Tommy Flowers MBE was born on this day in 1905; an electrical and
mechanical engineer, he designed Colossus, arguably the world's first
electronic computer, which was used to break the German "Lorenz"
high-level cipher (not Enigma, as some think).
Dave Horsfall DTM (VK2KFU) "Those who don't understand security will suffer."
Before we had to phase out our FTP server, I kept on it several
versions of UNIX clones and related OS that were mostly not on TUHS.
This post is to remember some of these systems. Many of these were
open sourced or widely available at some time and were related to UNIX
one way or another. I may not have the latest versions or all the
versions, but at least I do keep something.
The following ones have been open sourced at some point in time (I
Sprite (I also own the original distribution CD)
from tliquest.net/local/unix: uzi and various other bits
Plus several archaic CDs with early versions of Linux,
Open/Free/NetBSD, (Walnut Creek, InfoMagic, etc. CD/ROMs)
and even the Beowulf/Extreme Linux CDs (plus I must keep around the
mirror we hosted for a long time of the Beowulf site). The hobbyist CDs
for OpenSolaris 8 (and I believe 9) with sources. Oh, and
In addition, I have many other sources whose Copyright status I'm not
aware of, but which are interesting for archival purposes.
Regarding QNX, yes, it was open sourced (at least for hobbyist use, I
have to check the license) for several distributions. I ported some
bioinformatics software and kept for some time a distribution
repository, and I'm pretty certain I must have the sources as well as
the virtual machines. I'll try to verify the licenses to see if it can
be redistributed, although I doubt they can. Oh, and I also own the
mentioned famous 3.5" diskette. I think I digitized it long ago. Would
have to check.
Off the Net, it has been possible, one time or another, to recover
executables and, sometime, even sources, of many systems. Archive.org
has -I believe- a copy of a once famous repo of abandonware with
binaries of SCO, System V, AIX, etc...
I know that AIX, ATT systemV vI, II, III and IV, Solaris V6, Tru64,
OSF-1, Dynix, Ultrix 11, BSDI, Ultrix-32 etc... have been out there at
some time or another in source code format, and binaries of IRIX, Lisa,
QNX, A/UX, xenix...
Some years ago, I had more free time and could test many systems on
emulators, and built images and accompanying scripts ready ti run. I
also made some tools to be able to transfer data in and out of old
unix versions (so I could edit the software off the virtual machine
while back-porting a screen editor to V6, v5, etc... with only vt100
Not UNIX-related, I also keep copies of many other ancient operating
systems and software and hardware emulators.
Well, as I said at the beginning, everything that I had, I should still
keep while the hard disks continue spinning. If there is any
interest in adding any of these to TUHS, I can try to find a way to
send it all.
If I find time to browse through everything, I would like to upload all
the source code to GitHub (at least anything that's redistributable).
If I find the time...
But, Warren, if you are interested in anything, let me know and I'll
find a way to give you access.
Scientific Computing Service
Solving all your computer needs for Scientific
I blundered today into the GECOS field in /etc/passwd:
"Some early Unix systems at Bell Labs used GECOS machines for print
spooling and various other services, so this field was added to
carry information on a user's GECOS identity."
I had forgotten about this field and I don't recall it being
previously described as related to GECOS (I likely didn't take note at
the time I first encountered it).
Aside from the influence of Multics and other things on UNIX design
are there other tangible manifestations of non-UNIX operating
system things like the GECOS field that were carried forward intact in
later UNIX implementations?
 things can be pointed at, rather than design ideas
> From: Doug McIlroy
> In fact, I don't recall being aware of the existence of the ITS
> movement at the time Unix arose.
For background, here are a few selected timeline items:
?/1967 ITS design starts
7/67 ITS first becomes operational
12/67 Multics single process boot on 645
10/68 Initial Multics milestone (8 users)
01/69 Limited Initial Multics milestone (12 users)
04/69 Bell Labs drops out of Multics
(I included the latter since I'm assuming the "time Unix arose" is after the
Bell Labs departure.)
Note: I'm not saying or implying anything about the 3 systems with this; this
is purely data.
> > are there other tangible manifestations of non-UNIX operating
> > system things like the GECOS field that were carried forward intact in
> > later UNIX implementations?
