[TUHS] UNIX Release 3.0 vs System III Published Materials?

segaloco via TUHS tuhs at tuhs.org
Fri Nov 17 09:52:57 AEST 2023

Hello everyone, I've just recently secured an item that has drawn some questions to mind.  The item is a "UNIX System III Programmer's Manual Volume 2A" (image from auction listing: https://i.imgur.com/6blnqz3.jpeg).

The cover is of a typical 70's Bell System motif, branded Western Electric, with blue and yellow lines and a Bell logo.  The cover itself appears to be a typical report cover with a window for the title page of the document.

First, I've only seen System III stuff still labeled "Release 3.0."  Indeed the manual I have says Release 3.0 on the title page.  Also, said manual is Bell Laboratories branded and has the blue and yellow lines near the top, above the cover text but below the Bell Laboratories logotype, an arrangement that can be seen on plenty of Bell Laboratories stuff even into the AT&T period (with the lines being replaced with the blue, red, and black, and death star instead of bell.)

With this set, however, it is specifically labeled "System III".  I've heard, anecdotally, that there were User's Manuals that specifically had the text "System III" on the title page, but I've never seen this myself.  Are there System III branded manuals or am I misremembering.  Additionally, this is labeled specifically Western Electric rather than Bell Labs.  Western Electric would continue to be the name on the cover of UNIX documentation (for the most part) after this until divestiture.  If such formal "System III" manuals exist, which branding did they happen to get?

Another curious matter is the document is titled "Programmer's Manual...Volume 2A".  This nomenclature is more commonly associated with research than stuff descending more from the PWB line like the commercial lineage.  For instance, even PWB 1.0 listed its two main documents as "User's Manual" and "Documents for Use With".  Research has always called the document the "Programmer's Manual" as far as I know, and the "Documents for Use With" nomenclature was only used with V6, V7 introduced treating the two sets as "Volumes" of the same larger work.  What's interesting is in the sources for System III on the archive, in /usr/src/man/docs, the road_map (Documentation Roadmap) specifically uses the text "User's Manual" and "Documents for UNIX", which is still the case by 4.x (albeit the a_man/u_man split seems to have happened right about this time).  In any case, I would be curious if anyone knows what was going on with the naming of documentation at this time.  Would this imply that there is some variation on the 3.0/SysIII manual out there named "Programmer's Manual" instead of "User's Manual", or perhaps that for some reason when the Sys III variants of these docs had started being published, they had for some reason tried to cut over to the V7 documentation structure only to back out back to "Documents for UNIX" and a "User's Manual" as distinct things by the time of 4.0?

In any case, once this gets here, I'll look it over for anything compelling that might set it apart from the document sources in the UNIX tree.  I'm a bit bummed it's only Volume 2A, not both, but it'll be nice to have a physical example of the distributed, published documentation of the time.  Maybe a 2B will pop up one of these days.

Thanks for any insights or recollections!

- Matt G.

P.S. Long shot, very long shot, but if anyone on this mailing list has any empty, unused Bell System report covers of the era, Bell Laboratories especially, I would happily buy them from you.  I've got my V6 documents and some BSD stuff just in random report covers I fished out of the university recycling, they'd look much nicer in proper covers, but I also recognize the bulk of those covers probably also wound up in some recycling/waste stream decades ago and no longer exist.  Once I get this I could use the cover to produce a reasonable facsimile but I feel a tad uneasy regarding "breaking the seal" on that prospect, I don't want to cross the line from improving the aesthetics of my bookshelf to counterfeiting something.

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