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Unix Operating Systems Software Technology

Saving Unix Heritage, One Kernel At a Time 169

Posted by timothy
from the this-algorithm-was-part-of-the-one-true-cross dept.
coondoggie writes "In this, its 40th year of operating system life, some Unix stalwarts are trying to resurrect its past. That is, they are taking on the unenviable and difficult job of restoring to their former glory old Unix software artifacts such as early Unix kernels, compilers and other important historical source code pieces. In a paper to be presented at next week's Usenix show, Warren Toomey of the Bond School of IT is expected to detail restoration work being done on four key Unix software artifacts all from the early 1970s — Nsys, 1st edition Unix kernel, 1st and 2nd edition binaries and early C compilers. In his paper, Toomey states that while the history of Unix has been well-documented, there was a time when the actual artifacts of early Unix development were in danger of being lost forever."
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Saving Unix Heritage, One Kernel At a Time

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  • by KingPin27 (1290730) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @01:31PM (#28297635)

    In a paper to be presented at next week's Usenix show, Warren Toomey of the Bond School of IT is expected to detail restoration work being done on four key Unix software artifacts all from the early 1970s

    Afterwards atendees will be ushered to the dining hall for a fine serving of raisins, prune juice, and Oxygen treatments.
    St. John's ambulance will also be on site to assist with attendees suffering with various age related ailments such as broken hips and arthritis.

    • by Culture20 (968837)
      Here's a nickel kid, go buy yourself a real computer.
    • I have a special gizmo on my Go Go Elite Traveler PLUS to hold my EeePC!
      And a bag for my depends..

    • Hey, I was at Usenix (LISA) in 2001 (age 19), and it was awesome. I wish I could go again, but it doesn't look likely in the near future.

  • Worse is better (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11, 2009 @01:45PM (#28297869)

    Despite what many a slashdot crowd might think, UNIX isn't exactly an elixir from the Gods. UNIX, Microsoft Windows and Intel x86 are living proofs that the best / most innovative technology doesn't necessarily have to win. Check Out: http://www.dreamsongs.com/WorseIsBetter.html.

    • Re:Worse is better (Score:4, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @02:27PM (#28298589) Homepage Journal

      The fact that MS-DOS outsold the Amiga and Atari ST is proof that best doesn't always win. The x86 is a great example as well. The 68k chip was a much better CPU than the 8088,8086, and even the 80286. Only when the 386 hit the market did Intel really have a CPU that wasn't a freaking nightmare.
      Another example is PHP. Good grief $A[1]==$A['1'], that is just wrong.
      PHP, Windows, x86, and so much of what we live with are all examples of good enough. Not great but good enough.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Teckla (630646)

        The fact that MS-DOS outsold the Amiga and Atari ST is proof that best doesn't always win. The x86 is a great example as well. The 68k chip was a much better CPU than the 8088,8086, and even the 80286.

        The 68000 didn't have a built-in MMU. You could run an OS with process isolation (a requirement for a safe multi-user OS) on the 80286. You could not do that with a 68000 (unless you added a separate MMU; the 68881 maybe?).

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by LWATCDR (28044)

          The memory protection on the 286 was terrible. It still used segments and wasn't a flat address space.
          I think the the 68010 came out around the time of 286 and you could add a real mmu that supported paging and had a flat address space. Also the 68020 came out during the time of the 286 so you could make the jump to true 32 bit.
          Of course the vast majority of 286s where used to run DOS so it's memory protection just wasn't that important. BTW the 68881 was an FPU the Motorola 68841 or 68851 where the MMUs.

          • by spitzak (4019)

            Actually the 80286 could do full memory protection. The pages were in effect 64K in size. There was certainly some strange stuff so that you were encouraged to keep using the same page, but at the time memory sizes were such that you really wanted to limit how many 64K pages were swapped in.

            The problem was that the 8086 version of MSDOS preset the segments to overlap 16 bytes apart, and lots of programs assumed this. If you changed it so the paging was useful then no MSDOS programs could run, which pretty m

          • by Teckla (630646)

            The memory protection on the 286 was terrible. It still used segments and wasn't a flat address space.

            I've never been a fan of segments either.

            I think the the 68010 came out around the time of 286 and you could add a real mmu that supported paging and had a flat address space. Also the 68020 came out during the time of the 286 so you could make the jump to true 32 bit.

            Sure, hardware makers could choose to add an MMU to their 68010/68020 based machines.

            Of course the vast majority of 286s where used to run DOS so it's memory protection just wasn't that important.

            I was lucky, I got to use QNX (running on 80286) and Microport (sp?) Unix (also running on 80286) -- both in protected mode, of course. It's a shame most 80286s ran DOS in real mode...

