> IBM famously failed to buy the well-established CP/M in
> 1980. (CP/M had been introduced in 1974, before the
> advent of the LSI-11 on which LSX ran.) By then IBM had
> settled on Basic and Intel. I do not believe they ever
> considered Unix and DEC, nor that AT&T considered
> selling to IBM. (AT&T had--fortunately--long since been
> rebuffed in an attempt to sell to DEC.)
Besides all the truth or legend around flying and signing NDA’s, I think there were clear economic reasons for ending up with Microsoft’s DOS, and the pre-cursor to that: picking the 8088.
 By 1980 there were an estimated 8,000 software packages for CP/M available, many aimed at small business. IBM was targeting that. The availability of source level converters for 8080 code to 8088 code made porting economically feasible for the (cottage) ISV’s. This must have been a strong argument in favour of picking the 8088 for the original PC.
 In line with their respective tried and tested business models, Digital Research offered CP/M-86 with a per-copy license structure. Microsoft offered QDOS with a one-off license structure. The latter was economically more attractive to IBM. I don’t think either side expected clones to happen the way they did, although they did probably factor in the appearance of non-compatible work-alikes.
Although some sources suggest that going with the 68000 and/or Unix were considered, it would have left the new machine without an instant base of affordable small business applications. Speed to market was a leading paradigm for the PC's design team.
> There is some information and demos of the early 8086/80286 Xenix,
> including the IBM rebranded PC Xenix 1.0 on pcjs.org
> And if you have a modern enough browser you can run them from the browser as
> It's amazing that CPU's are fast enough to run interpreted emulation that is
> faster than the old machines of the day.
That is a cool link. At the bottom of the page are two images of floppy disks. These show an ISC copyright notice. Maybe this is because the floppies contained “extensions” rather than Xenix itself.
Note that "IBM Xenix 1.0" is actually the same as MS Xenix 3.0, and arrived after MS Xenix had been available for 4 years (initially for the PDP-11 and shortly after for other CPU's):
Rob Ferguson writes:
"From 1986 to 1989, I worked in the Xenix group at Microsoft. It was my first job out of school, and I was the most junior person on the team. I was hopelessly naive, inexperienced, generally clueless, and borderline incompetent, but my coworkers were kind, supportive and enormously forgiving – just a lovely bunch of folks.
Microsoft decided to exit the Xenix business in 1989, but before the group was dispersed to the winds, we held a wake. Many of the old hands at MS had worked on Xenix at some point, so the party was filled with much of the senior development staff from across the company. There was cake, beer, and nostalgia; stories were told, most of which I can’t repeat. Some of the longer-serving folks dug through their files to find particularly amusing Xenix-related documents, and they were copied and distributed to the attendees.
If memory serves, it was a co-operative effort between a number of the senior developers to produce this timeline detailing all the major releases of Xenix.
I have no personal knowledge of the OEM relationships before 1986, and I do know that there were additional minor ports and OEMs that aren’t listed on the timeline (e.g. NS32016, IBM PS/2 MCA-bus, Onyx, Spectrix), but to the best of my understanding this hits the major points.
Since we’re on the topic, I should say that I’ve encountered a surprising amount of confusion about the history of Xenix. So, here are some things I know:
Xenix was a version of AT&T UNIX, ported and packaged by Microsoft. It was first offered for sale to the public in the August 25, 1980 issue of Computerworld.
It was originally priced between $2000 and $9000 per copy, depending on the number of users.
MS owned the Xenix trademark and had a master UNIX license with AT&T, which allowed them to sub-licence Xenix to other vendors.
Xenix was licensed by a variety of OEMs, and then either bundled with their hardware or sold as an optional extra. Ports were available for a variety of different architectures, including the Z-8000, Motorola 68000, NS16032, and various Intel processors.
In 1983, IBM contracted with Microsoft to port Xenix to their forthcoming 80286-based machines (codenamed “Salmon”); the result was “IBM Personal Computer XENIX” for the PC/AT.
