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MacWeek: iGeek: An introduction to Unix

Aug 23, 2000, 08:23 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by David K. Every)


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"Unix is the old war-bird of operating systems, which is ironic since it really isn't an operating system any more. I'll explain that inflammatory statement in a subsequent article."

"It was created in 1969 as a private research project in AT&T's Bell Laboratories by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie. The interface--and I use that term loosely--was "borrowed" from Honeywell's MULTICS (which comes from MULTiplexed Information Computing System). The Bell guys also borrowed the naming concept to create UNiplexed Information and Computing System, which was originally spelled "UNICS."

"Uniplexed" would imply "one" to the multiplexed "many," suggesting that Unix was meant to be a single-user operating system. Nothing could be further from the truth. Almost every design decision has been aimed toward making Unix a multiplexed, multi-user OS."

"Thus showing that you can't trust anything about Unix."

"Geeks and programmers have always been in charge of Unix, with good and bad results. Programmers are not particularly good spellers, and these guys wanted something shorter, harder to spell and more cryptic than an acronym that made sense. So they spelled UNICS with an X, beginning a trend of bad spelling and unintuitive abbreviations that is rampant throughout every command in Unix."

"Once again, you can't trust anything in Unix."

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