[TUHS] project athena (was Re: Setting up an X Development Environment for Mac OS)

Jonathan Gray jsg at jsg.id.au
Thu Feb 9 08:12:28 AEST 2023

On Wed, Jan 25, 2023 at 02:53:30PM -0500, Theodore Ts'o wrote:
> On Wed, Jan 25, 2023 at 11:41:12AM -0500, Rich Salz wrote:
> > > Aa for the questions of the UNIX-ness of X, it started in Athena, which as
> > > I understand it was supposed to be relatively OS-agnostic distributed
> > > computing? In any case, the predecessor ran on a different OS, not sure how
> > > significant that is to the genesis of what would be called X or what OS it
> > > "started" on.
> > 
> > Athena was about scaling up Unix workstations. It was started with grants
> > from IBM and Digital. It was never OS-agnostic.
> Well..... technically Athena was about computing in higher ed.  If you
> go far back enough, at the very beginning, we used VAX 750's and IBM
> PC/AT's running DOS.  As soon as the Microvax 2's and IBM PC/RT's came
> in, about 2 or so years in, Project Athena switched to Unix
> workstations, but in the earliest days (which would have been pre-X
> Windows), Project Athena had not yet standardized on Unix or
> workstations for that matter.

Before the PC/RT machines and AOS, there was also an attempt at PC/XT
machines with Genix running on a add-in card.

"IBM, which has recently established an IBU called Academic Information
Systems (ACIS) to address colleges, universities, and schools, will
use the Genix32 operating system from National Semiconductor.
Genix32, still under development, is based on 4.2BSD (Berkeley's
demand-paged Unix system) and runs on the NS32032 32-bit MPU. A
previous Genix version was based on 4.1BSD and ran on the NS16032.
IBM is likely to use the system on the IAWS (Interim Advanced
Workstation, a PC equipped with an NS32032 board, probably also
from Sritek."
Unix World Vol01.05


IBM will soon ship 150 XTs containing plug-in National Semiconductor
16032 16-bit microprocessor-based CPU cards to Massachusetts Institute
of Technology for use on its large networking development project
(described previously in this column). The boards are made by Sritek
and include the National Semiconductor floating point math co-processor
ICs. IBM will also provide its new video controller board with high
density graphics capability and the Berkeley version of the UNIX
operating system.

The 16032 is a 32-bit microprocessor with 16-bit I/O clocked at
10MHz. It supports a demand-paged virtual-memory environment similar
to the DEC VAX.

The networking research project, funded by Digital Equipment Corp.
($40 million), IBM ($10 million), and MIT ($12 million), is expected,
within five years, to tie together 6,000 personal computers, 63 DEC
VAX minicomputers, and 150 DEC VAX microcomputers. All the systems
will run various versions of UNIX. It is expected that most of the
personal computer workstations will be Sun Microsystems and new DEC
units similar to the Sun systems. MIT is expected to develop an
enhanced version of UNIX (which was designed only to be a multi-user
time sharing system) to operate in a shared resource network
environment with enhanced graphics user interfaces utilizing windows
and mice. It will probably be called the MIT version of Unix."

PC Tech Journal, June 1984, Vol 1, No 9

"The IBM PC/XT was to be a shell within which the IBM Athena workstation
was to be built. High-speed co-processor cards and high-resolution
graphics boards were to be piggybacked onto the IBM PCs.

These plans fell through because of problems with the co-processor card.
The project awaits the delivery of 80 IBM PC/ATs. These machines will
run XENIX"

Simson L. Garfinkel - Athena at MIT
The Tech, Vol 105, No 3, Feb 12, 1985
Http://tech.mit.edu:8080/V105/N3/athena.03n.html (cached)

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