In 2007 I started entering the contents of Eric Levenez’s “Unix History” diagram into
“dot” format to use with Graphviz.
It stalled when I was unable to create a diagram I really liked.
My recollection is that I talked with Warren about encoding this data and creating
He compiled the TUHS “Unix Tree”, presumably now the definitive resource, but I haven’t
see a diagram linked from there.
There’s the github “Unix History” project by TUHS list
I didn’t research producing timelines & relationships automatically from git:
this would be a solid solution, if the Repo was considered as permanent as the TUHS
The “Linux Distribution Timeline” is based on a tool, gnuclad, that takes CSV files and
'computes a cladogram’ in SVG. conversion to PNG is via ImageMagick’s “convert”.
By default, timelines are produced ‘left to right’, with claimed ‘right to left’, ’top to
bottom’ and ‘bottom to top’ formats - which I haven’t tested.
The CSV file can include links which are built into clickable points in the final image,
at least for SVG, unsure of PNG.
A concern that I have is the creation of the CSV file from Distrowatch is opaque. Possibly
built by hand. New diagrams are uploaded 2-3 times a year.
The Levenez "fishbone" diagram doesn’t seem to be updated with Warner Losh’s
2020 “Hidden Early History”.
Clem Cole’s Big Block diagram shows “low-res” diagrams are also very useful, eliminating
distracting detail when appropriate.
Groklaw from 2004-2009 tried to collect information about the Unix/Linux Timelines, but
the site is gone now & Wayback machine hasn’t picked up many of the detail / comments
I’ve no contact with PJ & whoever runs Groklaw now.
Would that data collection contain anything more than TUHS, as it does try to include both
Linux and Unix?
Something extra in the Linux Distro Tree is a notation for people moving between projects
and tracking forks. Unsure how that’s accomplished, and not sure how important that is for
TUHS is “Early Unix”, not about Linux.
However, some degree of compatibility between Unix & Linux Timeline diagrams might be
useful for others if they ever try to join multiple trees.
If a timeline / relationship table is constructed, designing it to be somewhat compatible
will help future people.
I’m not sure about tracking the many descendants of BSD. Wikipedia has a list without a
timeline . <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_BSD_operating_systems>
Someone may already be being doing this somewhere, I didn’t look.
Don’t think modern descendants of BSD should be tracked by a Unix Heritage Society, has to
be a boundary somewhere.
1. Is there any benefit in developing a canonical “Unix Timeline” dataset containing the
relationships, allowing programatic conversion to diagrams? There might be better tools in
I’d favour tab-separated text files, because they can be read / written by Spreadsheets
and converted to CSV.
Warren’s solution of tables & pages is good: there’s simply too much information
& complexity to capture in simple file formats
The gnuclad solution of providing “Clickable Links” is useful, if like TUHS, the pages
are well maintained.
2. How to cater for:
- adding extra-fine detail for segments of the timeline (Warner Losh)
- ‘zooming out’ and providing an overview (Clem Cole)
- some sort of compatibility with known tables, like Linux Distro Timeline
3. No simple representation can, or should try, to be “all things to all people”, there’s
too much detail and too many events occurred.
Is there a useful subset of detail that can be captured in a simple table?
There may be useful subsets of the Unix Timeline that show more or less detail,
To support programatic zoom In/Out, an indent or level descriptor is required in the
Does anyone have a good data model for that?
Warner Losh, "Hidden Early History of Unix”, Fosdem 2020
-> "Standard History of Unix, in 3 slides”
graphviz, coloured names, landscape format [small]
“Simplified family tree”
4th Edition Family Tree
6th Edition Family Tree
7th Edition Family Tree
Clem Cole, UNIX, Linux and BSD, USENIX 2009, reexamining "A Short UNIX History”,
-> "A UNIX Family History 1st 25 Yrs” [69-93]
graphviz ?, landscape, coloured, triangle symbols, thin lines & arrows
-> Simplified Linux Family Tree, circa ’09
graphviz ?, landscape, coloured, blocks + text, short thick lines & arrows
TUHS, The Unix Tree
No diagrams, tarball with all content
Éric Lévénez’s, "UNIX History”
landscape format [very wide], lines & arrows, hand drawn, no source
David du Colombier, Unix Diagram
portrait format, graphviz, source
Linux Timeline, Fabio Loli et al
landscape format, gnuclad, source (CSV + links to <https://distroware.gitlab.io/>)
uses ‘curved’ lines, can be changed
Images: SVG, PNG
Grokline, UNIX TIMELINE, 2004-2009 [dead site]
Lists by Date, Vendor, Product
detail pages not archived
Steve Jenkin, IT Systems and Design
0412 786 915 (+61 412 786 915)
PO Box 38, Kippax ACT 2615, AUSTRALIA