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Company / developer Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Brian Kernighan, Douglas McIlroy, and Joe Ossanna & Bell Labs
Programmed in C
OS family Unix
Working state Active
Source model Historically closed source, now some Unix projects (BSD family and Open Solaris) are open sourced.
Initial release 1969
Available language(s) English
Available programming languages(s) C, C++
Kernel type Monolithic
Default user interface Command-line interface & Graphical (X Window System)
License Proprietary
Official Website
Filiation of Unix and Unix-like systems

Unix (officially trademarked as UNIX, sometimes also written as Unix with small caps) is a computer operating system originally developed in 1969 by a group of AT&T employees at Bell Labs, including Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Brian Kernighan, Douglas McIlroy, and Joe Ossanna. Today the term "Unix" is commonly used to describe any operating system that conforms to Unix standards, meaning the core operating system operates similarly to the original Unix operating system. Today's Unix systems are split into various branches, developed over time by AT&T as well as various commercial vendors and non-profit organizations.

The Open Group, an industry standards consortium, owns the “Unix” trademark. Only systems fully compliant with and certified according to the Single UNIX Specification are qualified to use the trademark; others are called "Unix system-like" or "Unix-like" (though the Open Group disapproves of this term).

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the influence of Unix in academic circles led to large-scale adoption of Unix (particularly of the BSD variant, originating from the University of California, Berkeley) by commercial startups, the most notable of which are Solaris, HP-UX and AIX. Today, in addition to certified Unix systems such as those already mentioned, Unix-like operating systems such as Linux, BSD, and Mac OS X are commonly encountered. The term "traditional Unix" may be used to describe a Unix or an operating system that has the characteristics of either Version 7 Unix or UNIX System V.



Timeline of Unix variants

Unix operating systems are widely used in both servers and workstations. The Unix environment and the client-server program model were essential elements in the development of the Internet and the reshaping of computing as centered in networks rather than in individual computers.

Both Unix and the C programming language were developed by AT&T and distributed to government and academic institutions, which led to both being ported to a wider variety of machine families than any other operating system. As a result, Unix became synonymous with "open systems".

Unix was designed to be portable, multi-tasking and multi-user in a time-sharing configuration. Unix systems are characterized by various concepts: the use of plain text for storing data; a hierarchical file system; treating devices and certain types of inter-process communication (IPC) as files; and the use of a large number of software tools, small programs that can be strung together through a command line interpreter using pipes, as opposed to using a single monolithic program that includes all of the same functionality. These concepts are collectively known as the Unix philosophy.

Under Unix, the "operating system" consists of many of these utilities along with the master control program, the kernel. The kernel provides services to start and stop programs, handles the file system and other common "low level" tasks that most programs share, and, perhaps most importantly, schedules access to hardware to avoid conflicts if two programs try to access the same resource or device simultaneously. To mediate such access, the kernel was given special rights on the system, leading to the division between user-space and kernel-space.

The microkernel concept was introduced in an effort to reverse the trend towards larger kernels and return to a system in which most tasks were completed by smaller utilities. In an era when a "normal" computer consisted of a hard disk for storage and a data terminal for input and output (I/O), the Unix file model worked quite well as most I/O was "linear". However, modern systems include networking and other new devices. As graphical user interfaces developed, the file model proved inadequate to the task of handling asynchronous events such as those generated by a mouse, and in the 1980s non-blocking I/O and the set of inter-process communication mechanisms was augmented (sockets, shared memory, message queues, semaphores), and functionalities such as network protocols were moved out of the kernel.


In the 1960s, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, AT&T Bell Labs, and General Electric developed an experimental operating system called Multics, on GE's latest mainframe, a GE-645, designed specially for it.[1] Multics was highly innovative, braving many new computing frontiers for the first time, including the ability to serve several users from the same computing machine all at one time. It had many problems, but eventually Multics became a functional commercial product.

Bell Labs, frustrated by the size and complexity of Multics but not the aims, slowly pulled out of the project. Their last researchers to leave Multics, Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, M. D. McIlroy, and J. F. Ossanna,[2] decided to redo the work on a much smaller scale. At the time, Ritchie says "What we wanted to preserve was not just a good environment in which to do programming, but a system around which a fellowship could form. We knew from experience that the essence of communal computing, as supplied by remote-access, time-shared machines, is not just to type programs into a terminal instead of a keypunch, but to encourage close communication."[2]

While Ken Thompson still had access to the Multics environment, he wrote simulations for the new file and paging system on it. He also programmed a game called Space Travel, but the game needed a more efficient machine to run on, and eventually a little-used PDP-7 at Bell Labs fit the bill.[3] It was the work on the game that led to the obvious place Unix would be born, a PDP7 at Bell Labs, for the access to Multics was soon ending, and management was not interested in purchasing any machine for further development of the programmer's aims.[2][4]

On this PDP7, introduced by the Space Travel game, Thompson and Ritchie led a team of developers, including Rudd Canaday, at Bell Labs. They developed a hierarchical file system, the notions of computer processes and device files, and a command-line interpreter, and some small utility programs.[2]


In the 1970s Brian Kernighan coined the project name Unics for Uniplexed Information and Computing Service, a play on Multics (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service). The Uni and Multi prefixes refer to the number of simultaneous users the operating system can support, so when Unics could eventually support two simultaneous users, it was renamed Unix.

