[TUHS] history of community help for unix users everywhere

Heinz Lycklama heinz at osta.com
Thu Feb 9 07:34:36 AEST 2023

The "open source" term may have been coined in 1998, but the term
"open systems" was in use well before in the mid to late 1980's when
we started the /usr/group and POSIX standards efforts. That was one
of the reasons why I named my high tech consultancy service with the
name "Open Systems Technology Associates" (OSTA) in 1992.


On 2/8/2023 12:48 PM, Warner Losh wrote:
> On Wed, Feb 8, 2023 at 12:59 PM Clem Cole <clemc at ccc.com> wrote:
>     For those of us outside of BTL, i.e. the Academic users, "Unix
>     News" was created - which became ';login" - We started to meet
>     informally at a few universities and talk to each other.   Those
>     of us on the ArpaNet that email/FTP and the like, started to share
>     patches - but mostly things were shared when we got together via
>     magtape. When they were held in NYC, we might be lucky and someone
>     from Research might come (and even accidentally spill a few bits
>     on the floor that mix fix something).  Eventually, USENIX was
>     formed, and we met twice a year formally. That was so popular,
>     USENIX started having specialty conferences such as the one for C
>     and C++, LISA, Networking, Linux and Free Software, etc.
>     Similarly, with V7, UUCP was given to use a USENET was started by
>     Tom Truscott and his famous "auto-dialler" that he hacked with a
>     12v relay, a DR-11C and described at the Bolder USENIX
>     conference.   Netnews was not far behind - which sadly became
>     net.noise when the signal-to-noise ratio disappeared.
>  Yea, reading both the early usenix news letters and the early AUUG 
> newsletters carefully shows more community action as well. I'm not 
> sure what netnews was like in the 74-79 time frame before UUCP was 
> wisely available, so I can't comment on that, but there's reports from 
> names you'd recognize, and reports about USENIX conferences, reports 
> about local gatherings... and then all kinds of crazy stuff: letters 
> on university letter head that had bug fixes in it for this or that 
> problem... Addresses where you write and send photocopies of AT&T and 
> DEC licenses and get FORTRAN or MARCO-11 or other such things where 
> people had used their DEC source license to hack in unix I/O routines 
> into the FORTRAN compiler. And there were all kinds of 'user shared' 
> programs that ranged from 'trivial problem, poorly executed' to 
> 'really cool DEC OS emulators' depending on the era..  The bas.s that 
> is in V6 and V7 (V5 too?) is an early version fo DEC's BASIC that was 
> hacked for unix and some I/O devices that were specific to the labs... 
> there were also advice for what versions of unix to use, and what 
> versions were available to license. References to things that you 
> can't google for anymore (or if you do all you find is the google 
> index of the login issues / auus issues). There's also a number of 
> country SIGs under DECUS that were for unix in the 77 or so time frame 
> that might be good to search newsletters for... bitsavers has a bunch, 
> but not sure they are early enough (I didn't come across the 
> references to them until long after I looked at what bitsavers had).
> The community aspect of open source was there in spades as well, with 
> people helping other people and sharing fixes. But it was complicated 
> by restrictive license agreements and somewhat (imho) overzealous 
> protection of 'rights' at times that hampered things and would have 
> echos in later open source licenses and attitudes that would develop 
> in response. Even though the term 'open source' wasn't coined until 
> 1998, the open source ethos were present in many of the early computer 
> users groups, not least the unix ones. USENET amplified it, plus let 
> in the unwashed masses who also had useful contributions (in addition 
> to a lot of noise)... then things got really crowded with noise when 
> AOL went live... And I'm sure there's a number of other BBS and/or 
> compuserve communities I'm giving short-shrift here because I wasn't 
> part of them in real time.
> Warner
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