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
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
1973 First UNIX development support group is formed in
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
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
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
The Elements of Programming Style by Kernighan and Plauger
1975 Thompson begins one year sabbatical at Berkeley.
AT&T officially begins licensing UNIX to universities.
1976 Software Tools by Kernighan and Plauger is
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
P.J. Plauger forms Whitesmiths Ltd and writes the first commercial
The USENIX UNIX users group is formed. Voting membership required
a UNIX source license, thus limiting the influence of binary users
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
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
X/Open is formed by five European computer manufacturers: Bull,
ICL, Siemens, Olivetti, and Nixdorf. The press refers to them
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
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
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
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
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.