By this time, there was growing retail demand for Xenix on IBM-compatible personal computer hardware, but Microsoft made the strategic decision not to sell Xenix in the consumer market; instead, they entered into an agreement with a company called the Santa Cruz Operation to package, sell and support Xenix for those customers.
Even with outsourcing retail development to SCO, Microsoft was still putting significant effort into Xenix:
• Ports to new architectures, the large majority of the core kernel and driver work, and extensive custom tool development were all done by Microsoft. By the time of the Intel releases, there was significant kernel divergence from the original AT&T code.
• The main Microsoft development products (C compiler, assembler, linker, debugger) were included with the Intel-based releases of Xenix, and there were custom internally-developed toolchains for other architectures. Often, the latest version of the tools appeared on Xenix well before they were available on DOS.
• The character-oriented versions of Microsoft Word and Multiplan were both ported to Xenix.
• MS had a dedicated Xenix documentation team, which produced custom manuals and tutorials.
As late as the beginning of 1985, there was some debate inside of Microsoft whether Xenix should be the 16-bit “successor” to DOS; for a variety of reasons – mostly having to do with licensing, royalties, and ownership of the code, but also involving a certain amount of ego and politics – MS and IBM decided to pursue OS/2 instead. That marked the end of any further Xenix investment at Microsoft, and the group was left to slowly atrophy.
The final Xenix work at Microsoft was an effort with AT&T to integrate Xenix support into the main System V.3 source code, producing what we unimaginatively called the “Merged Product” (noted by the official name of “UNIX System V, r3.2” in the timeline above).
Once that effort was completed, all Intel-based releases of UNIX from AT&T incorporated Xenix support; in return, Microsoft received royalties for every copy of Intel UNIX that AT&T subsequently licensed.
It will suffice, perhaps, to simply note that this was a good deal for Microsoft.”
It would be so cool if these early (1980-1984) Xenix versions were available for historical examination and study.
I read the news, and I could not believe it.
It's April 1st, ain't it?
But then, this looks like is dated March 31. So it could be for real.
The PDF also is dated March 31: https://regmedia.co.uk/2021/03/31/xinuos_complaint.pdf
It's hard to believe someone would go to the trouble of writing 57 pages of
legalese just to make a damn joke.
Xinuos, formed around SCO Group assets a decade ago under the name
UnXis and at the time disavowing any interest in continuing SCO's
long-running Linux litigation, today sued IBM and Red Hat for
alleged copyright and antitrust law violations.
"First, IBM stole Xinuos' intellectual property and used that stolen
property to build and sell a product to compete with Xinuos itself,"
the US Virgin Islands-based software biz claims in its complaint
[PDF]. "Second, stolen property in IBM's hand, IBM and Red Hat
illegally agreed to divide the relevant market and use their growing
market powers to victimize consumers, innovative competitors, and
The complaint further contends that after the two companies
conspired to divide the market, IBM then acquired Red Hat to
solidify its position.
SCO Group in 2003 made a similar intellectual property claim. It
argued that SCO Group owned the rights to AT&T's Unix and UnixWare
operating system source code, that Linux 2.4.x and 2.5.x were
unauthorized derivatives of Unix, and that IBM violated its
contractual obligations by distributing Linux code.
That case dragged on for years, and drew a fair amount of attention
when SCO Group said it would sue individual Linux users for
infringement. Though SCO filed for bankruptcy in 2007 and some of
the claims have been dismissed, its case against IBM remains
There was a status report filed on February 16, 2018, details
remaining claims and counterclaims. And in May last year, Magistrate
Judge Paul Warner was no longer assigned to oversee settlement
discussions. But SCO Group v. IBM is still open.
Either way, some one if fooling us hard.
PS: OK, it seems it's for real: https://www.xinuos.com/xinuos-sues-ibm-and-red-hat/
I need to check my stock of pop corn, then...