            BTW the 68881 was an FPU the Motorola 68841 or 68851 where the MMUs.

            Thanks for the correction!

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Darinbob (1142669)
          That is a bad comparison, comparing early generation chips to a later one. The 8086, 8088, and 80186 didn't have built-in MMUs either! Compare the 68020 to the 80286 for a more reasonable comparison.

          Memory protection was not at all a design factor for DOS or even early versions of Windows. Memory protection didn't really take off in the PC world until the 80386, which was after the 68020 was being used to run UNIX.

          The two competing families didn't release new CPUs at the same time, so it's difficult to s
      • by sorak (246725)

        Another example is PHP. Good grief $A[1]==$A['1'], that is just wrong.

        So why is that such a bad thing? Granted you can make the "unclean, unclean, UNCLEAN!" argument, but why is that the worst of php's atrocities?

        • by glenstar (569572)
          My favorite fucked up PHPism has always been:

          $space_var='THIS IS A STUPID VARIABLE WITH SPACES IN ITS NAME';
          $$space_var = "this is some content";
          print $$space_var;
          print_r($GLOBALS);

          Which puts a nice variable named $"THIS IS A STUPID VARIABLE WITH SPACES IN ITS NAME" into your global namespace.
      • by Korin43 (881732)

        Another example is PHP. Good grief $A[1]==$A['1'], that is just wrong.

        I think $A[1] === $A['1'] will do what you're wanting it to do. What's wrong with having the language smart enough to know that 1 and '1' are the same thing? It can tell the difference between an int and a char, it's just usually not useful.

      • Actually, what made x86 and Windows dominant, was the PC Clone market :
        A huge market with lots of companies competing by producing even cheaper version of the same product, following (approximately) the same standard.

        Mass production makes the product widely available, and cheap.

        Thus PCs got easier to get for much less money, even if they where shittier than the better, but more expensive and more scarce Amiga computers.

        The 68k is a whole different story. It actually enjoyed a good success, become almost omn

    • I wonder if you are fooled by lack of Desktop popularity of Linux since I see UNIX, by exact meaning along with certificates is approaching 10% desktop share now and basically sets the destination on mobile scene. That is OS X for you. Should Apple do the most interesting thing ever and gather Unix 03 certificate for a mobile device too?

      If we look to matter as *NIX, MS is actually struggling to reach top spot spending billions of dollars to overtake Linux and FreeBSD _dominance_ on server scene. Enterprise

    • by sowth (748135)

      This may be true, but Unix / Posix is the result of decades of research for such things as security and administration on real software systems. Much of it contains features requested by admins in hostile environments trying to run and protect their systems. It may not be new and innovative, but its model works for me. I haven't seen anything better from a practical standpoint. Obviously, this doesn't mean there can't be other types of systems. There is always more than one way of doing things.

  • by bzzfzz (1542813) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @01:51PM (#28297969)

    From TFA: "documentation is missing or incomplete, source code is missing leaving only the binary executables, or conversely the source exists but the compilation tools to reconstruct the executables are missing."

    Sounds like any number of projects I've had the pleasure of working on over the years.

  • SIMH (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wandazulu (265281) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @01:53PM (#28298013)

    SIMH [trailing-edge.com] is a hardware emulator for a lot of the machines Unix ran on (PDP-8, PDP-11, etc.). They also have some original Unix versions [trailing-edge.com] along with some other software for the other hardware they support.

    I have run Unix V5 on a SIMH-based PDP-11, and it worked well, though it was strange to realize how fast it was running, in emulation, on a machine 1/16 its original size (Mac laptop).

  • by mpapet (761907) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @01:54PM (#28298025) Homepage

    Very often the technically 'best' implementation doesn't win and I'd like to see those stories from inside Unix. For me, that's a more interesting angle than just version/feature stories.

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @02:06PM (#28298269) Journal

    rogue, sail, wump, search (you have crashed into a planet), battlestar (in the closet is a kingly robe), mazewars, that mazewars-like curses game who's name escapes me, with a variety of weapons (satchel bomb... oooo...) that had destructable maze walls.

    There are a variety of Rogue-like games out there that have been ported to current platforms, but the other ones, especially sail, search and mazewars, I haven't seen in years and years. These games were arguably part of our early Unix heritage because they enticed people to get a login and explore the OS, and for many of us (myself included) they were our motivation learn how to write termcaps for obscure terminals and emulators (the acid test was if Rogue would render correctly), learn programming to fix and enhance the games, and earn root access to do installs and fix permission issues.