Up until this point there had been no financial support from Bell Labs. When the Computer Science Research Group wanted to use Unix on a much larger machine than the PDP-7, Thompson and Ritchie managed to trade the promise of adding text processing capabilities to Unix for a PDP-11/20 machine. This led to some financial support from Bell. For the first time in 1970, the Unix operating system was officially named and ran on the PDP-11/20. It added a text formatting program called roff and a text editor. All three were written in PDP-11/20 assembly language. Bell Labs used this initial "text processing system", made up of Unix, roff, and the editor, for text processing of patent applications. Roff soon evolved into troff, the first electronic publishing program with a full typesetting capability. The UNIX Programmer's Manual was published on November 3, 1971.

In 1973, Unix was rewritten in the C programming language, contrary to the general notion at the time "that something as complex as an operating system, which must deal with time-critical events, had to be written exclusively in assembly language".[5] The migration from assembly language to the higher-level language C resulted in much more portable software, requiring only a relatively small amount of machine-dependent code to be replaced when porting Unix to other computing platforms.

Under a 1958 consent decree in settlement of an antitrust case, AT&T (the parent organization of Bell Labs) had been forbidden from entering the computer business. Unix could not, therefore, be turned into a product; indeed, under the terms of the consent decree, Bell Labs was required to license its nontelephone technology to anyone who asked. Ken Thompson quietly began answering requests by shipping out tapes and disk packs — each, according to legend, with a note signed “love, ken”. [6]

AT&T made Unix available to universities and commercial firms, as well as the United States government under licenses. The licenses included all source code including the machine-dependent parts of the kernel, which were written in PDP-11 assembly code. Copies of the annotated Unix kernel sources circulated widely in the late 1970s in the form of a much-copied book by John Lions of the University of New South Wales, the Lions' Commentary on UNIX 6th Edition, with Source Code, which led to considerable use of Unix as an educational example.

Versions of the Unix system were determined by editions of its user manuals. For example, "Fifth Edition UNIX" and "UNIX Version 5" have both been used to designate the same version. Development expanded, with Versions 4, 5, and 6 being released by 1975. These versions added the concept of pipes, which led to the development of a more modular code-base and quicker development cycles. Version 5 and especially Version 6 led to a plethora of different Unix versions both inside and outside Bell Labs, including PWB/UNIX and the first commercial Unix, IS/1. As more of Unix was rewritten in C, portability also increased. A group at the University of Wollongong ported Unix to the Interdata 7/32. Bell Labs developed several ports for research purposes and internal use at AT&T. Target machines included an Intel 8086-based computer (with custom-built MMU) and the UNIVAC 1100.[7]

In May 1975 ARPA documented the benefits of the Unix time-sharing system which "presents several interesting capabilities" as an arpa network mini-host in RFC 681.

In 1978, UNIX/32V was released for DEC's then new VAX system. By this time, over 600 machines were running Unix in some form. Version 7 Unix, the last version of Research Unix to be released widely, was released in 1979. Versions 8, 9 and 10 were developed through the 1980s but were only released to a few universities, though they did generate papers describing the new work. This research led to the development of Plan 9 from Bell Labs, a new portable distributed system.


A Unix desktop running the X Window System graphical user interface. Shown are a number of client applications common to the MIT X Consortium's distribution, including Tom's Window Manager, an X Terminal, Xbiff, xload, and a graphical manual page browser.

AT&T licensed UNIX System III, based largely on Version 7, for commercial use, the first version launching in 1982. This also included support for the VAX. AT&T continued to issue licenses for older Unix versions. To end the confusion between all its differing internal versions, AT&T combined them into UNIX System V Release 1. This introduced a few features such as the vi editor and curses from the Berkeley Software Distribution of Unix developed at the University of California, Berkeley. This also included support for the Western Electric 3B series of machines.

In 1983, the U.S. Department of Justice won its second antitrust case against AT&T and broke up the Bell System. This relieved AT&T from the 1958 consent decree that had prevented them from turning Unix into a product. AT&T promptly rushed to commercialize Unix System V, a move that nearly killed Unix. [8]

Since the newer commercial UNIX licensing terms were not as favorable for academic use as the older versions of Unix, the Berkeley researchers continued to develop BSD Unix as an alternative to UNIX System III and V, originally on the PDP-11 architecture (the 2.xBSD releases, ending with 2.11BSD) and later for the VAX-11 (the 4.x BSD releases). Many contributions to Unix first appeared on BSD releases, notably the C shell with job control (modelled on ITS). Perhaps the most important aspect of the BSD development effort was the addition of TCP/IP network code to the mainstream Unix kernel. The BSD effort produced several significant releases that contained network code: 4.1cBSD, 4.2BSD, 4.3BSD, 4.3BSD-Tahoe ("Tahoe" being the nickname of the Computer Consoles Inc. Power 6/32 architecture that was the first non-DEC release of the BSD kernel), Net/1, 4.3BSD-Reno (to match the "Tahoe" naming, and that the release was something of a gamble), Net/2, 4.4BSD, and 4.4BSD-lite. The network code found in these releases is the ancestor of much TCP/IP network code in use today, including code that was later released in AT&T System V UNIX and early versions of Microsoft Windows. The accompanying Berkeley sockets API is a de facto standard for networking APIs and has been copied on many platforms.

