I’m a bit taken aback by the trees (streams/sockets/file systems/paging and difficult people) of this discussion. The forest view seems clear: if not for Linux, Microsoft would have been even more dominant. If not for Microsoft mis-steps (Cairo, ME, Vista, …), Windows dominance would have been even stronger. If not for Steve Jobs return, Apple really would have cratered. Who besides Apple and Linux (including Android) have given Microsoft meaningful competition?
The last couple of months or so I’ve been figuring out how to revive and sustain some early 90s PC hardware (not just JAWS but a also a slightly older ISA only i486DX2-50 machine). I’ve been making the machines multi boot a variety of environments: Windows 3.11 (with Mosaic and Netscape), Windows 95, NT 3.51 with the “new shell” (Win 95 Explorer), NEXTSTEP 3.3, Dell SVR4 2.2.1, and Red Had 5.2/6.2/7. For a “Unix person” my perspective may be unusual, but Win95/NT with new shell/Dell SVR4/Linux all seem preferable to my memory of the Unix systems I casually used when I was using those four predominantly.
I helped lead AIX from 1982 to ’89 and Dell UNIX from ’89 to ’93. In ’93 I stepped away from Unix to work on Windows 95-based videoconferencing. From ’93 to ’96 I did very little with Unix. Starting in 1992, a friend endeavored to interest me in Linux, but I declined. Then in ’96 I joined a startup that was getting funding based on a prototype app based on PERL/mSQL/Apache/Linux. My task was to make the prototype a real product. My Linux advocate friend said to settle on either Slackware or Red Hat, favoring RPM, so I’ve used Red Hat/Fedora since then. But I also use Windows 10 and am composing this in TextEdit on macOS. I’ve tried the various BSD forks, other Linux distributions, OS/2, Palm OS, etc. but none of those have made me want to keep using them.
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 do understand that this has been discussed on the list before. I think, however, it would make a good late-summer exercise. Or late winter depending on where you are :)