an organization with 500,000 users!

So, the bottom line is that the market for desktop users (commonly called the PC market) and the market for backend servers are very different markets.
# 6  
Thanks for the replies. I think I heard a rumor somewhere about Apple porting OS X to x86. Is this true? If it was, I would probably buy it. The power of UNIX and the elegance of a Mac sounds like a great fit. By the way, why are the icons in this the Apple symbol? Is this a pro-Apple forum? I have nothing against Apple, especially because of my sister's G4 Titanium Powerbook.
# 7  
Darwin (the "unix" backend of the OSX interface) has already been ported to x86. So it's little more than a command-line and an odd filesystem (case in-sensitive filenames in Unix?? WTF?) right now.

OSX will probably never make it to x86 - Apple's reliability and speed is based heavily on tight integration with the hardware and software. It would just become another Windows...

And you can change your forum view in User CP - I personally like the InfoPop one...
 

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