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Microsoft's Ancient History w/ Unix 403

NutscrapeSucks writes "The Register is running a article which discusses Microsoft's experience running their own version of UNIX, called Xenix, as their standard desktop operating system. Before they got involved with OS/2 and later NT, Microsoft considered UNIX to be the PC operating system of the future. Talks about Bill Gates running vi, difficulties with AT&T, and other interesting tidbits." There's a lot of stuff everyone knows, and a lot of stuff you probably didn't know. Worth a read.
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Microsoft's Ancient History w/ Unix

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  • Unix is the future. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 23, 2002 @10:48AM (#3212573)
    Shortcuts.. Symbolic links.
    How many others?

    Not to troll, but a lot of Microsoft's innovations are actually recycled ideas that've been around for years. No, really, not to troll - I'm glad they've taken certain ideas from Unix. It wouldn't make sense for them to have not done so. There's a lot of good stuff in the various Unices out there.
    • Well, multitasking isn't really a Unix specific feature, more of a fairly standard general OS function.
      The others though are probably inspired from Unix, don't know of any other OS that unix might have been inspired of (well, except multics), anyone know?
      Win NT was designed by the same people who designed VMS IIRC, so I suppose they got lots if inspiration from there as well
    • DOS 2.0 included Unixy features like file descriptors (instead of the old FCB file control blocks), directories, and devices as files (COM1:, LPT0:, etc) that weren't present in DOS 1.0.

      Unfortunately, my memory fails as to whether this was still IBM PCDOS or MSDOS. I'm thinking by that time it was MSDOS.
      • by thogard ( 43403 )
        but those had already found their way into CPM. You could do many unixy things in CPM on machines with at least a few 64k pages.

        DOS 1.0 was PCDOS unless you ran it on a DEC rainbow or a few other very rare boxes. MSDOS was later.

        Of course the 1.0 and 2.0 syscals are still in win 2002 or whatever its called.
    • The phrase "Your technological distinctiveness will be added to our own" springs to mind.
    • Not to troll, but a lot of Microsoft's innovations are actually recycled ideas that've been around for years. No, really, not to troll - I'm glad they've taken certain ideas from Unix. It wouldn't make sense for them to have not done so. There's a lot of good stuff in the various Unices out there.

      All of the features you've mentioned were not invented by UNIX operating system, they're features of many operating systems (multitasking) or filesystems (symlinks) that have been implemented within the UNIX environment. (I may be wrong about symlinks -- I don't remember them as a feature in my Cyber or limited VMS experience, although the idea I'm sure was thought of in those days).

      Kerberos is an application that was implemented on UNIX -- it doesn't have anything to do with the UNIX operating system.

      A better question may be asking why new features are so often implemented on UNIX instead of other operating systems.
    • It's not that Unix fell off, it's just that it didn't grow into new markets: PC's, low end workstations, embedded systems, etc. AT&T and all the other big Unix vendors had no interest in "toys", (Hubis, it'll get you every time). They sat around and *watched* Microsoft eat up entire markets.
      Mac OS X. The "10" stands for "about 10 years to late".
    • Not to troll, but a lot of Microsoft's innovations are actually recycled ideas that've been around for years. No, really, not to troll - I'm glad they've taken certain ideas from Unix.

      But none of the 'innovations' you cite came out of UNIX. The closest one would be Kerberos, but even that was conceived from day one as being independent of the O/S. MIT has developed enough O/S to know that there is more than one.

      UNIX was not an O/S with lots of innovative features, the main innovation was the idea that most of the O/S could be written in a high level language. Most of the advances in UNIX consisted of removing unnecessary junk from Multics or ITS.

      UNIX was not the first O/S with symbolic links, it was however the first where the feature was widely used. There is even a way to create symlinks in VMS, although you have to go through an API to do it.

  • by saintlupus ( 227599 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @10:50AM (#3212577) Homepage
    Bill Gates running vi

    I don't know why this in particular would stick out as something surprising. People on this site seem to forget that Gates is a serious geek - he's not some MBA who got lucky. I wouldn't be surprised if he _still_ uses vi, maybe even under Cygwin, on his own machines.

    • I wouldn't be surprised if he [Bill Gates] _still_ uses vi, maybe even under Cygwin

      No need. He can use vi for windows [].

