PDP UNIX Licenses: Status Report

Warren Toomey wkt at csadfa.cs.adfa.oz.au
Mon Aug 12 09:17:42 AEST 1996

	In my continuing quest to find out if PDP-11 UNIX licenses are
available and how to get them, I've been chatting with Mike Tilson, a VP at
SCO. I include his email below, with permission. The summary is that SCO
don't have any licenses for PDP-11 UNIX; if you want a license, you should
join an organisation with an existing UNIX source license so as to be
covered by it.


    From: Michael Tilson <mike at sco.COM>
    Subject: Re: PDP-11 Unix Licenses?

[The question posed to Mike was: could cheap PDP UNIX licenses be make
 available to people who don't have licenses?]

As a former PDP-11 UNIX Fifth Edition user and systems programmer I'd
personally be pleased to see this happen.  There are some obstacles.
The UNIX intellectual property has great value (SCO gave up nearly 20%
of its equity plus future cash payments to obtain it.)  The
intellectual property traces back in unbroken lineage to PDP-11 UNIX.
Source licensing has always been very carefully managed, as this deals
with the core of the intellectual property.  Even when source was
licensed to universities "for free" there was a large agreement signed
by a university corporate authority, and the agreement had teeth in it.

The Lions book was something we all wanted to see published, but it
still took considerable careful legal review, and that was just to
publish the kernel plus a limited set of device drivers.  The full
source code (utilities, libraries, compilers, etc.) would be a bigger
matter.  (Example:  I believe the algorithms in the "diff" command for
optimal differencing are still unequaled in other commercial systems,
despite their age.)  And the later the version (e.g. Seventh Edition
rather than Sixth Edition) the more concerned we would be.

When Dion Johnson raised this matter internally a while back I
commented that I'd like to see it happen, but that I understood all of
the above concerns.  I wondered at that time whether the task of
resurrecting this historical item wasn't something that could be done
in cooperation with universities who already possessed the appropriate
source licenses.  Would that method work for you?  I note that you
appear to be associated with the right sort of institution.

So in summary I'd like to see this happen, I'll be helpful if I can,
and I would caution that the probability is considerably lower than for
the Lions book.  Dion has been doing a good job of representing your
interests, by the way.

It sounds like all the interested parties are today associated with
institutions that would allow them the necessary access for this
history project.  I've sometimes thought that I'd like to have a
PDP-11/45 running the old UNIX myself.  (The hardware can no doubt be
found in some scrapyard, the trick is floorspace and power of course.
Seems like a lot of effort to get a computer with two orders of
magnitude less capacity than my laptop computer... :-))

Please make sure everyone understands that in principle we'd like to be
helpful, but we're not dealing with a dead product, we're dealing with
an earlier version of what is today a very much alive and growing
product -- an intellectual asset of extremely high value.  This means
everyone moves very cautiously, as intellectual property law can be a
minefield.  There is no doubt that a license with enough teeth could be
written, and if we had such a license the purpose would not be to
charge historians or hobbiests a lot of money.  The real obstacle is
the care and effort that must go into creating a licensing program, and
I think the business reality is that we're unlikely to have enough idle
cycles available to create the program for you.  (Not my department,
though -- maybe Dion will be able to push it through, who knows?)

// Michael Tilson, CIO
// SCO, +1-408-429-4889

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