[TUHS] Project Idea: The UNIX Programmer's Manual: Heritage Edition

segaloco via TUHS tuhs at tuhs.org
Wed Sep 20 06:32:15 AEST 2023

I haven't known when or how to bring up this project idea, but figure I might as well start putting feelers out since my Dragon Quest project is starting to slow down and I might focus back on UNIX manual stuff.

So something painfully missing from my and I'm sure plenty of other folks' libraries is a nice, modern paper UNIX manual that takes the past few decades into consideration.  The GNU project, BSDs, etc. ship manpages of course, and there's the POSIX manpages, but I'm a sucker for a good print manual.  Something I'm thinking of producing as a "deliverable" of sorts from my documentation research is a new-age UNIX manual, derived as closely as possible from the formal UNIX documentation lineages (so Research, SysV, and BSD pages), but:

    1. Including subsequent POSIX requirements
    2. Including an informational section in each page with a little history and some notes about current implementations, if applicable.  This would include notes about "dead on the vine" stuff like things plucked from the CB-UNIX, MERT/PG, and PWB lines.  The history part could even be a separate book, that way the manual itself could stay tight and focused.  This would also be a good place for luminaries to provide reflections on their involvement in given pieces.

One of the main questions that I have in mind is what the legal landscape of producing such a thing would entail.  At the very least, to actually call it a UNIX Programmer's Manual, it would probably need to pass some sort of compliance with the materials The Open Group publishes.  That said, the ownership of the IP as opposed to the trademarks is a little less certain, so I would be a bit curious who all would be involved in specifically getting copyright approval to publish anything that happened the commercial line after the early 80s, so like new text produced after 1982.  I presume anything covered by the Caldera license at least could be published at-cost, but not for a profit (which I'm not looking for anyway.)

Additionally, if possible, I'd love to run down some authorship information and make sure folks who wrote stuff up over time are properly credited, if not on each page ala OWNER at least in a Acknowledgements section in the front.

As far as production, I personally would want to do a run with a couple of different cover styles, comb bound, maybe one echoing the original Bell Laboratories UNIX User's Manual-style cover complete with Bell logo, another using the original USENIX Beastie cover, etc. but that also then calls into question more copyrights to coordinate, especially with the way the Bell logo is currently owned, that could get complicated.

Anywho, anyone know of any such efforts like this?  If I actually got such a project going in earnest, would folks find themselves interested in such a publication?  In any case I do intend to start on a typesetter sources version of this project sometime in the next year or so, but ideally I would want it to blossom into something that could result in some physical media.  This idea isn't even half-baked yet by the way, so just know I don't have a roadmap in place, it's just something I see being a cool potential project over the coming years.

- Matt G.

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