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Unix History

Unix was developed in 1969 by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie at AT&T, who scaled down the sophisticated, multiuser MULTICS operating system for Digital's PDP-7. The Unix name was coined as a single-processor version of MULTICS (un meaning "one" and ix from the "ics" in MULTICS). By 1974, Unix had matured into an efficient operating system mostly on PDP machines and became popular in scientific and academic environments.

Berkeley Was a Major Contributor
Considerable enhancements were made to Unix at the University of California at Berkeley, and versions of Unix with the "Berkeley extensions" became widely used. By the late 1970s, commercial versions became available, such as IS/1 and XENIX.

Consolidation and Bouncing Around
In the early 1980s, AT&T combined the many Unix versions into System III, IV and V (System 3, 4 and 5). During this time, AT&T licensed Unix to universities and other organizations, but was prohibited from marketing it. After Divestiture (1984), it was able to change course, and by 1989 formed the UNIX Software Operation (USO) division.

USO introduced System V Release 4.0 (SVR4), incorporating XENIX, SunOS, Berkeley 4.3BSD and System V into one operating system defined by the System V Interface Definition (SVID). In 1990, AT&T spun off USO into UNIX System Laboratories, Inc. (USL). In 1993, Novell acquired the System V source code from USL and sold it to The Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) a year later. At the same time, Novell transferred the UNIX trademark and the specification that later became the Single UNIX Specification to X/Open, which later became The Open Group. See Unix.


A multiuser, multitasking operating system that is widely used as the master control program in workstations and servers. The Open Group holds the trademark for the UNIX name (spelled in upper case) on behalf of the industry and provides compliance certification to the UNIX standard (see Single UNIX Specification).

Myriad commercial applications run on Unix servers, and most websites run under Linux, a Unix variant. Over the years, there have been many different Unix versions, and, except for the PC world, where Windows dominates, almost every hardware vendor offers Unix either as its primary or secondary operating system. Sun was singularly instrumental in commercializing Unix with its Solaris OS (formerly SunOS), and HP, IBM, SCO and Digital (before it was acquired by Compaq) were also Unix promoters.

From the Telephone Company
Both Unix and the C programming language were developed by AT&T, dating back to the early 1970s. Unix and C were freely distributed to government and academic institutions, causing it to be ported to a wider variety of machine families than any other operating system. As a result, Unix became synonymous with "open systems" and thrives today on virtually every hardware platform. See AT&T.

Command Lines and GUIs
The Unix OS is made up of the kernel, file system and a shell, which is the command line interface with more than 600 commands for manipulating data and text. The major user interface shells are the original Bourne shell, C shell and Korn shell. Many commands are cryptic, but just as Windows hid the DOS prompt from users, graphical interfaces provide a Windows-like look into Unix and Linux. Linux desktops offer various GUIs, and many pundits claim that Apple created the best GUI for Unix with its OS X operating system, which is also Unix based. See Unix history, Mac OS X and Linux.

Unix Is Everywhere
Unix components are world class standards. The Internet runs on Unix protocols such as TCP/IP for network transfer and SMTP for email. NFS provides file sharing, Kerberos provides network security, and X Window lets users execute programs remotely in a mostly Unix environment. See POSIX, BSD Unix, USENIX and UDI.

Versions of Unix that are compliant with The Open Group's UNIX specifications include Sun's Solaris, HP's HP-UX, IBM's AIX and z/OS and SCO's UnixWare. See Open Group, Solaris, HP-UX, AIX, z/OS, Mac OS X and Linux.

In the following illustrations, notice how many workstations and servers have run and still run under Unix.

Almost All Unix
Except for Windows, all these operating systems are Unix based. This list described the various versions of the Prince PDF converter software from YesLogic Pty. Ltd. (

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Before/After Your Search Term
UnixUnix International
UNIX 03Unix like
UNIX 93Unix server
UNIX 95Unix shell account
UNIX 98Unix socket
Unix basedUnix to Unix copy
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Unix commandsUnixWare
Unix cursesUnixWare 7
Unix/DOS command comparisonunjailbreak

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