      ANd yes, I wouldnt be suprised if he did use it. I have heard that quite a few senior MS employees use windows ports of classic UNIX apps. After all, most UNIX apps take some getting used to - but once you do get to know them, they are unbeatable. As the reg article illustrates, many MS people come from a UNIX background, and it is not really suprising they have taken some of this with them.
      • Perhaps vim for Windows [] would be a better choice. I haven't tried "WinVi" but when I'm forced to suffer in a Windows environment from time to time, it's nice to just use vim. It's consistent with what I run on my home machines after all. :)
    • by O2n ( 325189 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @10:58AM (#3212600) Homepage
      I wouldn't be surprised if he _still_ uses vi

      Maybe this will become the single most powerful argument in the emacs vs. vi religious war. :)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Personnally (sp?), I am wondering if this "Gates is really a geek" is not some sort of personality cult, like that of Chairman Mao's or Joseph Stalin's. How soon before we hear about is superhuman feats?

      Cookies to doughnuts that Gates is just a competent programmer, no more, who was just a very good student of the Ancient Ways of IBM (remember, Big Blue was one the Evil Empire -- read "BIG BLUE: IBM's use and abuse of power", an account of the darker side of our "favorite" Linux company...) and who has this incredible drive to crush anything that might smell like competition.

      Not to troll, but I will more readily accept accounts of Woz', Gary Killdall's or even Doug Enghelbart's (sp?) geekyness than those of billg's.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        You are =so= close to the truth.

        Consider Ted Nelson's revolutionary book _Computer Lib / Dream Machines_. This book changed my life. I ceased being a drug-crazed radical hippy and became a drug-crazed radical computer geek.

        The first edition contained great tirades over IBM.

        Then Microsoft Press bought the book, castrated it, and released the second edition. All of the heart and soul was gone from it. All of the anti-monopolistic material was removed.

        The original edition is nearly impossible to find now. I haven't seen a single one since the second edition came out, about 1985.

        I would treasure even a photocopy of the original.

    • by Komodo ( 7029 )
      Now, I don't know Bill personally, but I did read 'Hackers', and I've seen his mug shot for the Albequerque PD. He may be a serious geek, but if we judge by competence, he's also a LOSING serious geek.

      According to 'Hackers', Bill's BASIC program for the MITS Altair was big, slow, bloated, late, didn't work well, and (here's the kicker) required an expensive 4k memory expansion board from MITS that basically didn't work.

      Compare to today, where we have Windows , which is... essentially the same, right down to the excessive hardware upgrade treadmill.

      The point? Bill's spirit rules the place. Bill hasn't changed. I don't think he's learned ANYTHING in the technology arena except how to muscle it around with money. That's not the same as being a 'serious geek'. Essentially, he IS an MBA who got lucky.

      It must be really sad. He's got all the money in the world, but it can't buy him cool points. So he sits there in his billion-dollar house, crying himself to sleep because he's still no closer to the nirvana of technical competence than he was back in 1977.

      Software will flourish if Bill learns to accept his inadequacies and stop trying to take over the world.
    • Bill probably does still use vi, there's a binary for vi in the NT resource kit in the posix folder along with the source code to a couple of other commands.
  • by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Saturday March 23, 2002 @10:50AM (#3212579) Homepage
    NT is a weak form of unix like a donught is a weak form of a particle accelerator.
  • Windows NT == VMS (Score:5, Informative)

    by quark2universe ( 38132 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @10:51AM (#3212583) Homepage
    "And through Windows NT, you can see it throughout the design. In a weak sense, it is a form of Unix."

    Actually, Windows NT was built very much like VMS, the operating system for the VAX built by DEC. David Cutler, one of the main architects for VMS, was hired by Microsoft to build Windows NT. The name Windows NT itself is one of those HAL like play on letters where each letter is the VMS letter plus 1. WNT VMS
    • In the novel 2001, the joke about HAL was that H, A, L are one letter before I, B, M, so HAL was one step ahead of IBM. (There was also an expansion of the acronym: Heuristic ALgorithmetric, I think.) Applying the same logic, are we saying that WNT is one step behind VMS?
      • Re:Windows NT == VMS (Score:4, Interesting)

        by quark2universe ( 38132 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @12:12PM (#3212875) Homepage
        NT is one or more steps behind VMS. Some people who were only users of VMS didn't like it because it had a clunky command line interface. BUT, under the hood, VMS was an awesome operating system. I know because I took many internals classes, and worked with it for many years as an operator, system manager, DBA, and programmer. A large reason for it not being more successful was that DEC had no marketing intelligence whatsoever. Their engineers, on the other hand, were the best. Did you know that VMS had clustering in the 1980's? Everyone else is still struggling to get that right.
        • Since I'm self employed, my comments DO reflect those of management.

          I'll bet you get to be employee of the month a lot, too.

