[TUHS] Unix and SW Releases (was V7 et al from Will)

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Fri Aug 7 06:20:54 AEST 2020

This topic is still primarily UNIX but is getting near the edge of COFF, so
I'll CC there if people want to follow up.

As I mentioned to Will, during the time Research was doing the work/put out
their 'editions', the 'releases' were a bit more ephemeral - really a set
of bits (binary and hopefully matching source, but maybe not always)
that become a point in time. With 4th (and I think 5th) Editions it was a
state of disk pack when the bits were copies, but by 6th edition, as Noel
points out, there was a 'master tape' that the first site at an
institution received upon executing of a signed license, so the people at
each institution (MIT, Purdue, CMU, Harvard) passed those bits around

But what is more, is what Noel pointed out, we all passed source code and
binaries between each other, so DNA was fairly mixed up [sorry Larry  - it
really was 'Open Source' between the licensees].  Sadly, it means some
things that actually were sourced at one location and one system, is
credited sometimes credited from some other place the >>wide<< release was
in USG or BSD [think Jim Kulp's Job control, which ended up in the kernel
and csh(1) as part in 4BSD, our recent discussions on the list about
more/pg/less, the different networking changes from all of MIT/UofI/Rand,
Goble's FS fixes to make the thing more crash resilient, the early Harvard
ar changes - *a.k.a.* newar(1) which became ar(1), CMU fsck, e*tc*.].

Eventually, the AT&T Unix Support Group (USG) was stood up in Summit, as I
understand it, originally for the Operating Companies as they wanted to use
UNIX (but not for the licenses, originally).  Steve Johnson moved from
Research over there and can tell you many more of the specifics.
Eventually (*i.e.* post-Judge Green), distribution to the world moved from
MH's Research and the Patent Licensing teams to USG and AT&T North Carolina
business folks.

That said, when the distribution of UNIX moved to USG in Summit, things started
to a bit more formal.   But there were still differences inside, as we have
tried to unravel.  PWB/TS and eventually System x.   FWIW, BSD went
through the same thing.  The first BSD's are really the binary state of the
world on the Cory 11/70, later 'Ernie.'  By the time CSRG gets stood
up because their official job (like USG) is to support Unix for DARPA, Sam
and company are acting a bit more like traditional SW firms with alpha/beta
releases and a more formal build process.     Note that 2.X never really
went through that, so we are all witnessing the wonderful efforts to try to
rebuild early 2.X BSD, and see that the ephemeral nature of the bits has
become more obvious.

As a side story ... the fact is that even for professional SW houses, it
was not as pure as it should be.  To be honest, knowing the players and
processes involved, I highly doubt DEC could rebuild early editions of VMS,
particularly since the 'source control' system was a physical flag in
Cutler's office.

The fact is that the problem of which bits were used to make what other
bits was widespread enough throughout the industry that in the mid-late 80s
when Masscomp won the bid to build the system that Nasa used to control the
space shuttle post-Challenger, a clause of the contract was that we have
put an archive of the bits running on the build machine ('Yeti'), a copy of
the prints and even microcode/PAL versions so that Ford Aerospace (the
prime contractor) could rebuild the exact system we used to build the
binaries for them if we went bankrupt.  I actually, had a duplicate of that
Yeti as my home system ('Xorn') in my basement when I made some money for a
couple of years as a contract/on-call person for them every time the
shuttle flew.

Anyway - the point is that documentation and actual bits being 100% in sync
is nothing new.   Companies work hard to try to keep it together, but
different projects work at different speeds.  In fact, the 'train release'
model is what is usually what people fall into.   You schedule a release of
some piece of SW and anything that goes with it, has to be on the train or
it must wait for the next one.  So developers and marketing people in firms
argue what gets to be the 'engine' [hint often its HW releases which are a
terrible idea, but that's a topic for COFF].
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