[TUHS] Ideas for a Unix paper I'm writing

Greg 'groggy' Lehey grog at lemis.com
Tue Jun 28 14:13:02 AEST 2011

On Tuesday, 28 June 2011 at 10:11:40 +1000, Warren Toomey wrote:
> I'm having some trouble thinking of the right way to explain what is
> an elegant design at the OS/syscall level, so any inspirations/ideas
> would be most welcome. I might highlight a couple of syscall groups:
> open/close/read/write, and fork/exec/exit/wait.

The system call interface is one thing, but I'm not sure it's the most
important one.  Older operating systems (in my experience, IBM OS/360
and UNIVAC Omega and OS 1100) had similar interfaces.  Omega also had
the concept of integer file descriptors (including 0, 1 and 2
preassigned).  All of these systems had open/close/read/write, for

I came to UNIX relatively late, and my first impression wasn't
favourable.  It took me a while to realise what the real advantages
were.  For me, they're:

- Text files.  At the time, any data of any importance was stored in
  custom-designed file formats.  That was more efficient, both in
  terms of processing time and space, but it made things difficult if
  anything went wrong.

- The file system itself.  I think the design of the file system,
  especially the separation of names and the files themselves, but
  also special files, is one of the most far-reaching designs I've
  ever come across.  To this day, I haven't found anything that even
  comes close.

You might also get some ideas from

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