        • Re:Windows NT == VMS (Score:5, Informative)

          by VAXman ( 96870 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @03:01PM (#3213463)
          VMS was hugely successful. It was the most successful minicomputer OS of all time, and made DEC filthy rich in the 80's.

          What killed VMS was not DEC, but Unix - mostly Sun. Their stuff was 10x as fast at 1/10 the price, so people bought Sun instead. DEC was never really able to adapt from the closed proprietary business model to the open commodity business model. Even with Alpha, DEC never got more than 1% of the Unix market.
          • Re:Windows NT == VMS (Score:3, Informative)

            by Zeinfeld ( 263942 )
            What killed VMS was not DEC, but Unix - mostly Sun. Their stuff was 10x as fast at 1/10 the price, so people bought Sun instead. DEC was never really able to adapt from the closed proprietary business model to the open commodity business model

            The price performance was never quite that extreme, SPARC was about double to tripple the price performance of the equivalent VAX workstation when it first appeared.

            The thing that killed VMS was not UNIX, it was RISC. People moved to Sun in spite of UNIX, and for that matter in spite of Sun's quality control. In those days, interms of reliability SunOS was to VMS what Windows 3.1 was to AIX.

            Incidentally, DEC was a very early member of the UNIX club. The first virtual memory UNIX was developed on a VAX. It is a pity that Thomson et. al. were so determined to learn as little as possible from the design of VMS.

            In the very early years Sun attempted to license VMS. DEC refused, claiming that it could not be ported because of the dependency of VMS on a couple of fairly specialized processor instructions, like remove from head interlocked and the security ring instructions.

            The reason DEC was so far behind Sun in the first place was that their bean counters axed the PRISM project that was meant to built the successor to VAX and VMS. Dave Cutler left DEC for MSFT and vowed to force DEC to buy the O/S they could have had for free - whats more he did exactly that. When the Alpha chip appeared much later than SPARC it was named AXP or Almost Exactly Prism as insiders call it.

            WNT is not VMS but it has most of the best features of VMS and is the type of thing you might build if you were designing a sucessor to VMS but did not need to have backwards compatibility.

            There are a bunch of late VMS features that WNT is noticably lacking, in particular the transactional file system. Hopefully we may see some of that appear in OFS. What is disappointing about WNT is that many of the interesting O/S features are sumberged in low level APIs. It is possible to do VMS tricks like ASTs but you have to really know the layout of the O/S.

            Unfortunately there is no guide that compares with the Digital VMS architecture manual.

      • Re:Windows NT == VMS (Score:5, Informative)

        by maggard ( 5579 ) <> on Saturday March 23, 2002 @12:36PM (#3212969) Homepage Journal
        In the novel 2001, the joke about HAL was that H, A, L are one letter before I, B, M, so HAL was one step ahead of IBM.
        Actually Arthur C. Clarke has denied this repeatedly, loudly, and at this point irritably. He even wrote Byte Magazine a few years ago correcting their reference to this geek lore. He claims this is just one of those accidents that happens and indeed in his book "The Worlds of 2001" goes into a bit on how HAL's name actually did come about: Pretty much happenstance, it was "Athena" through most of drafts.

        IBM/HAL, Santa/Saten, its all part of a biiig plot...

    • Re:Windows NT != VMS (Score:2, Interesting)

      by eap ( 91469 )
      As one who uses both VMS and NT on a daily basis, I can attest that the similarities between the two platforms are nonexistent as far as stability and robustness are concerned. VMS is one of the most stable OS's ever to gain widespread deployment. NT is somewhat lacking in this respect, to say the least.
      • Re:Windows NT != VMS (Score:2, Informative)

        by HeUnique ( 187 )
        Take the GUI off, take the crappy drivers that are binding to the kernel off - and see if NT is stable or not..

        Hint - it will be the most stable thing you've seen on PC (at that time)..
        • This guy is not a troll. He is very right: NT is stable, and most trouble I had were with crappy graphics drivers. I'm pretty sure a command-line-only NT would be great. Besides, he says "at that time", so he means back in the NT 3.51 days were most OSes were DOS or DOS/Windows 3.0 on PC.

          Sometimes moderators just suck! Yes, I am very well aware that this will give me a Karma hit. Go fire!

        • This guy is absolutely correct-- just about any problems you can find with older versions of NT stems from drivers/resources/applications written by *SOMEONE ELSE*.
    • You're right, Microsft's Windows NT was designed by the same group of people that created VMS. NT is very similar is DEC's (now Compaq) VMS. So similar, in fact, that DEC thought that the situation warranted litigation. DEC filed a complaint against Microsoft. Apparently, even Microsoft's legal department thought DEC had a case. The parties eventually settled out of court for a rather large amount of cash.
  • ...and Microsoft has Xenix.

