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History of UNIX

UNIX is a widely used operating system, well-known for its multi-user, multi-tasking suite of programs. It follows a philosophy of solving software problems by the combination of many simple programs rather than by one single giant application tool (Lucent Technologies, 2002a). UNIX was born from the failed attempt of Bell Labs and General Electric to create a timesharing computer system. Bell Labs’ computer scientist, Ken Thompson, continued to create an interactive system (Lucent Technologies, 2002b).

In 1969, Thompson and Dennis Ritchie created the PDP-7, a file system which had a command interpreter and an ability to perform of user-level utilities (Lucent Technologies, 2002c). PDP-7 became the future UNIX. In 1973, UNIX was re-written to C language and was made portable. In 1975, Bell Labs allowed UNIX Version 6 to be available in selected universities and computer firms, piquing their interests (The Open Group, 2007). However, it was only in 1982 that UNIX System III was released for the entire public. In 1983, 45,000 UNIX bases were installed, and in six years, by 1989, the number of bases grew to a massive 1.

2 million (The Open Group, 2007). In 1984, the X/Open Company chose UNIX as the base platform for their open systems concept. The open system aimed to prevent large IT companies from having market and system monopoly over smaller vendors thru financially-sound and equal competitions. UNIX accepted the offer and until today, it has been closely aligned with the concept. The Open Source movement was built on this partnership and the UNIX philosophy. It is seen as the genuine delivery of the strength, ideals and goals of the open system (The Open Group, 2007).

Through the years, UNIX continued to establish its position in the IT industry and develop its systems with every version and kernel released. However, most UNIX versions out are licensed and very expensive, thus limiting buyers only to financially able commercial companies and keeping it from small time computer users. Linux was released for free in 1991 as the alternative software to the UNIX (Douglas, 2006). The two systems share some similarities in their foundation but are very different in terms of use. UNIX, the more exclusive one, runs on a single system or architecture to protect its license and standards.

It is also developed by a single company as opposed to Linux, which is continually developed by many users from diverse backgrounds and opinions. Since Linux is free, it runs on a wider set of platforms and environments. However, since more hands are at work for its progress, it has also resulted in the lack of any followed standards and tools (Douglas, 2006).


Dougall, D. (2006). Differentiating UNIX and Linux. IBM. Retrieved January 9, 2009 from http://www. ibm. com/developerworks/aix/library/au-unix-difflinux. html. Lucent Technologies. (2002a).The creation of UNIX operating system. Alcatel-Lucent. Retrieved January 8, 2009 from http://www. bell-labs. com/history/unix/. Lucent Technologies. (2002b). Before Multics there was chaos, and afterwards, too. Alcatel-Lucent. Retrieved January 9, 2009 from http://www. bell-labs. com/history/unix/chaos. html Lucent Technologies. (2002c). The UNIX system begins to take shape. Alcatel-Lucent. Retrieved January 9, 2009 from http://www. bell-labs. com/history/unix/takeshape. html The Open Group. (2007). What is UNIX?. Retrieved January 8, 2009 from http://www. unix. org/what_is_unix. html

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