Other companies began to offer commercial versions of the UNIX System for their own mini-computers and workstations. Most of these new Unix flavors were developed from the System V base under a license from AT&T; however, others were based on BSD instead. One of the leading developers of BSD, Bill Joy, went on to co-found Sun Microsystems in 1982 and created SunOS for their workstation computers. In 1980, Microsoft announced its first Unix for 16-bit microcomputers called Xenix, which the Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) ported to the Intel 8086 processor in 1983, and eventually branched Xenix into SCO UNIX in 1989.

For a few years during this period (before PC compatible computers with MS-DOS became dominant), industry observers expected that UNIX, with its portability and rich capabilities, was likely to become the industry standard operating system for microcomputers.[9] In 1984 several companies established the X/Open consortium with the goal of creating an open system specification based on UNIX. Despite early progress, the standardization effort collapsed into the "Unix wars", with various companies forming rival standardization groups. The most successful Unix-related standard turned out to be the IEEE's POSIX specification, designed as a compromise API readily implemented on both BSD and System V platforms, published in 1988 and soon mandated by the United States government for many of its own systems.

AT&T added various features into UNIX System V, such as file locking, system administration, STREAMS, new forms of IPC, the Remote File System and TLI. AT&T cooperated with Sun Microsystems and between 1987 and 1989 merged features from Xenix, BSD, SunOS, and System V into System V Release 4 (SVR4), independently of X/Open. This new release consolidated all the previous features into one package, and heralded the end of competing versions. It also increased licensing fees.

During this time a number of vendors including Digital Equipment, Sun, Addamax and others began building trusted versions of UNIX for high security applications, mostly designed for military and law enforcement applications.


In 1990, the Open Software Foundation released OSF/1, their standard Unix implementation, based on Mach and BSD. The Foundation was started in 1988 and was funded by several Unix-related companies that wished to counteract the collaboration of AT&T and Sun on SVR4. Subsequently, AT&T and another group of licensees formed the group "UNIX International" in order to counteract OSF. This escalation of conflict between competing vendors gave rise again to the phrase "Unix wars".

In 1991, a group of BSD developers (Donn Seeley, Mike Karels, Bill Jolitz, and Trent Hein) left the University of California to found Berkeley Software Design, Inc (BSDI). BSDI produced a fully functional commercial version of BSD Unix for the inexpensive and ubiquitous Intel platform, which started a wave of interest in the use of inexpensive hardware for production computing. Shortly after it was founded, Bill Jolitz left BSDI to pursue distribution of 386BSD, the free software ancestor of FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and NetBSD.

By 1993 most commercial vendors had changed their variants of Unix to be based on System V with many BSD features added on top. The creation of the COSE initiative that year by the major players in Unix marked the end of the most notorious phase of the Unix wars, and was followed by the merger of UI and OSF in 1994. The new combined entity, which retained the OSF name, stopped work on OSF/1 that year. By that time the only vendor using it was Digital, which continued its own development, rebranding their product Digital UNIX in early 1995.

Shortly after UNIX System V Release 4 was produced, AT&T sold all its rights to UNIX to Novell. (Dennis Ritchie likened this to the Biblical story of Esau selling his birthright for the proverbial "mess of pottage".[10]) Novell developed its own version, UnixWare, merging its NetWare with UNIX System V Release 4. Novell tried to use this to battle against Windows NT, but their core markets suffered considerably.

In 1993, Novell decided to transfer the UNIX trademark and certification rights to the X/Open Consortium.[11] In 1996, X/Open merged with OSF, creating the Open Group. Various standards by the Open Group now define what is and what is not a "UNIX" operating system, notably the post-1998 Single UNIX Specification.

In 1995, the business of administering and supporting the existing UNIX licenses, plus rights to further develop the System V code base, were sold by Novell to the Santa Cruz Operation.[12] Whether Novell also sold the copyrights is currently the subject of litigation (see below).

In 1997, Apple Computer sought out a new foundation for its Macintosh operating system and chose NEXTSTEP, an operating system developed by NeXT. The core operating system, which was based on BSD and the Mach kernel, was renamed Darwin after Apple acquired it. The deployment of Darwin in Mac OS X makes it, according to a statement made by an Apple employee at a USENIX conference, the most widely used Unix-based system in the desktop computer market.


In 2000, SCO sold its entire UNIX business and assets to Caldera Systems, which later on changed its name to The SCO Group.

The dot-com bubble (2001–2003) has led to significant consolidation of versions of Unix. Of the many commercial variants of Unix that were born in the 1980s, only Solaris, HP-UX, and AIX are still doing relatively well in the market, though SGI's IRIX persisted for quite some time. Of these, Solaris has the largest market share.[13]

In 2003, the SCO Group started legal action against various users and vendors of Linux. SCO had alleged that Linux contained copyrighted Unix code now owned by The SCO Group. Other allegations included trade-secret violations by IBM, or contract violations by former Santa Cruz customers who had since converted to Linux. However, Novell disputed the SCO Group's claim to hold copyright on the UNIX source base. According to Novell, SCO (and hence the SCO Group) are effectively franchise operators for Novell, which also retained the core copyrights, veto rights over future licensing activities of SCO, and 95% of the licensing revenue. The SCO Group disagreed with this, and the dispute resulted in the SCO v. Novell lawsuit. On August 10, 2007, a major portion of the case (the fact that Novell had the copyright to UNIX, and that the SCO Group had improperly kept money that was due to Novell) was decided in Novell's favor. The court also ruled that "SCO is obligated to recognize Novell's waiver of SCO's claims against IBM and Sequent". After the ruling, Novell announced they have no interest in suing people over Unix and stated, "We don't believe there is Unix in Linux".[14][15][16] SCO successfully got the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn this decision on August 24, 2009 which sent the lawsuit back to the courts.[17][18][19]

In 2005, Sun Microsystems released the bulk of its Solaris system code (based on UNIX System V Release 4) into an open source project called OpenSolaris. New Sun OS technologies such as the ZFS file system are now first released as open source code via the OpenSolaris project; as of 2006 OpenSolaris has spawned several non-Sun distributions such as SchilliX, Belenix, Nexenta, Jaris OS and MarTux.


