Handout for the UNIX Industry: A Brief History

"The success of the UNIX system stems from its tasteful selection of a few key ideas and their elegant implementation. The model of the UNIX system has led a generation of software designers to new ways of thinking about programming. The genius of the UNIX system is its framework, which enables programmers to stand on the work of others."
Citation from the 1983 ACM Turing Award
presented to Kenneth Thompson and Dennis Ritchie

"The Swiss Army Knife of Software."

"Some consider UNIX to be the second most important invention to come out of AT&T Bell Labs after the transistor."

"UNIX is simple and coherent, but it takes a genius (or at any rate a programmer) to understand and appreciate the simplicity."

Dennis Ritchie

A Chronology of Events

1941 Dennis Ritchie is born on September 9 in Mount Vernon, New York. Ritchie went on to attend Harvard University and complete the work for a doctorate in mathematics, though he got bored and left before finishing the degree.

1943 Ken Thompson is born on February 4 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Thompson went on to attend the University of California at Berkeley and complete a master's degree in Electrical Engineering.

1949 The Antitrust Department of the Department of Justice of the US Government sues Western Electric and AT&T for restraint of trade. Western Electric was a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T and that Bell Telephone Laboratories (BTL or Bell Labs) was jointly owned by Western Electric and AT&T (50% each). The consent decree required that AT&T license use of all its patents at nominal fees, which laid the groundwork for subsequent licensing of UNIX to universities.

1956 AT&T enters into "consent decree" with US government and agrees to restrict its business to furnishing "common carrier communications services", which keeps it out of the computer business.

1957 Bill Norris starts Control Data Corporation (CDC).

1959 Ken Olsen starts DEC with $70,000 in venture capital money. The first PDP-1 is shipped in 1960; 53 are sold.

1963 Project MAC (Multiple Access Computers) is organized at MIT to do research on interactive computing and time-sharing systems.

1965 AT&T, GE, and Project MAC at IBM join together to develop the time-sharing system MULTICS (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service).

1966 Ken Thompson finishes studies at University of California at Berkeley (UCB) and joins technical staff at AT&T Bell Telephone Laboratories to work on MULTICS.

1968 Dennis Ritchie completes work on his doctorate at Harvard and joins Bell Labs to work on MULTICS project.

1969 AT&T Bell Labs drops out of MULTICS project. A system which was supposed to support 1000 on line users can barely handle three. Out of the ashes grows the most influential operating system in history.

Thompson gets an idea for a new type of file system and hashes out his ideas with Ritchie and Rudd Canaday.

Thompson writes first version of UNICS for PDP-7 in one month while wife is on vacation. He allocates one week each to the operating system functions: the kernel, the shell, the editor, and the assembler. He does this on a machine with 4K of 18 bit words. UNICS is pun on MULTICS and stands for Uniplexed Information and Computing Services. Name is changed to UNIX which is not an acronym. This version is in assembly language.

Thompson develops the interpretive language B based upon BCPL. Ritchie improved on "B" and called it "C"

1970 DEC begins shipping PDP-11 and revolutionizes the computer industry by selling 250,000 systems.

Bell Labs gets a PDP-11 to do text processing for the legal department. System is developed and implemented in UNIX. The standard DEC OS is never installed.

1971 The First Edition of UNIX manual is written.

1972 UNIX OS is rewritten in C which opened the door for porting.

1973 First UNIX development support group is formed in Bell Labs.

Pipes are invented with the Third Edition of UNIX and the UNIX philosophy begins to emerge:

Write programs that do one thing and do it well.

Write programs that work together

Write programs that handle text streams, because that is the universal interface.

Thompson delivers first UNIX paper at the ACM Symposium on Operating Systems at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY. Within six months, the number of UNIX sites triples from 16 to 48.

1974 "The UNIX Time-Sharing System" is published in CACM by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie. It is a revision of the 1973 paper.

University of California at Berkeley (UCB) gets Version 4 of UNIX.

Keith Standiford converts UNIX to PDP 11/45.

Berkeley begins making major enhancements to UNIX and sets the stage for becoming a major distribution center for their version of UNIX.

The Elements of Programming Style by Kernighan and Plauger is published.

1975 Thompson begins one year sabbatical at Berkeley.

AT&T officially begins licensing UNIX to universities.

1976 Software Tools by Kernighan and Plauger is published.

Boggs and Metcalfe invent Ethernet at Xerox in Palo Alto.

1977 UK UNIX Users Group is formed as Special Interest Group (SIG) in DECUS UK.

INTERACTIVE Systems develops the first commercial version of UNIX (IS/1) on a PDP-11.