    Coincidence? I think not.

  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @10:58AM (#3212599) Homepage Journal

    When I worked at Microsoft in the early 90s, the role of Xenix was pretty much relegated to a glorified email terminal. A few old-timer people on the teams I worked with used it, and few of those people did anything but read their email remotely on the Xenix email servers. I don't recall anyone actually running Xenix on any box within their own office.

    At no time did I get the impression that a developer at Microsoft felt that Xenix/UNIX was the future of the desktop. It was big, it was bloated, it couldn't run on then-current PCs well, nevermind the smaller machines of the mid-80s.

    Sure, maybe there were some hold-outs in groups I didn't interact with, and I was only there long past Xenix heyday, but Xenix had no chance at the desktop, really.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @12:09PM (#3212861) Homepage
      you are so full of Shit you stink.

      Xenix ran fine on a 386DX-35 platform supporting 10 users off of that ONE computer using Wyse 75 terminals. It supported several businesses helping with Multiple tasks in that company using that ONE computer. Excalibur was the best Business accounting/inventory/Point of Sale software on the market at that time (1992) It ran faster than anything that microsoft offered it gave you more productivity than anything that Microsoft offere'd then and NOW from your equipment and coince it was really written by a group that were outside Microsoft at the beginning, bought by them and then re-sold (SantaCruz Operation) it was never tainted with the Microsoft Style. The Only thing that sucked about Xenix was that the Xwindows system was horrible and required specalized hardware, Compiling X11 on it solved that problem. ..

      SCO Xenix was a awesome thing at the time, and I still have the origional disks and Manuals from that 386 version.
    • I can corroborate that. I worked at Microsoft in the early 90's, too, as a tech writer. Sure enough, there was troff for the users' manual for Microsoft C Compiler. Most of the other writers edited on their desktops and then uploaded to a Xenix box for formatting.

      The only other use for Xenix was to check your email.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 23, 2002 @11:00AM (#3212603)
    I can see that being revealed in the future. By day CEO of Microsoft, by night coding for 10 different free sofware projects under psuedonyms, like B1ll G4t3s.

  • by Michael Winser ( 27659 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @11:08AM (#3212636) Homepage
    Xenix was used for email and a few administrative tasks (where networked security was needed).

    I joined Microsoft in 1988 and after working on QNX I was stunned at how primitive their development environment was. I would have been only too happy to develop on Unix

    Instead, all development was done on PCs running DOS.

    I don't know who the unnamed "former grunt" quoted in the article is but he's full of it.

    "I think the original DOS might have been developed on one of their old VAX mini's but by the time I got there everything including DOS 2.x, all their languages and applications, Mac Word and Mac Excel, Windows Excel and Windows Word were written in vi and compiled on those goddamn Xenix boxes, and all their documentation was written in vi and compiled in troff and nroff. I don't think [they] really moved to the PC platform for development until around the time Windows 3.1 came out."
    • by AdamBa ( 64128 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @12:38PM (#3212973) Homepage
      When I arrived in early 1990 people were using OS/2 for development. For example the early development work for NT was done on OS/2 and then cross-compiled for NT. Keep in mind that up until September 1990, NT *was* the next version of OS/2 so this made perfect sense...even after the "divorce" with IBM, OS/2 1.2 was still the best development environment.

      There was a push to self-host on NT which I recall became feasible in early 1992. Eventually more and more of the group switched over to it. I think the rest of the company probably didn't switch until after the first version of NT shipped in July 1993.

      But it is indeed true that the standard email terminal in 1990 was connected to a Xenix machine, and there was a card handed out "how to use vi to edit email" or somesuch.

      Actually I used vi for writing code for a while...someone inside Microsoft had hacked up a version that supported multiple windows...but eventually I switched to slick like most of the NT team. BAsically the incremental search in slick was cooler than the . command in vi.