Beginning in the late 1980s, an open operating system standardization effort now known as POSIX provided a common baseline for all operating systems; IEEE based POSIX around the common structure of the major competing variants of the Unix system, publishing the first POSIX standard in 1988. In the early 1990s a separate but very similar effort was started by an industry consortium, the Common Open Software Environment (COSE) initiative, which eventually became the Single UNIX Specification administered by The Open Group. Starting in 1998 the Open Group and IEEE started the Austin Group, to provide a common definition of POSIX and the Single UNIX Specification.

In an effort towards compatibility, in 1999 several Unix system vendors agreed on SVR4's Executable and Linkable Format (ELF) as the standard for binary and object code files. The common format allows substantial binary compatibility among Unix systems operating on the same CPU architecture.

The Filesystem Hierarchy Standard was created to provide a reference directory layout for Unix-like operating systems, particularly Linux.


The Unix system is composed of several components that are normally packed together. By including — in addition to the kernel of an operating system — the development environment, libraries, documents, and the portable, modifiable source-code for all of these components, Unix was a self-contained software system. This was one of the key reasons it emerged as an important teaching and learning tool and has had such a broad influence.

The inclusion of these components did not make the system large — the original V7 UNIX distribution, consisting of copies of all of the compiled binaries plus all of the source code and documentation occupied less than 10MB, and arrived on a single 9-track magnetic tape. The printed documentation, typeset from the on-line sources, was contained in two volumes.

The names and filesystem locations of the Unix components have changed substantially across the history of the system. Nonetheless, the V7 implementation is considered by many to have the canonical early structure:

  • Kernel — source code in /usr/sys, composed of several sub-components:
    • conf — configuration and machine-dependent parts, including boot code
    • dev — device drivers for control of hardware (and some pseudo-hardware)
    • sys — operating system "kernel", handling memory management, process scheduling, system calls, etc.
    • h — header files, defining key structures within the system and important system-specific invariables
  • Development Environment — Early versions of Unix contained a development environment sufficient to recreate the entire system from source code:
    • cc — C language compiler (first appeared in V3 Unix)
    • as — machine-language assembler for the machine
    • ld — linker, for combining object files
    • lib — object-code libraries (installed in /lib or /usr/lib) libc, the system library with C run-time support, was the primary library, but there have always been additional libraries for such things as mathematical functions (libm) or database access. V7 Unix introduced the first version of the modern "Standard I/O" library stdio as part of the system library. Later implementations increased the number of libraries significantly.
    • make — build manager (introduced in PWB/UNIX), for effectively automating the build process
    • include — header files for software development, defining standard interfaces and system invariants
    • Other languages — V7 Unix contained a Fortran-77 compiler, a programmable arbitrary-precision calculator (bc, dc), and the awk scripting language, and later versions and implementations contain many other language compilers and toolsets. Early BSD releases included Pascal tools, and many modern Unix systems also include the GNU Compiler Collection as well as or instead of a proprietary compiler system.
    • Other tools — including an object-code archive manager (ar), symbol-table lister (nm), compiler-development tools (e.g. lex & yacc), and debugging tools.
  • Commands — Unix makes little distinction between commands (user-level programs) for system operation and maintenance (e.g. cron), commands of general utility (e.g. grep), and more general-purpose applications such as the text formatting and typesetting package. Nonetheless, some major categories are:
    • sh — The "shell" programmable command line interpreter, the primary user interface on Unix before window systems appeared, and even afterward (within a "command window").
    • Utilities — the core tool kit of the Unix command set, including cp, ls, grep, find and many others. Subcategories include:
      • System utilities — administrative tools such as mkfs, fsck, and many others.
      • User utilities — environment management tools such as passwd, kill, and others.
    • Document formatting — Unix systems were used from the outset for document preparation and typesetting systems, and included many related programs such as nroff, troff, tbl, eqn, refer, and pic. Some modern Unix systems also include packages such as TeX and Ghostscript.
    • Graphics — The plot subsystem provided facilities for producing simple vector plots in a device-independent format, with device-specific interpreters to display such files. Modern Unix systems also generally include X11 as a standard windowing system and GUI, and many support OpenGL.
    • Communications — Early Unix systems contained no inter-system communication, but did include the inter-user communication programs mail and write. V7 introduced the early inter-system communication system UUCP, and systems beginning with BSD release 4.1c included TCP/IP utilities.
The 'man' command can display a manual page for any command on the system, including itself.
  • Documentation — Unix was the first operating system to include all of its documentation online in machine-readable form. The documentation included:
    • man — manual pages for each command, library component, system call, header file, etc.
    • doc — longer documents detailing major subsystems, such as the C language and troff


The Unix system had significant impact on other operating systems. It won its success by:

  • Direct interaction.
  • Moving away from the total control of businesses like IBM and DEC.
  • AT&T being willing to give the software away for free.
  • Running on cheap hardware.
  • Being easy to adopt and move to different machines.

