Re: All caps for UNIX (for no good reason)

Subject: Re: All caps for UNIX (for no good reason)
From: David Neeley <dbneeley -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2005 09:29:27 -0500

For once, Wikipedia seems mistaken.

According to the Bell Labs history site, the name was indeed a hack on
Multics...but there was no limitation to only two simultaneous users
nor was the name "short for" anything; the confusion appears to arise
from the origin of Multics--"Multiplexed Information and Computing

UNIX was designed from the ground up to be multiuser; there was no
"uniplexed" anything in its design. It does appear that it was
originally spelled "Unics" and was named by Peter Neumann; Brian
Kernighan denies changing the name to UNIX, but that was the name
submitted in the original copyright paperwork.

The original UNIX was written on a GE mainframe in its operating
system GECOS, which was then output on paper tape to enter into the
PDP 7. It was originally not an operating system but a port of a game
called "Space Travel." To get away from the GECOS/paper tape step, Ken
Thompson (primarily) wrote the file system and enough of a basic
operating system to become self hosting, using assembly code; later,
in B, then in "new B" or NB, then in the new language C which was
created by the same Bell Labs group.

The first mention of the number of users was 40 for a given
system--although the very first versions ran on a PDP 7, a very slow
machine with 4K RAM, which was soon replaced with a PDP 11.

It is amazing to see the confusion that has arisen over much of the
history in such a brief period...especially when the original creators
are still living!

The primary boost to UNIX outside of Bell Labs came when one of its
creators (Thompson, I think) took a six month sabatical to teach it at
Berkeley, followed by a great deal of interest there that resulted in
the Berkeley Standard Distribution (BSD).

As for Mark Levinson's notion that "copyright documents are
case-insensitive"--that is not true. The filings were physical *paper*
documents, with all that implies including case sensitivity. I should
add that what is applicable here is not copyright but trademark.
Today, a trademark application normally includes a .jpg file of the
mark as used in commerce--a typewritten-only trademark is not to be
relied upon, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office


On 9/19/05, Rachna Ganguli <rachna -dot- ganguli -at- gmail -dot- com> wrote:
> See
> <snip>
> This project was called Unics, short for Uniplexed Information and
> Computing System, and could support two simultaneous users. The name
> has been attributed to Brian Kernighan, and was a hack on Multics.
> Following bad puns of Unics ...., the name was later changed to Unix,
> and thus a legacy was born. The name is also a criticism of the overly
> general and bloated Multics system - Unix would do one thing, and do
> it well.
> </snip>
> So methinks cause it started off as an abbreviation, the all caps stuck.
> Rachna
> On 9/19/05, David Neeley <dbneeley -at- gmail -dot- com> wrote:
> >
> > There are many apocryphal stories around. As far as I know, the
> > original developers have not said why they did it as they did.
> >
> > However, the initial documents were not in small caps but in the real,
> > genuine article. That is how the original copyright documents had it
> > when they were filed by Bell Labs.
> >
> > David


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All caps for UNIX (for no good reason): From: nosnivel -at- netvision -dot- net -dot- il
Re: All caps for UNIX (for no good reason): From: David Neeley
Re: All caps for UNIX (for no good reason): From: Rachna Ganguli

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