[pups] Interesting PDP/Xenix History

Martin Crehan mjcrehan at earthlink.net
Sun Mar 24 05:43:43 AEST 2002

 From a thread on Slashdot about Microsoft's Ancient History w/Unix

  First Unix/Xenix (Score:1)
by presearch on Saturday March 23, @01:58PM (#3213453)
(User #214913 Info)

In 1979 all that existed of Xenix was a silver brochure from Microsoft
but there was no distribution. I wanted it to run it/sell it, seeing that
you could do the timesharing thing just like back at college, except
without a giant machine behind glass. I contacted the then tiny
Microsoft, asked, begged, pleaded but they had nothing to sell.

After multiple inquiries, they finally told me that they didn't have
Xenix yet, but they expected it to arrive shortly. Arrive? From where?
I was told, from Human Computing Resources (HCR) in Toronto.
Ahh, interesting. So I called HCR somehow got them to commit
to an early delivery. After a few weeks, and several dollars, the
day came. MS wanted a PDP-11 and 68000 version and was
only after the PDP-11 distro, I was 1 week ahead in the queue
from Microsoft. So, as I was told from HCR, I had the first Xenix
distribution in the US, ahead of Microsoft. I ran it on a LSI-11/23
with insanely expensive 256Kb of memory and a giant 20Mb
drive from Charles River Data Systems. It also had 2 eight inch
floppies (errrtt, clunk, clunk, errrrttt), and 2 four port serial cards
that each ran a VT100. The distro came on a 9-track tape (which
I still have) and the take drive was this weird, front loading thing
where you loaded the tape in the front like a big floppy and it
auto threaded the tape (sometimes). As I remember, it seemed
pretty fast, I'd start up stuff on all of the terminals, just to do it.
Of course, it wasn't that fast but at the time....

The Unix itself was a more or less pure Unix v7. The only thing,
as I remember that made is Xenix, was the boot message and
the captions on the man pages. There was no vi at that time,
the editor of choice was "ed". It did have a nice /usr/games
and I got a Zork for it from a friend.

We ended up selling a few of the boxes. The company was
called MSD. The only record of such is in a 1981 (Jan?) issue
of Byte with our little ad in the back. And that's the story of the
first commercial Unix sold in the US. 

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