It was written in high level language rather than assembly language (which had been thought necessary for systems implementation on early computers). Although this followed the lead of Multics and Burroughs, it was Unix that popularized the idea.

Unix had a drastically simplified file model compared to many contemporary operating systems, treating all kinds of files as simple byte arrays. The file system hierarchy contained machine services and devices (such as printers, terminals, or disk drives), providing a uniform interface, but at the expense of occasionally requiring additional mechanisms such as ioctl and mode flags to access features of the hardware that did not fit the simple "stream of bytes" model. The Plan 9 operating system pushed this model even further and eliminated the need for additional mechanisms.

Unix also popularized the hierarchical file system with arbitrarily nested subdirectories, originally introduced by Multics. Other common operating systems of the era had ways to divide a storage device into multiple directories or sections, but they had a fixed number of levels, often only one level. Several major proprietary operating systems eventually added recursive subdirectory capabilities also patterned after Multics. DEC's RSX-11M's "group, user" hierarchy evolved into VMS directories, CP/M's volumes evolved into MS-DOS 2.0+ subdirectories, and HP's MPE group.account hierarchy and IBM's SSP and OS/400 library systems were folded into broader POSIX file systems.

Making the command interpreter an ordinary user-level program, with additional commands provided as separate programs, was another Multics innovation popularized by Unix. The Unix shell used the same language for interactive commands as for scripting (shell scripts — there was no separate job control language like IBM's JCL). Since the shell and OS commands were "just another program", the user could choose (or even write) his own shell. New commands could be added without changing the shell itself. Unix's innovative command-line syntax for creating chains of producer-consumer processes (pipelines) made a powerful programming paradigm (coroutines) widely available. Many later command-line interpreters have been inspired by the Unix shell.

A fundamental simplifying assumption of Unix was its focus on ASCII text for nearly all file formats. There were no "binary" editors in the original version of Unix — the entire system was configured using textual shell command scripts. The common denominator in the I/O system was the byte — unlike "record-based" file systems. The focus on text for representing nearly everything made Unix pipes especially useful, and encouraged the development of simple, general tools that could be easily combined to perform more complicated ad hoc tasks. The focus on text and bytes made the system far more scalable and portable than other systems. Over time, text-based applications have also proven popular in application areas, such as printing languages (PostScript, ODF), and at the application layer of the Internet protocols, e.g., FTP, SMTP, HTTP, SOAP and SIP.

Unix popularized a syntax for regular expressions that found widespread use. The Unix programming interface became the basis for a widely implemented operating system interface standard (POSIX, see above).

The C programming language soon spread beyond Unix, and is now ubiquitous in systems and applications programming.

Early Unix developers were important in bringing the concepts of modularity and reusability into software engineering practice, spawning a "software tools" movement.

Unix provided the TCP/IP networking protocol on relatively inexpensive computers, which contributed to the Internet explosion of worldwide real-time connectivity, and which formed the basis for implementations on many other platforms. This also exposed numerous security holes in the networking implementations.

The Unix policy of extensive on-line documentation and (for many years) ready access to all system source code raised programmer expectations, and contributed to the 1983 launch of the free software movement.

Over time, the leading developers of Unix (and programs that ran on it) established a set of cultural norms for developing software, norms which became as important and influential as the technology of Unix itself; this has been termed the Unix philosophy.

Free Unix-like operating systems

In 1983, Richard Stallman announced the GNU project, an ambitious effort to create a free software Unix-like system; "free" in that everyone who received a copy would be free to use, study, modify, and redistribute it. The GNU project's own kernel development project, GNU Hurd, had not produced a working kernel, but in 1992 Linus Torvalds released the Linux kernel as free software under the GNU General Public License. In addition to their use in the GNU/Linux operating system, many GNU packages — such as the GNU Compiler Collection (and the rest of the GNU toolchain), the GNU C library and the GNU core utilities — have gone on to play central roles in other free Unix systems as well.

Linux distributions, comprising Linux and large collections of compatible software have become popular both with individual users and in business. Popular distributions include Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Fedora, SUSE Linux Enterprise, openSUSE, Debian GNU/Linux, Ubuntu, Mandriva Linux, Slackware Linux and Gentoo.

A free derivative of BSD Unix, 386BSD, was also released in 1992 and led to the NetBSD and FreeBSD projects. With the 1994 settlement of a lawsuit that UNIX Systems Laboratories brought against the University of California and Berkeley Software Design Inc. (USL v. BSDi), it was clarified that Berkeley had the right to distribute BSD Unix — for free, if it so desired. Since then, BSD Unix has been developed in several different directions, including OpenBSD and DragonFly BSD.

Linux and BSD are now rapidly occupying much of the market traditionally occupied by proprietary Unix operating systems, as well as expanding into new markets such as the consumer desktop and mobile and embedded devices. Due to the modularity of the Unix design, sharing bits and pieces is relatively common; consequently, most or all Unix and Unix-like systems include at least some BSD code, and modern systems also usually include some GNU utilities in their distributions.

OpenSolaris is a relatively recent addition to the list of operating systems based on free software licenses marked as such by FSF and OSI. It includes a number of derivatives that combines CDDL-licensed kernel and system tools and also GNU userland and is currently only open source System V derivative available.