1978 Bill Joy produces first Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) of UNIX.

Ritchie and Steve Johnson complete first port of UNIX to an Interdata 8/32, the first non-DEC computer to run UNIX. Note that this is nearly ten years after running only on DEC equipment.

UNIX is ported to a DEC VAX, but not by Thompson and Ritchie, since they had become disenchanted by DEC and its unwillingness to support UNIX. DEC's refusal to support UNIX must be one of the all time great blunders of the computer industry.

The C Programming Language by Kernighan and Ritchie is published.

P.J. Plauger forms Whitesmiths Ltd and writes the first commercial C compiler.

The USENIX UNIX users group is formed. Voting membership required a UNIX source license, thus limiting the influence of binary users of UNIX.

Doug and Larry Michels start Santa Cruz Operations, Inc. (SCO) to sell UNIX on a PC. By 1992, they grow to $175 million in revenues.

1979 Seventh Edition UNIX PROGRAMMERS MANUAL (UNIX Version 7) is published. It is the first edition without Thompson's or Ritchie's names. It is titled "UNIX (with a TM sign) Time-Sharing System." Bell Labs starts to protect its assets.

Microsoft licenses UNIX from AT&T and announces XENIX, which is soon overshadowed by MS-DOS.

1980 BSD UNIX finds its way back into Bell Labs as a new improved version.

Berkeley lands large DARPA contract and forms Computer Systems Research Group (CSRG).

/usr/group is founded as an alternative to USENIX for binary users. In 1989, the name is changed to UniForum.

SCO becomes a distributor for Microsoft XENIX and licenses the name XENIX because they sold their trade name DYNIX to Sequent.

1981 The European UNIX Systems Users Group (EUUG) is formed; now the EurOpen.

/usr/group forms a standards committee.

The IBM PC is released running Microsoft DOS; XENIX is pushed into the background.

Amdahl develops the first mainframe version of UNIX (UTS).

1982 AT&T announces official support for UNIX and makes its first commercial release: UNIX System III.

Bill Joy, the inspiration behind BSD, leaves CSRG at Berkeley to co-found Sun Microsystems.

Sun gets its name from the Stanford University Network (SUN) board. The workstation is based on the Motorola 68000 chip running SunOS based on 4.2BSD. It includes an optional local area network based on Ethernet. The commercial UNIX industry is in full gear.

HP announces support for UNIX (HP/UX) on its 9000 workstations.

DEC releases ULTRIX.

IBM releases CPIX.

1983 Thompson and Ritchie receive ACM Turing award for their work on UNIX.

1984 /usr/group membership adopts a UNIX standard.

X/Open is formed.

AT&T agrees to divest itself of the Bell Operating Companies and obtains the right to enter the computer business.

Fortune runs an article saying that 750 universities around the world, about 80% of those offering computer science degrees, have UNIX licenses.

X/Open is formed by five European computer manufacturers: Bull, ICL, Siemens, Olivetti, and Nixdorf. The press refers to them as BISON.

1985 AT&T publishes the System V Interface Definition (SVID) in an attempt to standardize the UNIX interfaces, which was strongly influenced by the 1984 /usr/group standard.

POSIX standard is introduced.

1986 IBM releases AIX.

Sperry and Burroughs merge to form Unisys.

1988 AT&T buys 20% of Sun Microsystems, and the battle lines are formed.

IBM, DEC, HP, and others form Open Software Foundation (OSF) to compete with the AT&T/Sun alliance. They decide to use the AIX Kernel.

UNIX International (UI) is formed in response to OSF as an international consortium of System V UNIX users to work closely with AT&T to promote open systems and influence future development.

NeXT computer selects Mach Kernel for its NeXTStep OS.

David Cutler leaves DEC and joins Microsoft (October 31) to develop Windows NT.

Microsoft begins evaluating the Mach Kernel.

HP releases HP/UX.

1989 The C programming language is standardized by American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as X3.159.1989 which became an international standard ISO/IEC 9899:1990.

HP becomes the second largest supplier of UNIX based workstations by acquiring Apollo.

SCO is short of cash, and Microsoft, along with other investors, puts $25 million into SCO in exchange for 16% of the stock.

1990 OSF designates the Mach 3.0 Kernel from Carnegie-Mellon University as their choice for their version of UNIX, OSF/1.

Motif is released by OSF.

UNIX International releases SVR4 which is a unification of System V, BSD, and XENIX.

1991 AT&T incorporates UNIX System Laboratories (USL) with Novell, Amdahl, Fujitsu, Sun, Motorola, ICL, Olivetti, NEC, OKI Electric, III of Taiwan, and Toshiba.

