In 1969, before the times of the commonality of computers, laptops and mobile devices so many people witness today on a daily basis, a group of individuals that included Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie went rogue and began to sketch out the paper design for a file system. When American Telephone & Telegraph Company withdrew from a time sharing system collaboration project called Multics (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service) the reluctant attitude of a corporation gave birth to what Thompson saw as an emasculated version of Multics and dubbed it “Un-multiplexed Information and Computing Service or Unics. Later that morphed into what is known today and what some consider as one of the best computer operating systems called UNIX. As years pass, UNIX is a widely used and influential operating system that has spawned hundreds of descendants each touting their existence will bring the demise of the mighty UNIX. Even other operating systems such as IBM’s OS/2 Warp and Microsoft Windows tried to dethrone, and in Microsoft’s case even today, the seat that UNIX has in the world of operating systems. Compared to the best baseball player that has to be the rookies goal to topple or the most successful singer that hits the charts year after year dealing with a “one-hit wonder”, UNIX has continued to be a viable option in the market of operating systems and each year its predicted downfall does not occur to the surprise of some and the chagrin of others. This paper will discuss the various points in UNIX’s history in which it rose up against the odds to defy the critics to remain alive and practical after four decades. This paper will address the history of the UNIX operating system, the variations seen since its inception, discuss the “UNIX Wars” that divided the many vendors, the current state of UNIX and finally ending with the future state of UNIX and what is predicted to happen with UNIX in the next decade.
History of the UNIX Operating System
In the mid-1960’s, a plan for a joint collaboration of a time-sharing computer operating system was birthed by series of six papers from individuals affiliated with entities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), General Electric, and Bell Labs. This idea was conceived to be a general-purpose time-sharing utility. Time-sharing at this time was the concept of allowing a large number of users to work concurrently with a single computer. By doing this, it dropped the cost of providing computer capabilities along with making it possible to do computer work with the involved cost of purchasing and owning a computer. It should also be noted that during this timeframe, computers were not as abundant, or even as compact, as they are today. Multiple users on a single computer make good business sense for those in need of using it as well as though who sold time on computers as General Electric did (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2012).
In March of 1969, American Telephone & Telegraph withdrew from the cooperative project after investing over five years and millions of dollars. In the end, the decision of AT&T to pull away from an ambitious project and the reluctant managers at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey provided Thompson and Ritchie the drive, although some may have considered it a foolhardy drive, to continue designing computer operating systems (Toomey, 2011). As the figurative door shut, the equally figurative door opened and from this came the beginnings of the UNIX operating system.
Thompson and Ritchie proposed to their bosses to buy one of the new mini computers in terms of creating what we would now call a word processing system. UNIX was first put to the test doing just that for AT&T’s patent department who used it to write, edit and format patent applications. During the earliest of days, UNIX evolved constantly (Toomey, 2011).
The very first edition of UNIX allowed programmers to call 34 different...
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