Unix stores system time values as the number of seconds from midnight January 1, 1970 (the "Unix Epoch") in variables of type time_t, historically defined as "signed 32-bit integer". On January 19, 2038, the current time will roll over from a zero followed by 31 ones (0x7FFFFFFF) to a one followed by 31 zeros (0x80000000), which will reset time to the year 1901 or 1970, depending on implementation, because that toggles the sign bit. As many applications use OS library routines for date calculations, the impact of this could be felt much earlier than 2038; for instance, 30-year mortgages may have been calculated incorrectly beginning in the year 2008.

Since times before 1970 are rarely represented in Unix time, one possible solution that is compatible with existing binary formats would be to redefine time_t as "unsigned 32-bit integer". However, such a kludge merely postpones the problem to February 7, 2106, and could introduce bugs in software that compares differences between two sets of time.

Some Unix versions have already addressed this. For example, in Solaris and Linux in 64-bit mode, time_t is 64 bits long, meaning that the OS itself and 64-bit applications will correctly handle dates for some 292 billion years. Existing 32-bit applications using a 32-bit time_t continue to work on 64-bit Solaris systems but are still prone to the 2038 problem.


In May 1975 ARPA documented in RFC 681 detailed very specifically why Unix is the operating system of choice for use as an ARPANET "mini-host". The evaluation process was also documented. Unix required a license that was very expensive with US$20,000 for non-university users and US$150 for an educational license. It was noted that for an "ARPA network wide license" Bell "were open to suggestions in that area".

Specific features found beneficial were:

Development hardware used:

"The network software for Unix was developed on a PDP-11/50, with memory management, two RK05 disk packs, two nine track magtape drives, four dectape drives, 32k words of core, and three terminals. Presently this has been expanded to encompass a DH11 terminal multiplexor, an RP03 moving head disk, a twin platter RF11 fixed head disk, floating point, and 48k of core. User files are stored on the RP03. the RF11 is used as a swap disk and for temporary file storage; one RK05 platter contains the system files, and the second contains login and accounting information. In the near future, the system will be expanded to 128k words of core memory with 10 dial in and 10 hard wired terminal lines"
"The base operating system occupies 24.5k words of memory. this system includes a large number of device drivers, and enjoys a generous amount of space for I/O buffers and system tables. A minimal system would require 40k words of hardware memory. It should be noted that Unix also requires the memory management"

As a comparison the "network control program" (NCP) in kernel code uses 3.5k and the swappable userspace is approx 8.5k.

  • "After telnet has proved itself reliable, the open system call will be expanded to include further parameterization .. ability to listen on a local socket"
  • "After those extensions, net mail, then network FTP and finally network RJE will be implemented. all will run as user programs so the kernel system size will not increase."
  • "Gary Grossman who participated in the design and wrote the NCP daemon"
  • "Steve Bunch who was the third member of our design group and wrote the kernel message software."


In October 1993, Novell, the company that owned the rights to the Unix System V source at the time, transferred the trademarks of Unix to the X/Open Company (now The Open Group),[11] and in 1995 sold the related business operations to Santa Cruz Operation.[12] Whether Novell also sold the copyrights to the actual software was the subject of a 2006 federal lawsuit, SCO v. Novell, which Novell won; the case is being appealed.[citation needed] Unix vendor SCO Group Inc. accused Novell of slander of title.

The present owner of the trademark UNIX is The Open Group, an industry standards consortium. Only systems fully compliant with and certified to the Single UNIX Specification qualify as "UNIX" (others are called "Unix system-like" or "Unix-like").

By decree of The Open Group, the term "UNIX" refers more to a class of operating systems than to a specific implementation of an operating system; those operating systems which meet The Open Group's Single UNIX Specification should be able to bear the UNIX 98 or UNIX 03 trademarks today, after the operating system's vendor pays a fee to The Open Group. Systems licensed to use the UNIX trademark include AIX, HP-UX, IRIX, Solaris, Tru64 (formerly "Digital UNIX"), A/UX, Mac OS X 10.5 on Intel platforms,[20] and a part of z/OS.

Sometimes a representation like "Un*x", "*NIX", or "*N?X" is used to indicate all operating systems similar to Unix. This comes from the use of the "*" and "?" characters as "wildcard" characters in many utilities. This notation is also used to describe other Unix-like systems, e.g. Linux, BSD, etc., that have not met the requirements for UNIX branding from the Open Group.

The Open Group requests that "UNIX" is always used as an adjective followed by a generic term such as "system" to help avoid the creation of a genericized trademark.

"Unix" was the original formatting, but the usage of "UNIX" remains widespread because, according to Dennis Ritchie, when presenting the original Unix paper to the third Operating Systems Symposium of the American Association for Computing Machinery, “we had a new typesetter and troff had just been invented and we were intoxicated by being able to produce small caps.”[21] Many of the operating system's predecessors and contemporaries used all-uppercase lettering, so many people wrote the name in upper case due to force of habit.