      - adam

  • Microsoft and UNIX (Score:5, Informative)

    by SuiteSisterMary ( 123932 ) <slebrun AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday March 23, 2002 @11:15AM (#3212665) Journal
    Microsoft dropped UNIX when they hired Dave Cuttler, from Digital, to create NT. Dave, of course, helped create VMS, and hated UNIX with a passion for it's lack of direction.
    • by dhogaza ( 64507 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @11:38AM (#3212727) Homepage
      I think Cutler's dislike of Unix is as much jealousy as anything. His first effort at DEC, RSX-11M, was unloved by any user I ever talked to - including myself (who used it as rarely as possible). Unix was ported to the VAX shortly after the machine was released, and immediately became popular in the University environment, much as Unix for the PDP-11 had. When the arrival of the M68K triggered the appearance of cheap M68K boxes Unix exploded in popularity. Unix became so popular that DEC ended up having to provide it, as well as VMS, for VAX systems. This decision created a great deal of bitterness among those in DEC VMS software engineering who openly disliked Unix and felt betrayed by management.

      With NT, Cutler finally designed and helped implement an operating system explicitly meant to run on multiple hardware platforms, about 20 years after the second implementation of Unix in C made its debut.

      Cutler's spent most of his life trying to snuff Unix, poor boy. The booming popularity of Linux in the server world running on those PCs must be incredibly frustrating to the NT hackers at MS who thought they were going to finally drive the last nails into the Unix coffin ...
      • by JordanH ( 75307 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @12:35PM (#3212966) Homepage Journal
        • His first effort at DEC, RSX-11M, was unloved by any user I ever talked to - including myself (who used it as rarely as possible).

        I'm no expert on PDP11 operating systems, having only used RSX-11M and Unix V7m (the DEC distribution of AT&T Unix for PDP11s, I believe almost entirely used by Universities), but I think this is revisionist history.

        I do believe that RSX-11M was the OS of choice for small systems or Real Time programming. RSX-11S, an offshoot of M for very small systems, was a dream to work with for very small footprint embedded systems, as I recall.

        It's unfortunate that RSX-11M(+) supplanted IAS and RSTS/E, which were good time sharing systems, but I knew quite a few people who appreciated 11M for what it was good for.

        • When the arrival of the M68K triggered the appearance of cheap M68K boxes Unix exploded in popularity. Unix became so popular that DEC ended up having to provide it, as well as VMS, for VAX systems.

        Now this is definitely revisionist history. DEC provided device driver support and made releases of Unix V7 on PDP-11s as far back as 1978, IIRC. They were doing the same thing with BSD Unix on VAXs shortly thereafter (a little fuzzy on this).

        • With NT, Cutler finally designed and helped implement an operating system explicitly meant to run on multiple hardware platforms, about 20 years after the second implementation of Unix in C made its debut.

          Cutler's spent most of his life trying to snuff Unix, poor boy. The booming popularity of Linux in the server world running on those PCs must be incredibly frustrating to the NT hackers at MS who thought they were going to finally drive the last nails into the Unix coffin ...

        Now, this sounds right. From what I've heard, Cutler does hate Unix and I'm certain that the ex-DECies at MS were on a mission.

        Funny how NT was designed to run on multiple hardware platforms, I believe it first ran on MIPS in fact, but now you can get it on Intel only.

        • Funny how NT was designed to run on multiple hardware platforms, I believe it first ran on MIPS in fact, but now you can get it on Intel only.

          Not true. NT4, still a viable OS and used in many companies (i just upgraded the pcs to 2k at work) shipped RISC, DEC, and i86 versions. Win2k and XP only work on the i86 platform, but, that is mostly because DEC is dead (Thanks Compaq!) and because they are focusing on 64 bit market, where they save a lot of R+D time (considering the market) by sticking w/ the established big boys. There is almost not reason for them to work on MIPS or RISC processors since the market for them is so incredibly tiny. If you were to buy Sun or SGI proprietary systems, would you really want to slap WinXP on there? No, because all the programs you could possibly now use are compiled for the i86 architecture, and there is already software out there that is prepared for the specific app you are using that processor for.
        • Funny how NT was designed to run on multiple hardware platforms, I believe it first ran on MIPS in fact, but now you can get it on Intel only.
          MS Windows NT was designed to be portable via it's Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL). NT shipped on Alpha, MIPS, x86, PPC, and now Itanium. All but x86 devlopment was stopped after the chip manufacturers one by one refused to subsidize MS's continuing support of their platform.

          PPC made it to NT 4.0, Service Pack 2. The last to go was the Alpha in 9/99 which was suprising to many as it was in line to be the first 64bit Win NT implemention. There are still sites like AlphaNT [] out there providing resources for the last holdouts.

    • The Architects: First, Get the Spec Right []

      "Once upon a time ... there was NT OS/2."

      "Every month, Nadine Kano prowls the halls of Redmond to profile the real folks behind Windows 2000 development. This month: David Cutler and Mark Lucovsky, who helped guide the operating system from its infancy."

