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History of Linux and UNIX
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Since Linux is a version of UNIX, its history naturally begins with UNIX. The story begins in the late 1960s when a concerted effort to develop new operating system techniques occurred. In 1968, a consortium of researchers from General Electric, AT&T Bell Laboratories, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology carried out a special operating system research project called MULTICS (MULTiplexed Information Computing System). MULTICS incorporated many new concepts in multitasking, file management, and user interaction. In 1969, Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and the researchers at AT&T Bell Laboratories developed the UNIX operating system, incorporating many of the features of the MULTICS research project. They tailored the system for the needs of a research environment, designing it to run on minicomputers. From its inception, UNIX was an affordable and efficient multiuser and multitasking operating system. The UNIX system became popular at Bell Labs as more and more researchers started using the system. In 1973, Dennis Ritchie collaborated with Ken Thompson to rewrite the programming code for the UNIX system in the C programming language. Dennis Ritchie, a fellow researcher at Bell Labs, developed the C programming language as a flexible tool for program development. One of the advantages of C is it can directly access the hardware architecture of a computer with a generalized set of programming commands. Up until this time, an operating system had to be specially rewritten in a hardware-specific assembly language for each type of computer. The C programming language allowed Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson to write only one version of the UNIX operating system, which could then be compiled by C compilers on different computers. In effect, the UNIX operating system became transportable, able to run on a variety of different computers with little or no reprogramming. UNIX gradually grew from one person's tailored design to a standard software product distributed by many different vendors, such as Novell and IBM. Initially, UNIX was treated as a research product. The first versions of UNIX were distributed free to the computer science departments of many noted universities. Throughout the 1970s, Bell Labs began issuing official versions of UNIX and licensing the systems to different users. One of these users was the Computer Science department of the University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley added many new features to the system that later became standard. In 1975, Berkeley released its own version of UNIX, known by its distribution arm, Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD). This BSD version of UNIX became a major contender to the AT&T Bell Labs version. Other independently developed versions of UNIX sprouted up. In 1980, Microsoft developed a PC version of UNIX called Xenix. AT&T developed several research versions of UNIX and, in 1983, it released the first commercial version, called System 3. This was later followed by System V, which became a supported commercial software product. You can find more information on UNIX in UNIX: The Complete Reference, written by the UNIX experts at AT&T labs, Kenneth Rosen, Doug Host, James Farber, and Richard Rosinski. At the same time, the BSD version of UNIX was developing through several releases. In the late 1970s, BSD UNIX became the basis of a research project by the Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). As a result, in 1983, Berkeley released a
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powerful version of UNIX called BSD release 4.2. This release included sophisticated file management as well as networking features based on TCP/IP network protocols-the same protocols now used for the Internet. BSD release 4.2 was widely distributed and adopted by many vendors, such as Sun Microsystems. The proliferation of different versions of UNIX led to a need for a UNIX standard. Software developers had no way of knowing on what versions of UNIX their programs would actually run. In the mid-1980s, two competing standards emerged, one based on the AT&T version of UNIX and the other based on the BSD version. In bookstores today, you can find many different books on UNIX for one or the other version. Some specify System V UNIX, while others focus on BSD UNIX. AT&T moved UNIX to a new organization, called UNIX System Laboratories, which could focus on developing a standard system, integrating the different major versions of UNIX. In 1991, UNIX System Laboratories developed System V release 4, which incorporated almost all the features found in System V release 3, BSD release 4.3, SunOS, and Xenix. In response to System V release 4, several other companies, such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard, established the Open Software Foundation (OSF) to create their own standard version of UNIX. Two commercial standard versions of UNIX existed then-the OSF version and System V release 4. In 1993, AT&T sold off its interest in UNIX to Novell. UNIX Systems Laboratories became part of Novell's UNIX Systems Group. Novell issued its own versions of UNIX based on System V release 4, called UNIXWare, designed to interact with Novell's NetWare system. UNIX Systems Laboratories is currently owned by the Santa Cruz Operation. With Solaris, Sun has introduced System V release 4 onto its Sun systems. Two competing GUIs for UNIX, called Motif and OpenLook, have been superseded by a new desktop standard called the Common Desktop Environment (CDE), which has since been incorporated into OpenMotif, an open source version of Motif also for use on Linux. Throughout much of its development, UNIX remained a large and demanding operating system requiring a workstation or minicomputer to be effective. Several versions of UNIX were designed primarily for the workstation environment. SunOS was developed for Sun workstations and AIX was designed for IBM workstations. As personal computers became more powerful, however, efforts were made to develop a PC version of UNIX. Xenix and System V/386 are commercial versions of UNIX designed for IBM-compatible PCs. AUX is a UNIX version that runs on the Macintosh. A testament to UNIX's inherent portability is that it can be found on almost any type of computer: workstations, minicomputers, and even supercomputers. This inherent portability made possible an effective PC version of UNIX. Linux was originally designed specifically for Intel-based personal computers. Linux started out as a personal project of a computer science student named Linus Torvald at the University of Helsinki. At that time, students were making use of a program called Minix, which highlighted different UNIX features. Minix was created by Professor Andrew Tannebaum and widely distributed over the Internet to students around the world. Linus's intention was to create an effective PC version of UNIX for Minix users. He called it Linux, and in 1991, Linus released version 0.11. Linux was widely distributed over the Internet and, in the following years, other programmers refined and added to it, incorporating most of the applications and features now found in standard UNIX systems. All the major window managers have been ported to Linux. Linux has all the Internet utilities, such as FTP file transfer support, Web browsers, and remote connections with PPP. It also has a full set of program development utilities, such as C++ compilers and debuggers. Given all its features,
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the Linux operating system remains small, stable, and fast. In its simplest format, Linux can run effectively on only 2MB of memory. Although Linux has developed in the free and open environment of the Internet, it adheres to official UNIX standards. Because of the proliferation of UNIX versions in the previous decades, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) developed an independent UNIX standard for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This new ANSI-standard UNIX is called the Portable Operating System Interface for Computer Environments (POSIX). The standard defines how a UNIX-like system needs to operate, specifying details such as system calls and interfaces. POSIX defines a universal standard to which all UNIX versions must adhere. Most popular versions of UNIX are now POSIXcompliant. Linux was developed from the beginning according to the POSIX standard. Linux also adheres to the Linux file system standard (FSSTND), which specifies the location of files and directories in the Linux file structure. See for more details.
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