Not true 386BSD used fdisk.  It shared the disk just fine.  In fact I liked the way it sliced the disk much better than Slackware in those days. 

Sent from my PDP-7 Running UNIX V0 expect things to be almost but not quite. 

On Aug 28, 2019, at 4:27 PM, Adam Thornton <> wrote:

I was an ardent OS/2 supporter for a long time.  Sure, IBM's anemic marketing, and their close-to-outright-hostility to 3rd-party developers didn't help.  But what killed it, really, was how damn good its 16-bit support was.  It *was* a better DOS than DOS and a better Windows than 3.11fW.  So no one wrote to the relatively tiny market of 32-bit OS/2.

I fear that had Linux not made the leap, MS might well have won.  It's largely the AOL-fuelled explosion of popularity of the Internet and Windows ignoring same until too late that opened the door enough for Linux to jam its foot in.

Hurd was, by the time of the '386 Unix Wars and early Linux, clearly not going to be a contender, I guess because it was about cool research features rather than running user-facing code.  I kept waiting for a usable kernel to go with what Linux had already shown was a quite decent userspace, but eventually had better things to do with my life (like chase BeOS).  It was like waiting for Perl 6--it missed its moment.

Plan 9 and Amoeba were both really nifty.    I never used Sprite.  Neither one of them had much of a chance in the real world.  Much like Unix itself, Linux's worse-is-better approach really worked. 

I have a hypothesis about Linux's ascendance too, which is a personal anecdote I am inflating to the status of hypothesis.  As I recall, the *BSDs for 386 all assumed they owned the hard disk.  Like, the whole thing.  You couldn't, at least in 1992, create a multiboot system--or at least it was my strong impression you could not.  I was an undergrad.  I had one '386 at my disposal, with one hard disk, and, hey, I needed DOS and Windows to write my papers (I don't know about you, but I wanted to write in my room, where I could have my references at hand and be reasonably undisturbed; sure Framemaker was a much better setup than Word For Windows 1.2 but having to use it in the computer lab made it a nonstarter for me).  Papers, and, well, to play games.  Sure, that too.

Linux let me defragment my drive, non-destructively repartition it, and create a dual-boot system, so that I could both use the computer for school and screw around on Linux.  I'm probably not the only person for whom this was a decisive factor.


On Wed, Aug 28, 2019 at 1:08 PM Christopher Browne <> wrote:
On Mon, 26 Aug 2019 at 19:14, Arthur Krewat <> wrote:

Leaving licensing and copyright issues out of this mental exercise, what
would we have now if it wasn't for Linux? Not what you'd WANT it to be,
although that can add to the discussion, but what WOULD it be?

I'm not asking as a proponent of Linux. If anything, I was dragged
kicking and screaming into the current day and have begrudgingly ceded
my server space to Linux.

But if not for Linux, would it be BSD? A System V variant? Or (the
horror) Windows NT?

I can make a firm "dunno" sound :-)

Some facts can come together to point away from a number of possibilities...

- If you look at the number of hobbyist "Unix homages" that emerged at around that time, it's clear that there was a sizable community of interested folk willing to build their own thing, and that weren't interested in Windows NT.  (Nay, one should put that more strongly...  That had their minds set on something NOT from Microsoft.)  So I think we can cross Windows NT off the list.

- OS/2 should briefly come on the list.  It was likable in many ways, if only IBM had actually supported it...  But it suffers from something of the same problem as Windows NT; there were a lot of folk that were only slightly less despising of IBM at the time than of Microsoft.

- Hurd was imagined to be the next thing...

To borrow from my cookie file...

"Of course 5  years from now that will be different,  but 5 years from
now  everyone  will  be  running  free  GNU on  their  200  MIPS,  64M
SPARCstation-5."  -- Andrew Tanenbaum, 1992.
"You'll be  rid of most of us  when BSD-detox or GNU  comes out, which
should happen in the next few months (yeah, right)." -- Richard Tobin,
1992. [BSD did follow within a year]
"I am aware of the benefits  of a micro kernel approach.  However, the
fact remains  that Linux is  here, and GNU  isn't --- and  people have
been working on Hurd for a lot longer than Linus has been working on
Linux." -- Ted T'so, 1992.

Ted has been on this thread, and should be amused (and slightly disturbed!) that his old statements are being held here and there, ready to trot out :-).

In the absence of Linux, perhaps hackers would have flocked to Hurd, but there was enough going on that there was plenty of room for them to have done so anyways.

I'm not sure what to blame on whatever happened post-1992, though I'd put some on Microsoft Research having taken the wind out of Mach's sails by hiring off a bunch of the relevant folk.  In order for Hurd to "make it," Mach has to "make it," too, and it looked like they were depending on CMU to be behind that.  (I'm not sure I'm right about that; happy to hear a better story.)

Anyway, Hurd *might* have been a "next thing," and I don't think the popularity of Linux was enough to have completely taken wind out of its sails, given that there's the dozens of "Unix homages" out there.

- I'd like to imagine Plan 9 being an alternative, but it was "properly commercial" for a goodly long time (hence not amenable to attaching waves of hackers to it to add their favorite device drivers), and was never taken as a serious answer.  Many of us had admired it from afar via the Dr Dobbs Journal issue (when was that?  mid or late '90s?) but only from afar.

- FreeBSD is the single best answer I can throw up as a possibility, as it was the one actively targeting 80386 hardware.  And that had the big risk of the AT&T lawsuit lurking over it, so had that gone in a different direction, then that is a branch sadly easily trimmed.

If we lop both Linux and FreeBSD off the list of possibilities, I don't imagine Windows NT or OS/2 bubble to the top, instead, a critical mass would have stood behind ... something else, I'd think.  I don't know which to suggest.
When confronted by a difficult problem, solve it by reducing it to the
question, "How would the Lone Ranger handle this?"