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O'Reilly Network: Why Caldera Released Unix: A Brief History

Mar 05, 2002, 13:25 (8 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Ian Darwin)
"Our strangest dreams sometimes take on a reality of their own. In January, Caldera , the latest owners of the "official" Unix source code, decided to release some of the older versions (up to "V7" and "32V") under an open source license. While not as significant as it would have been, say, ten years ago, it is nice that everyone now has access to the code that first made Unix popular, and that led to the development of the 4BSD system that underlies FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, and Apple's Darwin (which in turn underlies Mac OS X). Since I was active in the computer field through almost all the years of Unix's development, I'd like to comment briefly on the Caldera announcement in its full context.

"Free Unix source code" was a strange dream for many of us in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and even the subject of an April Fools joke in there someplace on USENET. But then there was Minix, and it seemed less like a strange dream. Around the same time, John Gilmore was working on a project he called "Radio Free Berkeley," to replace all the encumbered source code in BSD Unix so that it could be free. And many of us worked on small pieces of it; this is why and when I wrote the file command that is on your Linux or BSD system.

While this was happening, BSD was encountering major success in powering the growing Internet (small by today's standards, but nontrivial). There were many, many university and research VAXen running 4BSD, the first mainstream Unix release to ship with a TCP/IP implementation (around 1983). DEC's (since swallowed by Compaq) ULTRIX, Sun's SunOS 3.5 and 4, and Unixes from a variety of smaller, long-dot-gone companies powered the Internet. And they were BSD Unix."

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