  • by JFMulder ( 59706 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @11:22AM (#3212692)
    There are so many post I'd like to respond to that instead I'll post my replys in this one big message.
    First of all, to the moderator who moderated to 0 the comment about NT meaning "New Technology", go read a little and you'll find out that it's true.
    Second of all, Microsoft didn't rip off Unix. No sir they didn't. They just applied concepts that everyone has been incorporating for years in their OSes. It's like saying that the Saturn cars are ripping the 1900's Fords because Ford has been here for almost a century (I think, maybe it's some other company).
    Third, if you've programmed a lot in Windows, you'll notice that the API is very different then it's Unix conterpart, and by that I don,t mean only different names for same methods. Ever noticed that everything in Windows is centralized around handles, objects and the WaitForSingleObject/WaitForMultipleObject that are used everywhere in the OS to wait for something to complete/release/signal/join? That's pretty elegant, and it enables a user to lock a lot of different resources (mutexes, event, thread, semaphores, sockets) all in once, helping to avoid some pretty nasty deadlocks sometimes. Unix and Linux doesn't have these. Go through the API, you'll say that it's very rich and not that much borrowed from Unix.
    There are a lot of other Microsoft myths out there, and I guess that's because a lot of people just think they know stuff because they know how to recompile their kernel, when in fact they know "shit" about OS infrastructure and concepts.
    • Actually "NT" has a double meaning. Its primary meaning was "N-Ten", because Windows NT was being developed initially only for the Intel i860 chipset, which was code-named "N10". Later, when it was decided NT would run on other platforms, the term "New Technology" was used. At least, this is what I've read.
    • This is a brilliant programmer speaking...

      He speaks before he knows... People like this give software engineers bad names. It is so obvious he hasn't looked at the Unix API... The wait() call is a central part of Unixes, since day one. Signals, semaphores, mutexes, they are used abundantly in Unixes. Whoever posted this should be tarred and feathered..

      I program both Windows and Unix, and have written OS Wrappers which allow me to port my applications between OS's. Everything you can do in Windows OS's can be done in Unix. Threads, Processes, Semaphores, Mutexes, Spin-Locks, Signals, memory maps, pipes, timers, etc. To make assertions that Windows uses WaitForObject, etc. is a ridiculous one. I would use semaphores or mutexes to co-ordinate two threads.

      Personally I find the Unix OS much more straight forward and easier to design for. Microsoft keeps on making programming more and more esoteric, more difficult to understand. I use COM all over the place, and have started to port COM to Linux. It is nice, but it is not anything new, it is basically dynamic libraries with a known exported interface which exports class factories. I write low-level, often device drivers, or interfaces to video capture devices for DVD burning software. I use DirectShow which is a layer on COM. I find COM beneficial for some things and think Linux needs a similar framework.

  • ATT had no reason to "properly manage" UNIX. ATT's forays into areas that the FCC deemed outside of the realm of telecommunications (i.e. computer HW & SW) resulted in a a choice for ATT:
    1. retain the telecommunications monopoly but refrain from any money-making ventures outside of the telecom area
    2. become a real business, make money on anything you want, and open up competition in telecommunications.

    ATT chose choice #1 -- retain the monopoly. This was for them a sure thing. They had always managed to retain the monopoly in the past and it provided a steady source of income. Computers were new, and internally were not percieved as a consumer item.

    So at the time Bill was talking about ATT, the UNIX development/administration/lisencing was, by legal necesity, not a money-making area for ATT. UNIX was a tool to develop telecom products, the real business of ATT. Giving the technology away and managing the process "for the public good" was a means to demonstrate that it was not a money-making venture as well as a way to trumpet Bell Labs. It didn't recieve the best support from management, though, as they were focused on the money-making areas of the business.

    On the other hand, the statement that ATT didn't know what they had, was that ever true! Once they did figure it out it was too late, they were legally barred from that market untl after deregulation (nothing is forever!) -- too late!
  • msdos ...? (Score:5, Funny)

    by rkoot ( 557181 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @11:36AM (#3212722)
    Wasn't QDOS short for Quick 'n Dirty Operating System ? Must have been....
    And that way MS-DOS isn't Microsoft Disk Operating System but Microsoft's Dirty Operating System.
    First they took out the Quick Bits and kept the dirty bits....


