May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)
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(slightly skeptical) Educational society promoting "Back to basics" movement against IT overcomplexity and  bastardization of classic Unix

Nikolai Bezroukov. Portraits of Open Source Pioneers

For readers with high sensitivity to grammar errors access to this page is not recommended :-)

Chapter 7: Shell Giants

Appendix 1: Shell History by John Mashey

Appendix 2:  An Introduction to the C shell by William Joy (revised for 4.3BSD by Mark Seiden)

Appendix 3: An Introduction to the UNIX Shell by S. R. Bourne.

The book Life with Unix by Don Libes and Sandy Ressler is a fascinating reading for anyone interested in Unix in general and scripting history in particular. It covers a lot of the history, interactions, etc. Much in the present section is summarized from this book. Some interesting info is in UNIX FAQ.

As most of the readers know,  Unix history goes back to 1969 and the famous "little-used PDP-7 in a corner" on which Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie (the R in K&R), and others after being exiled from Multics started work on replicating Multics development environment, which later was to become Unix.

But what is less known and appreciated is the fact that Ken Thompson was also the author of the first UNIX shell and that concepts of this shell greatly influenced the subsequent work of John Mashey and Stephen Bourne. Influenced to the extent that John Mashey actually objected to calling his shell Mashey shell considering it to be a direct extension of Thompson shell.

The name "Unix" was intended as a pun on Multics (and was written "Unics" at first, for UNiplexed Information and Computing System). As Ch 9 of the Netizens Netbook  ( On the Early History and Impact of Unix Tools to Build the Tools for a New Millenium) aptly stated:

When AT&T made the decision to pull out of the Multics collaboration, they took the research operating system off their GE 645  computer and put up the GECOS operating system. Though GECOS was adequate  for applications, it was "nowhere near as satisfactory if you were trying  to do things that were technically difficult and imperfectly defined,"  explained Vyssotsky, "which is the main task of research."(23)

 For the pioneering work of Bell Labs research programmers like Ken Thompson and the research purposes of the Labs, an operating system more  like what Multics had promised was needed. Along with the advantages of  immediate feedback which time-sharing provided, the Bell Labs researchers  wanted to continue the ability to work collaboratively which time-sharing  had made possible.

As Dennis  Ritchie aptly stated:

 "What we wanted to preserve, was not just a good programming 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."(24)

Ritchie describes how an informal group led by Thompson had begun  investigating alternatives to Multics before the GE-645 Multics machine had been removed from the Labs.(25) Thompson and Ritchie presented Bell Labs with proposals to buy them a computer so they could build their own interactive, time-sharing operating system. Their proposals weren't acted on. Eventually, Thompson found a little used PDP-7 computer. As Vyssotsky noted, the orphaned PDP-7 computer was extremely small computer, a machine, "more in the class of a Commodore 64 than the class of a PC-AT."(26)

For the first 10 years, Unix development was essentially confined to Bell Labs and most scripting related work was also done in New Jersey.  The initial versions of Unix were labeled "Version n" or "Nth Edition" (of the manuals) and some milestones in shell history are directly related to particular Unix releases. 

The first major Unix implementation was for DEC's PDP-11 (16 bits) which was much better then PDP-7, bu still very tiny by today's hardware standards (typical configuration were limited to 128K memory, 2.4M disc, 64K per-process limit (inc the kernel)) that similar configurations on watches, not even cell phones ;-). The fact that they managed to created pretty powerful shells for such a computer is nothing but simply amazing and attests tremendous ingenuity of Unix development team.



Groupthink : Two Party System as Polyarchy : Corruption of Regulators : Bureaucracies : Understanding Micromanagers and Control Freaks : Toxic Managers :   Harvard Mafia : Diplomatic Communication : Surviving a Bad Performance Review : Insufficient Retirement Funds as Immanent Problem of Neoliberal Regime : PseudoScience : Who Rules America : Neoliberalism  : The Iron Law of Oligarchy : Libertarian Philosophy


War and Peace : Skeptical Finance : John Kenneth Galbraith :Talleyrand : Oscar Wilde : Otto Von Bismarck : Keynes : George Carlin : Skeptics : Propaganda  : SE quotes : Language Design and Programming Quotes : Random IT-related quotesSomerset Maugham : Marcus Aurelius : Kurt Vonnegut : Eric Hoffer : Winston Churchill : Napoleon Bonaparte : Ambrose BierceBernard Shaw : Mark Twain Quotes


Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law


Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Haterís Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor

The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D

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