> Job control was inspired by ITS job control capabilities. Control-Z
> does pretty much the same thing in both operating systems.
I don't think "carried forward" describes job control, which I
believe was never in any Research system. "Borrowed" would be
more accurate. In fact, I don't recall being aware of the
existence of the ITS movement at the time Unix arose.
> > In fact, I don't recall being aware of the existence of the ITS
> > movement at the time Unix arose.
> Was there ever a movement? It was just four machines at MIT.
When AT&T sued BSD Inc over (among other things) the phone number
1-800-ITS-UNIX, the joke was that MIT should have sued them too.
The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
Scotland, with registration number SC005336.
> How do other train systems handle [DST], e.g. the European intercity
UTC? It's not hard to get used to it.
You misunderstand the problem.
Suppose I'm planning to board a train at 0300 on the morning
Daylight Time ends.
Now suppose the train actually departs an hour early, at 0200,
because it originated before the time change and some nerd who
never rides trains declared that it shall not wait the extra
hour until scheduled departure time.
Nerds may be happy, but the paying passengers won't be. Telling
passengers to set their watches to UTC just won't happen. (Some
of us nerds actually had our watches on GMT for a few months
back in the years that gave the `Nixon table' in old ctime.c
its (informal) name, but gave up because it was just too damn
much work to stay in sync with the real world.)
Once upon a time, before railways had radio communications and
proper track-occupancy signalling, the consequences were more
serious than that: if you run an hour ahead of schedule, you
risk colliding with another train somewhere. That is why it
was the railways that first accepted and promoted standard time
Nowadays it's not about scheduling and safety, just about
having an acceptable user interface.
In a similar vein, I know of at least one case in which Amtrak
changed the official departure time of a train (that requires
advance reservations and often runs full) from 0000 to 2359,
because people would get confused about which day midnight
falls on and show up a day late. (Actually the Amtrak
timetable read 1200 midnight and 11:59 PM, but 24-hour time
is one of the changes I agree people should just accept
My question about SOL got me thinking a bit. It would be nice to have
section in TUHS of any early clones that could be collected. The two that
I can think of that probably should be there are (other feel free to point
ones that we should try to find):
1.) Idris, which was fairly true to V6 (enough that the one time I test it,
things from pretty much just worked). It was notable from being first.
Although the C compiler and the 'anat' (the assembler) were a tad
different. It the system that got Bill Plauger in trouble @ USENIX @ UDEL
when he was booed for a 'marketing' talk.
2.) CRDS (pronounced Cruds by those of use that use it at the time) -
Charles River Data Systems. It was a UNIX-like system, although I do not
think really attempted to hold to a V7 API much more than intent. Although
if my memory serves me, one of the unique features was the use of Reed &
Kanodia synchronization in its kernel [REED79], which I was a always a
fan. The system was slow as sin bit it ran on a 68000. [CRUDS system, a
Fortune box and our Vax/750 running BSD4.1 were the systems Masscomp used
[REED79] D.P. Reed and R.K. Kanodia, "Synchronization with Eventcounts and
ISTR that the vaxen did have such things. Or rather, I ran some BSD 780s
for several years and I don't remember having to set the date / time
every time I did a reboot. They sat in a data center, so I may have never
done a cold boot from power on. It was a LONG time ago now, so there's
undoubtedly lots that I just plain don't remember.
I believe all the VAXes had time-of-year clocks, though
the implementation and the method of access varied from
model to model. On `Big' VAXes, the clock was considered
part of the console front-end, and accessed through the
model-specific console scheme. MicroVAXes had no console
front-end; I believe the clock was accessed through
registers, but it was an off-the-shelf digital-watch
chip with some funny format (separate registers for
year, month, day, hour, minute, second).
So they all had proper battery-backed-up clocks, but of
many different types. It wasn't as simple as reading a
single counter out of a register, sensible as that might
If anyone's really interested I can dig up details for
the several models of Big and MicroVAX I dealt with; I
still have all the code lying around.
We lost Konrad Zuse on this day in 1995; he invented the world's first
programmable computer -- the Z3 -- which was unfortunately lost in the
Berlin bombing during 1943.
Dave Horsfall DTM (VK2KFU) "Those who don't understand security will suffer."