  • Spin is not correct (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Russ Nelson ( 33911 ) <> on Saturday March 23, 2002 @11:39AM (#3212738) Homepage
    Bill Gates was the keynote speaker at the Trenton Computer Festival in the early 90's. He spoke about His Vision, which included a processor per person, or even more. He said "There are more people running DOS than anything else". Later, when he took questions, I asked him about Unix: "But each Unix machine serves multiple people at the same time". He countered that with "Unix isn't the future."
  • Sinix (Score:2, Informative)

    by motox ( 312416 )
    I also worked on Siemens SINIX and most of the kernel includes were (C) Microsoft Corporation :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I don't see how Microsoft incorporating UNIX pirinciples into NT demonstrates any hypocrisy on their part. When they said they wanted a different business model and direction than UNIX, yet expounded UNIX for its technical elegance and power, how can this be rectified?

    Well, they incorporated UNIX principles as desired into a new system that they felt could gain wider desktop acceptance.

    If the author is indignant that MS rejected the precious UN*X philosophy (whose design goals could arguably be mutually exclusive with widespread desktop acceptance), he should just say it. If he really doesn't understand, his reasoning faculties should be brought into question.
  • Seems to me that the message is more like "*inx flavors aren't the future due to it's lack of leadership."

    The sort of thing that is an indirect attack on GNU/GPL commons, which is both a flavor of Unix and by nature
    having an absence of overall leadership.

    And thgis isn't the first time I've seen such faulty insinuations being made towards GNU/GPL.
  • "If it is indeed true that Microsoft was running on Xenix up until Windows 3.1, it casts an interesting light on how flexible Bill's vision of the future was right up until the early 90s."

    If I recall correctly, the last Xenix server on the MS corporate backbone was removed in late 96- early 1997. Primarily, they were used as Internet gateways, running Sendmail. Also , they functioned as internal gateways between MSMail and Exchange while the company converted everyone over to having personal mailboxes on an Exchange server.
    While we tried to get some improvements made to applications running on the Xenix boxes, rumour had it that no one could develop these apps, since the source code had been lost somewhere on campus. Also, this is why they couldn't sell the OS to another company.....c'est la vie
  • by Otis_INF ( 130595 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @12:45PM (#3212992) Homepage
    Slideshow: dtalks/lucovsky_html/ [].

    In there, you'll learn 'NT' was related to the first proc it was targeted to, the 860 of intel, codenamed 'N10', plus some juicy stuff about the development of NT3.1 and win2k, and some related notes to Unix and NT.
  • by brer_rabbit ( 195413 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @12:48PM (#3213007) Journal
    I was hunting around on my Solaris machine at the office yesterday. For amusement, I looked at the shell script it's got for /usr/bin/clear. In addition to containing the standard AT&T copyright, it also contains a Microsoft Copyright:

    # Copyright (c) 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989 AT&T
    # All Rights Reserved

    # The copyright notice above does not evidence any
    # actual or intended publication of such source code.

    #ident "@(#) 1.8 96/10/14 SMI" /* SVr4.0 1.3 */
    # Copyright (c) 1987, 1988 Microsoft Corporation
    # All Rights Reserved

    # This Module contains Proprietary Information of Microsoft
    # Corporation and should be treated as Confidential.

    # clear the screen with terminfo.

    It thought it rather amusing to see a Microsoft copyright there of all places. And the source is only two lines of code, one of them being exit. It's left as an exercise to the reader which line (first or second) is exit.

    The other line is /usr/bin/tput ${1:+-T$1} clear 2> /dev/null, but you didn't hear that from me.
  • by AdamBa ( 64128 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @12:50PM (#3213016) Homepage
    Here is a quote from the 3rd issue of PC Magazine, June/July 1982 (which also features a review of PC-FORTH by some dude named Eric Raymond)...this is from Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder:

    "It's important to realize that MS-DOS is part of a family of operating systems....Providing the user with a family of operating system capabilities means a clear migration path from MS-DOS to XENIX. That means compatibility for both the terminal end user and the systems programmer.

    A standard library for XENIX-86 C will allow compilation of a program on XENIX system and then execution on MS-DOS....XENIX systems will be able to function as network file servers."

    So as you can see, Microsoft had big plans for XENIX back then. As it turned out, XENIX's place in the Microsoft family was first taken by OS/2, and then by NT.