Several plural forms of Unix are used to refer to multiple brands of Unix and Unix-like systems. Most common is the conventional "Unixes", but "Unices" (treating Unix as a Latin noun of the third declension) is also popular. The Anglo-Saxon plural form "Unixen" is not common, although occasionally seen. Trademark names can be registered by different entities in different countries and trademark laws in some countries allow the same trademark name to be controlled by two different entities if each entity uses the trademark in easily distinguishable categories. The result is that Unix has been used as a brand name for various products including book shelves, ink pens, bottled glue, diapers, hair driers and food containers.[22]

See also


  1. ^ Stuart, Brian L. (2009). "Principles of operating systems: design & applications". Boston, Massachusetts: Thompson Learning. p. 23. ISBN 1-4188-3769-5. 
  2. ^ a b c d Ritchie, Dennis M.. "The Evolution of the Unix Time-sharing System". Retrieved 2009-11-29. 
  3. ^ The Creation of the UNIX* Operating System: The famous PDP-7 comes to the rescue
  4. ^ "On the Early History and Impact of Unix Tools to Build the Tools for a New Millenium". New York: Columbia University. Retrieved November 30, 2009. "When Unix evolved within Bell Laboratories, it was not a result of some deliberate management initiative. It spread through channels of technical need and technical contact...." 
  5. ^ Stallings, William. "Operating Systems: Internals and Design Principles" 5th ed, page 91. Pearson Education, Inc. 2005.
  6. ^ Origins and History of Unix, 1969-1995
  7. ^ D. E. Bodenstab, T. F. Houghton, K. A. Kelleman, G. Ronkin, and E. P. Schan (October 1984). "UNIX Operating System Porting Experiences" (PDF). AT&T Bell Laboratories Technical Journal, Vol. 63, No. 8 Part 2. pp. 9. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  8. ^ Origins and History of Unix, 1969-1995
  9. ^ "UNIX". The Computer Chronicles. 1985.
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ a b HP, Novell and SCO To Deliver High-Volume UNIX OS With Advanced Network And Enterprise Services
  13. ^ Stephen Shankland (December 7, 2005). "Itanium: A cautionary tale". Tech News. ZDNet. Retrieved 2006-10-04. "In the third quarter of this year, 7,845 Itanium servers were sold, according to research by Gartner. That compares with 62,776 machines with Sun Microsystems' UltraSparc, 31,648 with IBM's Power, and 9,147 with HP's PA-RISC." 
  14. ^ Memorandum and Decision Order in SCO v. Novell
  15. ^ Memorandum and Decision Order Civil Case No. 2:04CV139DAK
  16. ^ Novell Won't Pursue Unix Copyrights August 15, 2007
  17. ^ [1] August 24, 2009
  18. ^ [2] August 24, 2009
  19. ^ [3] August 24, 2009
  20. ^ The Open Group. "Mac OS X Version 10.5 Leopard on Intel-based Macintosh computers certification". Retrieved 2007-06-12. 
  21. ^ Unix
  22. ^ Autres Unix, autres moeurs (OtherUnix)

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




A pun on Multics coined by Brian Kernighan.

Proper noun

Wikipedia has an article on:


UNIX or Unix

  1. A computer operating system.
  2. A derived work of Unix that qualifies for use of the Unix trademark.
  3. (informal, considered incorrect) A Unix-like operating system similar to Unix but not qualifying for use of the Unix trademark. Such systems are not strictly considered Unix but are often commonly described as such informally.
    GNU is not Unix.
  4. The group of Unix operating systems as a whole.


Related terms


Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Guide to Unix article)

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection


Wikibooks Guide to Unix Computing

Edit template

General: Introduction | Mechanism | Why Unix-like
Platforms: Linux | BSD
Quick Reference: Commands | Environment Variables | Files | License

This is the Wikibooks Guide to Unix Computing, or for short, Guide to Unix. It describes Unix and Unix-like systems for users and system administrators. We include a guide to commands which lists several of the common shell commands. This guide has at least 34 modules!


Brief contents

Wikibook Development Stages
Sparse text 00%.svg Developing text 25%.svg Maturing text 50%.svg Developed text 75%.svg Comprehensive text: 100%.svg

Introduction introduction to the format of this book and current status.

Why Unix-like why use a Unix-like system?

Linux the basic traits of Linux systemsDevelopment stage: 25% (as of November 19, 2008)(November 19, 2008)

BSD the basic traits of *BSD systemsDevelopment stage: 25% (as of November 19, 2008)(November 19, 2008)

Explanations Introduction and description of various Unix-like topics Development stage: 50% (as of November 19, 2008)(November 19, 2008)

Command Line

Common Programs





Beyond This Book


  1. Kernigh, added much content, started Explanations
  2. CFeyecare. I have been working on OpenBSD and I will continue to other BSDs later.
  3. The authors of Guide to UNIX/Files and Guide to UNIX/Commands
  4. Other and anonymous contributors
  5. Other Sources


Some text of this book was adapted December 2005 from the deleted Wikipedia article "Talk:Transwiki:Useful unix command". Its edit history is available at [[Talk:Transwiki:Useful unix command]].


Edit this paragraph

Guide to Unix is incomplete. At Wikibooks, you can edit this book now. (If you are reading a mirror, then you can go to the editable version of this book.) Here are some suggestions for improvements:

  • provide graphics, follow media policy
  • fix bad info, spelling, grammar
  • put questions and comments on talk pages

Other Wikibooks

There are some other Wikibooks that one might find useful.

  • A Neutral Look at Operating Systems comparison between Unix, Unix, and non-Unix
  • UNIX Computing Security keep that computer safe
  • Wikibooks for Unix utilities:
  • Many Unix-like systems feature free software, and some are entirely made of it:
  • Wikibooks for the graphical user interface and the GNOME and KDE desktops:
  • Programming Wikibooks and Modules
    • C - C is the programming language for Unix
    • C++ - C++ is a popular programming language for Unix, it evolved from C.
    • Wikibook module Serial communications in Linux and Unix from the Serial Data Communications book.