    Multi-user Unix games like sail and mazewars helped spread the Unix word because we were always trying to entice others to get a login so we could play with them. People with early PC experience couldn't even conceive of multi-user games.

    • by Tetsujin (103070) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @02:23PM (#28298523) Homepage Journal

      There are a variety of Rogue-like games out there that have been ported to current platforms, but the other ones, especially sail, search and mazewars, I haven't seen in years and years.

      sail, at least, is part of the "bsdgames" package on Debian.

      • Most of the games mentioned by OP are included in Debian. bsdgames includes:

        adventure, arithmetic, atc, backgammon, battlestar, bcd, boggle, caesar, canfield, countmail, cribbage, dab, go-fish, gomoku, hack, hangman, hunt, mille, monop, morse, number, pig, phantasia, pom, ppt, primes, quiz, random, rain, robots, rot13, sail, snake, tetris, trek, wargames, worm, worms, wump, wtf.

        rogue is in bsdgames-nonfree.
        • by Tetsujin (103070)

          Most of the games mentioned by OP are included in Debian.

          It was "mazewars" and "search" I wasn't too sure about... Never played 'em and couldn't find 'em. But I saw the post mention sail - I used to play Sail back in college, so I knew that one wasn't a "lost treasure"...

    • by Teckla (630646)

      rogue, sail, wump, search (you have crashed into a planet), battlestar (in the closet is a kingly robe), mazewars, that mazewars-like curses game who's name escapes me, with a variety of weapons (satchel bomb... oooo...) that had destructable maze walls.

      You're thinking of Hunt. Multi-player fragfest goodness! It had pretty decent performance on 1200 baud (even 300 baud) too.

      Hunt was also a great way to train your fingers to use the hjkl movement keys!

  • If you must obsessively collect something, it might as well be bits. Every year or two, you can squeeze twice as much stuff into the same space. That makes it less likely that you'll be found trapped, filthy and emaciated, beneath a collapsed pile of your hoarded treasures.

    This is the first time in human history that true exponential hoarding has become not only possible, but practical.

    • by swb (14022)

      I was kind of thinking along the same lines. One of the problems with computers is that you CAN save every variation, every single edit of every file, everything, and it just seems to flow into a recursive save everything mindset that never ends and never saves enough.

      Has anyone bothered saving the paper TTY output from the compiling (or worse -- line editing!) of these original UNIX items? What about that?

      Ugh.

  • by JasonStevens (1574841) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @02:46PM (#28298921) Homepage
    I'm glad this is getting some exposure. I know that Warren & co worked hard to get this ancient UNIX not only in a working state, but also he is the one responsible for pushing SCO with the oldSCO source license, and played a hand in getting Research UNIX 1-7 & 32v under a BSD style license, thus setting the foundation of UNIX free. Now SIMH may not be the 'friendliest' software out there for a new user to get used to, so I've done my part in making it a little more accessible. On the sourceforge project https://sourceforge.net/projects/bsd42 [sourceforge.net] I've created Windows installable versions of the 4BSD stuff, 32v and UNIX v1. I do plan to add all the other research versions, along with a new build of RENO that doesn't need 1.8GB... Anyways try them out! the 4BSD stuff has TCP/IP along with a SLiRP hack it can connect to the internet immediately! IRC/Lynx/GCC work great on the Uwisc 4.3 BSD build. Ok that being said, there is a repository of SIMH binaries on https://sourceforge.net/projects/simh [sourceforge.net] , and the MS-DOS build includes some small 'bootstrap' versions of various OS's including v1 UNIX on the PDP-11 simulator. The bar to trying this stuff is a lot lower then you may have guessed, and I'd encourage any fan of UNIX to really check it out.
  • Oh boy (Score:4, Funny)

    by FranTaylor (164577) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @02:56PM (#28299111)

    Someone will trot out a copy of the Morris worm and we can relive history all over again.

  • paper and program (Score:3, Informative)

    by adelporto (104675) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @03:17PM (#28299429) Homepage

    Paper here: http://www.usenix.org/events/usenix09/tech/full_papers/toomey/toomey.pdf [usenix.org]

    Program here: http://www.usenix.org/events/usenix09/tech/ [usenix.org]

    Yes, I work for USENIX.

  • ...which the CDC considers harmful to humans and has placed the two last known remaining copies at strategically placed bunkers in different parts of the US.

  • keep regressing (Score:3, Informative)

    by thethibs (882667) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @09:25PM (#28303541) Homepage
    Actually, all these OS' lead back to the Berkeley Timesharing System (1964) [wikipedia.org]. So do many of the relevant people.

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

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