USL forms Univel, a joint venture with Novell, to distribute and support UnixWare through Novell's reseller system.

NCR agrees to be acquired by AT&T.

Sun creates the SunSoft subsidiary and announces Solaris.

Sun acquires INTERACTIVE Systems, which is now owned by Intel.

1992 AT&T sells its ownership interest in Sun.

OSF and USL take steps to move closer together by cross licensing some technology.

Ken Olsen retires from DEC.

DEC introduces Alpha AXP, its 64 bit RISC processor.

1993 Novell buys USL from AT&T in June.

Novell gives the UNIX brand and trademark to X/Open in October.

Novell sells 35,000 copies of UnixWare in 1993.

UNIX International (UI) terminates business.

4.4BSD is released and CSRG is disbanded at Berkeley. Now both Berkeley and AT&T are out of the UNIX development business. Ironically, AT&T is now in the hardware business with NCR.

BSDI (Berkeley Software Design, Inc.) is formed and releases BSD/386, a PC version of UNIX, including source, for the low price of $1000. BSDI is sued by USL.

The Common Open Software Environment (COSE) is created at UniForum.

Microsoft releases Windows NT.

The Common Desktop Environment (CDE) is demonstrated.

1994 Novell settles suit with BSDI.

SunSoft, AT&T GIS, Novell, and Fujitsu pay $1 million to join OSF. This is primarily in recognition of the threat from Microsoft and the need to further standardize.

In April, Novell announced that it wanted to sell, rather than license UNIX, to OEM vendors. UNIX vendors could purchase source code for a single price and not have to pay on-going royalties to Novell. Sun accepts the offer and agrees to pay Novell $82.5 million.

The first products to be officially branded as UNIX by X/Open should occur in early 1995. To be eligible for the UNIX brand, products must conform in four areas:

X/Open portability guide (XPG)

Specification 1170 (System APIs)

International terminal interfaces

Network APIs including Berkeley sockets and XTI

Comments on UNIX Trademark Registration History

Two federal trademark registrations have been issued for the trademark UNIX in Class 9, which includes computer hardware and software and a variety of other electronic, electrical, optical and scientific devices.

American Telephone and Telegraph Company filed an application on May 13, 1985 to register UNIX for "computers" based on first use of the trademark on computers on December 14, 1984. The registration was issued on April 22, 1986 and has been maintained by filing a five year affidavit of use. The entire interest in the trademark, including the federal registration, was assigned to UNIX System Laboratories, Inc. by document recorded May 18, 1990. The date the assignment actually took effect is not available from the electronic database. Evidence of assignment of the trademark to Novell, Inc. by merger was recorded on July 27, 1994.

On June 24, 1985, six weeks after applying to register UNIX for computers, AT&T filed an application to register UNIX for computer programs based on first use of the mark on computer programs on December 14, 1972. The registration was issued on May 6, 1986 and has been maintained by filing a five year statement of use. Subsequent assignments to UNIX System Laboratories, Inc. and Novell, Inc. were recorded on the same dates as the assignments of the trademark for computers.

It is interesting that AT&T used the trademark for more than 12 years on computer programs without seeking federal registration, and then did so probably as an afterthought following its applications to register the trademark for computers.

Back in the mid-1980's, it was possible to obtain a federal registration for a trademark using the broad, general term "computer programs" as the identification of goods. There followed an interim period when software could have been described by identifying the intended user, the field of use, or the industry in which the software is intended for use. Today, the Trademark Office requires that the purpose or function of the software be specified. As examples, the descriptions "computer programs for word processing" or "computer programs for preparation of federal income tax returns" would be acceptable, whereas the descriptions "computer programs for doctors" or "computer programs for use in the transportation industry" would not be acceptable.

A Brief Who's Who

Ken Thompson Inventor and developer of UNIX with Ritchie.

Dennis Ritchie Co-developer of UNIX. Developer of C language. Co-authored The C Programming Language with Kernighan.

Rudd Canaday Co-designer of the UNIX file system.

Bill Joy The force behind Berkeley UNIX. Wrote Pascal, vi, csh, and termcap. Co-founder of Sun Microsystems.

Steve Bourne Wrote the Bourne Shell (sh).

David Korn Wrote Korn Shell (ksh).

Stephen Johnson Wrote yacc, pcc, lint, and early versions of spell.

Brian Kernighan The K in awk. Co-authored The C Programming Language with Ritchie. Wrote ratfor, ditroff, eqn, and pic.