My take: it's obvious they want to be a nuisance so that IBM settles the
case, so they then can go back home with some fresh cash. I hope IBM goes
ballistic on them to the bitter end, and finally sends the zombie back to
its grave. But then, IBM now has its new RedHat business to protect, so it
can get interesting.
> I had been debating leaving Usenix for several years already;
> the move to soft copy ;login: clinched it for me.
I have been a loyal nonmember of ACM ever since the CACM was
converted from a journal to a magazine. Usenix didn't strike quite
such a decisive blow when it abandoned Computing Systems.
;login: remains as a Cheshire grin. It remains to be seen whether
I'll continue to scan it in its non-tactile form.
There is some information and demos of the early 8086/80286 Xenix,
including the IBM rebranded PC Xenix 1.0 on pcjs.orghttps://www.pcjs.org/software/pcx86/sys/unix/ibm/xenix/1.0/
And if you have a modern enough browser you can run them from the browser as
It's amazing that CPU's are fast enough to run interpreted emulation that is
faster than the old machines of the day.
From: Clem Cole
To: M Douglas McIlroy
Cc: TUHS main list
Sent: 4/7/21 1:09 AM
Subject: Re: [TUHS] PC Unix (had been How to Kill a Technical Conference
Doug -- IIRC IBM private-labeled a Microsoft put out a version of Xenix,
although I think it required an PC/AT (286)
On Tue, Apr 6, 2021 at 11:36 AM M Douglas McIlroy <
> I wonder. IBM introduced the IBM PC in August of 1981.
> That was years after a non-memory managed version of
> Unix was created by Heinze Lycklama, LSX. Is anyone
> on this list familiar with Bell Labs management thoughts
> on selling IBM on LSX rather than "dos"?
IBM famously failed to buy the well-established CP/M in
1980. (CP/M had been introduced in 1974, before the
advent of the LSI-11 on which LSX ran.) By then IBM had
settled on Basic and Intel. I do not believe they ever
considered Unix and DEC, nor that AT&T considered
selling to IBM. (AT&T had--fortunately--long since been
rebuffed in an attempt to sell to DEC.)
> > Honeyman: "Pathalias, or the care and feeding of relative addresses"
> Are you sure that peter honeyman wrote "Pathalias" and not "pathalias"?
> He seemed to have an aversion to using his shift key.
He actually wrote it as, "PATHALIAS _or_ The Care and Feeding of Relative
Addresses". Plenty of shift to go around. :-)
Peter probably had a graduate student hold the caps key for him.
Used to honey bitching
But for several years now I have been increasingly dissatisfied with the
research nature of most of the articles. Very few of them are actually
useful (or even interesting) to me in a day-to-day sense.
I guess it depends on your interests, and also on what you look at.
I've got way behind in reading ;login:, but have been regularly
attending conferences: the Annual Technical Conference (ATC) and
some workshops (HotStorage, HotCloud) that are usually co-located;
LISA. I still find plenty to interest me, both in talks and in
the hallway tracks, though LISA has been drying up over the years
(and it's clear that USENIX know that too and are working on
whether it should just be subsumed into the already-burgeoning
As I say, interests differ, but I've learned plenty of new things
about OS and networking design and implementation tradeoffs,
security at many levels, file systems, and storage devices.
Thanks to COVID, USENIX-sponsored conferences have all been
online for the past year and are expected to stay so through
the end of 2021. For obvious reasons that greatly reduces
the expenses of the conferences, so the registration fees are
about 10% of normal. Thanks to that, I've been able to sample
conferences I've never had time or money to travel to, like Security
and FAST (file systems and storage). It's been well worth my
time and money even though the money comes out of my own pocket.
UNIX history is not part of the mainstream USENIX world these
days, alas--I was disappointed that there was no official 50th-
birthday party two years ago in Seattle (though the not-officially-
sponsored one at LCM organized by Clem and others was a fine time,
and USENIX had no objection to hosting announcements of it).