Strategy wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Category:Unix article)

From StrategyWiki, the free strategy guide and walkthrough wiki

Manufacturer Various
Active 1969—present
Total Games unknown (3 present)
← (none) (none) →
Popular guides
  1. NetHack

Trademarked UNIX, the Unix operating system was originally developed by a group of AT&T developers at Bell Labs. Unix was the first operating system written in the C programming language, and was designed to be portable (meaning it could run on or be made to run on many different types of hardware). Eventually through a combination of the portability, the C language, and the sharing of the system with academic and government institutions, a large number of different forms of Unix were created.

Today, in part because of this diversity, there is an Open Unix Standard which an operating system must be fully compliant with in order to be called Unix. Otherwise, systems are often called Unix-like.

The most-used Unix-like or Unix-based systems today are running operating systems like Linux, Mac OS X, and BSD

Pages in category "Unix"

The following 3 pages are in this category, out of 3 total.





Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Wikia Gaming, your source for walkthroughs, games, guides, and more!

Technical specifications

See also: History of Unix

Unix systems are descendants of or clones of the original AT&T Unix. Unix systems have been ported to many kinds of hardware, including x86 and Macintosh. Most Unix variants have the same games available.

There are many variants of Unix, including:

There are several types of games available:

  • Terminal games run on the console or an X11 terminal emulator such as xterm. Text adventures like Adventure describe the world in text, and accept text commands. The roguelike games draw themselves in ASCII art.
  • X11 games use the X Window System, Version 11 to display. Most Unix come with XFree86 or XOrg. Some X11 games use the cross-platform Simple DirectMedia Layer (SDL) library, and some use OpenGL 3D graphics.
  • Wine games : Wine is an open-source win32 subsystem(that is not an emulator) that allow *nix users to play some windows games(as it is not an emularor Only x86 and similar(X86-64...) are able to use it because windows games are in binary form)
  • Cedega games : Cedega is a more complete win32 subsystem for games

if we forget about commercial games,a lot of unixes open-source games are also avaliable for windows,or others os

Game list

Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Unix. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Wikia Gaming, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 (unported) license. The content might also be available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

This article uses material from the "Unix" article on the Gaming wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Simple English

Desktop OS market share
as of May, 2009[1]
Microsoft Windows - 87.75%
Mac OS X and Mac OS - 9.81%
Linux - 0.99%
Solaris - 0.01%
Other - 1.44%
The history of UNIX and its variants

UNIX is a computer operating system. It was developed during the late 1960s at Bell Labs. It was made by Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Douglas McIlroy, and others. The system is a multiuser and multiprocessing system. This means that it can do many things at the same time. Also, many people can use it at the same time. It also is network oriented; which means that it is meant to operate in a network of computers. Security is also very important in UNIX, because of the multiuser idea, but also the networked environment it is found in.

Many ideas that were in UNIX were new. Other operating systems copied them. Today, there are many operating systems that have some of the ideas of UNIX in them. For this reason, some people talk about a "UNIX philosophy" of doing things. One of these systems with many of the UNIX ideas in it, is called Linux. Linux does not have common code with UNIX, it only shares some of the ideas. Therefore Linux is not a UNIX operating system. Instead it is called "UNIX-like".

There can be many different users in a UNIX-like operating system. Most of them have a personal area where they can put things. This is called a user account.

The main method of interacting with a UNIX system has always been the command line interface. Users run commands and programs by typing them at the command line. This is an extremely powerful and flexible way of working, because it allows things to be done automatically, and is still used by most UNIX users and administrators.

A graphical user interface usually used by UNIX systems is the X Window System. The X Window System is only a shell of a graphical interface. It is made of many protocols. The X Window System itself does not provide decorations for windows or controls to the user to move and resize windows. This is handled by a window manager or desktop manager.

Some of the popular desktop environments and window managers are:

Like most other graphical user interfaces, they use windows, dialog boxes, support the use of a computer mouse and are designed to be easy to use.

There are many thousands of programs available for the X Window System. Programs like word processors and spreadsheets are available including free and open-source software.

Two kinds

Today, there are two kinds of operating systems that look like Unix. The first group contains all those that have common kernel code with the original, developed at Bell Labs, later AT&T. This includes the commercial Unix variants, like Solaris, AIX or Mac OS X. The free ones do usually have BSD in their name, like FreeBSD, OpenBSD and NetBSD. The other group is based on the Linux Kernel (computer science). It does not have common code with the original UNIX. To avoid this controversy, many people therefore speak about Unix and Unix-like systems.

As to the applications; most can be made to run on either Unix or Linux. KDE and GNOME were developed for Linux, and later ported to the commercial Unix variants.

Other websites


  1. Operating System Market Share, Feburary 2009, courtesy of Net Applications, a marketing company which obtains its data from the Alexa Toolbar or related products. Because people who install these products on their computers are not always aware that the product reports web browsing habits back to the marketers at Alexa some security software considers the Alexa Toolbar spyware and removes it. Both the automated removal-as-spyware and the self-selecting nature of those who install software that reports on personal web browsing habits raises questions as to whether the resulting data represents a unbiased statistical sample of Internet users.

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