[TUHS] If not Linux, then what?

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Thu Aug 29 00:55:42 AEST 2019

On Wed, Aug 28, 2019 at 10:10 AM Earl Baugh <earl.baugh at gmail.com> wrote:

> One point/ direction nobody seems to have mentioned was “what if Linus
> found out about BSD on PC hw”?  From what I’ve read he wasn’t aware of it,
> so perhaps a very different outcome could have been
A couple of items.  Linus is on record as saying if he had known about the
'magic FTP site' at UCB for 386BSD code download, he would have obtained it
[it is how most of us got it in those days].  The sad part is that his
University was licensed for it from UCB, so *they could have gotten the
code* is they had asked for it.   But as Larry has pointed out, many
Universities in those days took a fairly restrictive view of access to the
Unix sources; so it's still now clear if Linus himself would have gotten a

— what if Linus did find out about it and then ultimately took it over (
> removing the caustic personalities ) or at worst forked it.
Hmmm, I fear, Linus just would have been one more personality, or his
version would have been one more fork in the quickly branching, BSD tree.  The
real problem IMO was the lawsuit which happened shortly after 368BSD went
into the wild.  Let me tell you about my own experience from the time.

As I said, people like myself got scared that UNIX for a PC/386 would not
be available.  We had Minix, but it did not use the paging HW, whereas
Linus' code did and we thought, Linus code was unencumbered (it
wasn't/isn't, while* it is a rewrite*, it is still based on the AT&T IP -
but again that's a different part of story).

I know I had personally had bought Minix myself for whatever it was (??$70
IIRC) in a 'book' of N floppies from Prentiss-Hall.  I was semi-happy
because it was a rewrite of Unix and was better than DOS.  But .... it was
originally floppy only for the 16 bit 8088 (XT not the AT) and very, slow
and had quite limited in functionality (it did have a C compiler and ed but
no vi, and definitely not, sockets).  At the time, at work, I had a copy of
the WD 1003 controller documentation - which was the disk controller IBM
had used for the AT.  A lot of people doing hacking on PC Unix in those
days did not have that document as it turned out.

So one of the first things I did, was to hack together a Minix AT/IDE
driver for my system and sent it back, maybe posted it to net.noise (I've
forgotten).   As I had known him my UCB days, shortly thereafter it went
into the wild, Joilitz contacted me.  He had tried to write his AT disk
driver for his version via "reverse engineering" (the BIOS ROMs I think).
Bill's original code worked to a point but had some issues and he was
looking for some help.  I had a Wyse 32:16, which was one of the first 386
based PCs.   Hence, I got my copy of Bill's work via the secret address to
download.  We updated his driver with missing info I gave him (FWIW:
Bill references
this in the DDJ articles).    Anyway, now I had a 'real UNIX' and it was
BSD even, Minix was not only primarily floppy-based, but it was a V7 clone
so the difference was remarkable.

Then lawyers showed up....

I know I got scared and so did a lot of others.   Linus has recently made
his post, so we all jumped.   The rest is history, although as I point out,
it is likely world today would have been much different it AT&T had won the
lawsuit.   But they did not so that is a moot point.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://minnie.tuhs.org/pipermail/tuhs/attachments/20190828/638a913b/attachment-0001.html>

More information about the TUHS mailing list