I should point out that the only time I've met Our Esteemed
Leader and Listrunner in person was at a USENIX conference, where
he held a session to show off his reconstructed very-early PDP-11
UNIX from the tape Dennis found under the floor of the UNIX Room.
I too would like to see the organization harbour some less-formal
meetings or publications. The way to make that happen would
be to run for the Board and to actively sponsor such stuff (with
care about who is selected for the real work to avoid the problems
Ted describes). Maybe that's a good idea, or maybe it's better
to let the Linux and BSD worlds do their own thing. Either way
I think what USENIX does is worth while. I've been a member for
40 years this year, and although it's not the same organization
as it was in the early 1980s, neither is it the same world it
lives in. I still think they do worth while work and I am proud
to continue to support them, even though I'm not a published
academic researcher, just an old-style systems hack and sysadmin
from the ancient days when those were inseparable.
All of the great discussion on this list about editors has made me curious about the data structures used in the various Unix editors.
I found a great discussion of this for sam in Rob Pike’s publication “The Text Editor sam.”
I’d like to read similar discussions of the data structures for ed, em, ex/vi. If anyone has suggestions of references, they would be very welcome!
Similarly, if there are any pointers to references on some other data structures in editors like TECO, QED and E, I’d welcome them as well.
All the best,
David C. Brock
Director and Curator
Software History Center
Computer History Museum
1401 N. Shoreline Blvd.
Mountain View, CA 94943
(650) 810-1010 main
(650) 810-1886 direct
Pronouns: he, him, his
>From spaf(a)cs.purdue.EDU Thu Apr 4 23:11:22 1991
From: spaf(a)cs.purdue.EDU (Gene Spafford)
Subject: Warning: April Fools Time again (forged messages on the loose!)
Date: 1 Apr 91 00:00:00 GMT
Expires: 1 May 91 00:00:00 GMT
Organization: Dept. of Computer Sciences, Purdue Univ.
Xref: ai-lab news.announce.important:19 news.admin:8235
Warning: April 1 is rapidly approaching, and with it comes a USENET
tradition. On April Fools day comes a series of forged, tongue-in-cheek
messages, either from non-existent sites or using the name of a Well Known
USENET person. In general, these messages are harmless and meant as a joke,
and people who respond to these messages without thinking, either by flaming
or otherwise responding, generally end up looking rather silly when the
forgery is exposed.
So, for the few weeks, if you see a message that seems completely out
of line or is otherwise unusual, think twice before posting a followup
or responding to it; it's very likely a forgery.
There are a few ways of checking to see if a message is a forgery. These
aren't foolproof, but since most forgery posters want people to figure it
out, they will allow you to track down the vast majority of forgeries:
o Russian computers. For historic reasons most forged messages have
as part of their Path: a non-existent (we think!) russian
computer, either kremvax or moscvax. Other possibilities are
nsacyber or wobegon. Please note, however, that walldrug is a real
site and isn't a forgery.
o Posted dates. Almost invariably, the date of the posting is forged
to be April 1.
o Funky Message-ID. Subtle hints are often lodged into the
Message-Id, as that field is more or less an unparsed text string
and can contain random information. Common values include pi,
the phone number of the red phone in the white house, and the
name of the forger's parrot.
o subtle mispellings. Look for subtle misspellings of the host names
in the Path: field when a message is forged in the name of a Big
Name USENET person. This is done so that the person being forged
actually gets a chance to see the message and wonder when he
actually posted it.
Forged messages, of course, are not to be condoned. But they happen, and
it's important for people on the net not to over-react. They happen at this
time every year, and the forger generally gets their kick from watching the
novice users take the posting seriously and try to flame their tails off. If
we can keep a level head and not react to these postings, they'll taper off
rather quickly and we can return to the normal state of affairs: chaos.
Thanks for your support.
Gene Spafford, Net.God (and probably tired of seeing this message)