P. J. Plauger Wrote the first commercial C compiler. Wrote The Elements of Programming Style and many other books. Founded Whitesmiths, Ltd. Responsible for Idris.

Books on the UNIX Industry

DUNP91 The UNIX Industry, Ed Dunphy, QED Technical Publishing Group, 1991.

DUNP94 The UNIX Industry and Open Systems in Transition, Second Edition, Ed Dunphy, Wiley-QED, 1994.

LIBE89 Life with UNIX, Don Libes and Sandy Ressler, PTR Prentice Hall, 1989.

QUAR93 UNIX, POSIX, and Open Systems, John S. Quaterman and Susan Wilhelm, Addison-Wesley, 1993.

SALU94 A Quarter Century of UNIX, Peter H. Salus, Addison-Wesley, 1994.

Major UNIX Hardware Vendors and Their Versions of UNIX

Manufacturer     UNIX System         Chip Technology        UNIX OS        

Amdahl           5xxx                Mainframe              UTS                   

AT&T GIS         3xxx                Intel                  SVR4 MP-RAS           

Bull             Escala              Power PC               Bull AIX              

Control Data     InfoServer          R4000, MIPS R6000A     EP/IX                 

Data General     AViiON              Motorola 88110         DG/UX                 

DEC              VAX, DEC Station    --                     ULTRIX                

DEC              Alpha AXP           DECchip 21064          Digital UNIX          

HP               9000, Apollo        PA-RISC 7100           HP/UX                 

IBM              RS/6000             IBM POWER, Power PC    AIX                   

ICL              DRS 6000            SuperSPARC             SVR4 and DRS/NX       

ICL              i-series            Intel                  SCO UNIX, NX V7       

ICL              s-series            SuperSPARC             NX V7 Plus (SVR4)     

Olivetti         LSX 5000            80486DX                SVR4                  

Pyramid          MIServer T          Pyramid RISC Arch      DC/OSx (SVR4)         

Pyramid          MIServer S          MIPS R3000 RISC        DC/OSx (SVR4)         

Pyramid          Nile                MIPS R4400 RISC        DC/OSx (SVR4 SMP)     

Sequent          Symmetry            Intel                  DYNIX/ptx             

Siemens Nixdorf  RM 600              MIPS R4400 RISC        SINIX (SVR4)          

Siemens Nixdorf  RM 200              MIPS R4600 RISC        SINIX (SVR4)          

Silicon          Challenge, Onyx     MIPS R4400 RISC        IRIX (SV/BSD)         

Stratus          Continuum           PA-RISC 7100           FTX                   

Sun              SPARCcenter         SuperSPARC             Solaris 2.x           

Sun              SPARCserver         SuperSPARC, SPARC      SUN OS and Solaris    

Tandem           Integrity,          MIPS 4400, 4600 RISC   IRIX                  

Unisys           U6000               Intel                  SVR4/MP, DYNIX/ptx    

Quiz handed out prior to talk

Can You Match the Person to the Accomplishment?

1. Steve Bourne A. Wrote ksh shell __

2. Steve Johnson B. Developed "C" __

3. Bill Joy C. Wrote awk __

4. Brian Kernighan D. Principal UNIX Developer __

5. Dennis Ritchie E. Wrote vi and founded Sun __

6. P.J. Plauger F. Wrote first commercial C __

7. David Korn G. Wrote sh shell __

8. Ken Thompson H. Wrote yacc, pcc, and lint __

Can You Match the Version of UNIX to the Hardware Vendor?


2. DYNIX B. IBM __

3. SVR4 C. Unisys __

4. AIX D. Data General __

5. HP/UX E. Novell __

6. DC/OSX F. Digital (DEC) __

7. BOSX G. AT&T __

8. DG/UX H. Interactive __

9. XENIX I. Sequent __

10. OSF/1 J. Hewlett Packard __

11. Solaris K. SCO __

12. IN/IX L. Pyramid __

13. UnixWare M. Microsoft __

Can you Match the Chip Technology to the Vendor?

1. POWER A. Digital __

2. SPARC B. IBM __

3. PA-RISC C. HP __

4. Alpha D. Intel __

5. R4000 E. Sun __

6. Pentium F. MIPS __

Back to the transcipt of The UNIX Industry: a Brief History

DSC Home | Product Info | Partners/Keys | DSC Press | Contact Us
DSC Employment | DSC Overview | Success Stories | Tech Library | Events

Copyright © 1999 Datametrics Systems Corporation. All rights reserved. Do not duplicate or redistribute in any form. Comments on site: webmaster@datametrics.com