[TUHS] Dave Cutler recollection about Xenix

segaloco via TUHS tuhs at tuhs.org
Sun Oct 22 02:38:59 AEST 2023

> Seeing the Cutler interviews reminded me of the old joke that there are only two operating systems left: Unix and VMS (Linux being Unix-family and Windows being VMS-family). I wonder if we will see it narrow down to just one before the hardware changes so much that the concept of an OS changes beyond recognition. My hypothesis would be that an entirely new approach will come first.

Android is becoming quite popular for POS systems, which is where I thought we'd be seeing some interesting developments what with all sorts of new hardware the past 5-10 years.  There's some microkernel stuff going on with seL4 out in the world but I don't know what particularly.  Redox is interesting, a Rust-first OS, breaking C hegemony on operating systems, but it's pretty much a novelty right now from what I hear.  That and the actual experience is still meant to be UNIX-y.

At this point I wonder how realistic it would even be to introduce some paradigm shift in OS interface.  The basic syscall interface is still sitting way up under a lot of stuff doing the heavy lifting, I imagine any kernel and runtime environment that intends to actually succeed at present would at the very least need to have interfaces for things like read/write/open/close, seeks, probably fork/exec, sockets, if anyone outside of deeply embedded systems programmers want anything to do with it.  Those discrete operations don't really go away in my mind at least until concepts like files and processes themselves are completely reimagined.  Granted, this exact thing has been done many, many times over the past few decades, but who is running those systems in large-scale production environments?  I can't think of any systems I interact with outside of again deeply embedded applications that aren't WNT (so VMSish), Mach, BSD, or Linux kernel based.  Word on the street (and implied by license notifications) that even modern game console operating systems like PlayStations and the Switch have a good chunk of BSD sitting under them.  And of course mobiles are mostly split Mach (iOS) and Linux (Android).  None of this is to speak to the validity of alternative systems, just observations in my little corner of the world :)

- Matt G.

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