    - adam

  • Xenix in 1989 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ciurana ( 2603 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @12:53PM (#3213021) Homepage Journal

    I deployed a number of Xenix installations in the mid- to late 1980's, the last one in either 1989 or 1990. We were competing against Novell Netware networks (back when TeleVideo made that hideous Novell dedicated hardware with the 286 and the Z-80 and all the way to the IBM PS/2 model 80 days) and usually beat them hands down for an inventory and POS application. Our customers were medium-size enterprises (up to 200 employees, up to five physical locations). The configuration:

    • HP Vectra 286 with 1 MB RAM (!!!) and 60 MB HD
    • 12 RS-232C port expansion (for terminals)
    • Up to 12 TTY
    • App developed by my company
    • SCO Xenix (can't remember the version)

    The advantages of using this:

    • Cost
    • Ease of maintenance
    • Rich tool set for the sys admins
    • High ROI (return on investment) for our customers
    • Higher profits for my company

    NCR *nix, Xenix, Minix, and AIX 3.0 were the first *nix OSs I was involved with, back in 1985 and forward. I went from Apple's Applesoft/ProDOS/MacOS/UCSD Pascal to *nix, then to Microsoft's world.

    All in all, I remember Xenix being one of the most complete *nix environments I played with. Only AIX running on RS/6000 (I was working on them prior to the announcement in March 1990) was more complete in its blend of SV and BSD tools. SCO occasionally facilitated SCO Unix to us but it was a PIA to install and configure, and lacked *lots* of driver support.

    The interesting thing to us was that, while Xenix was an MS product, MS had a very hands off approach towards it. All customer relationships were handled by SCO. The only time I ever remember Bill G. saying something about it was when he was asked about branching NT away from OS/2 and whether he was afraid of losing market share to *nix. His reply (I'm paraphrasing): We have DOS, Windows, OS/2, Xenix, and NT. It's Microsoft against Microsoft against Microsoft against Microsoft.

    OK, time to stop reminiscing. Have a great Saturday.

  • by akc ( 207721 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @01:09PM (#3213089) Homepage
    Our company (Logica) licenced Xenix from Microsoft for distribution on the UK in the early '80s (and later sold out to SCO). I purchased a copy from our internal product department in about '83 in order to create a configuration management system (using SCCS) for my team for our own (SCADA) software which ran under RSX-11M. Except that my copy of Xenix ran on a PDP-11/34 not on an IBM PC.

    This was perhaps one of the first client server implementations of Configuration Management, very similar to what CVS is today. The server was this Xenix based 11/34 and the clients were PDP 11's running RSX-11M and the networking was homegrown protocols over serial links.

    After I had been running this software for at least 18 months I remember being given a demonstration of a new version that our internal Xenix group had just received running on an early IBM PC (don't know the model, probably an AT - it was pre PS/2). This was because we were trying to decide on a platform for the client end a new version of our SCADA software that was to become client server and we were comparing XENIX (multitasking but no GUI interface - but at the time we were only replacing a system which used block graphic character based colour terminals), GEM (anyone remember that!) and Windows 2.0. We chose Windows for reasons I can't remember - but were able to dominate UK Water Company SCADA systems for most of the '80s

    I was just after this that I was able to justify the purchase of a MiniVAX and a version of Unix System V for our Configuration Management server on the savings in maintenance costs over the PDP-11 and Xenix was ditched.
  • Xenix XP (Score:3, Funny)

    by api ( 112263 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @01:35PM (#3213161) Journal

    You might find this funny:

    Xenix XP []

  • by kubla2000 ( 218039 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @02:55PM (#3213434) Homepage

    Two interesting points which jumped out at me when I was reading Billy G's Unix Expo Remarks remembering that they were from October 9, 1996 were:

    One of the exciting things we're announcing today is that our commitment to the Internet and to building a state-of-the-art browser extends not only to Windows 95 and Windows NT, but also to 16-bit Windows and the Macintosh and to Unix.

    Explorer for Unix!

    And this:

    And the reason we do that -- it's not purely a magnanimous thing on our part. (Laughter.) We're doing that to promote the Active X technology, and by having the browser be out there very, very broadly...

    Clearly an early vision of .Net!

  • First Unix/Xenix (Score:5, Interesting)

    by presearch ( 214913 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @02:58PM (#3213453)
    In 1979 all that existed of Xenix was a silver brochure from Microsoft
    but there was no distribution. I wanted it to run it/sell it, seeing that
    you could do the timesharing thing just like back at college, except
    without a giant machine behind glass. I contacted the then tiny
    Microsoft, asked, begged, pleaded but they had nothing to sell.

    After multiple inquiries, they finally told me that they didn't have
    Xenix yet, but they expected it to arrive shortly. Arrive? From where?
    I was told, from Human Computing Resources (HCR) in Toronto.
    Ahh, interesting. So I called HCR somehow got them to commit
    to an early delivery. After a few weeks, and several dollars, the
    day came. MS wanted a PDP-11 and 68000 version and was
    only after the PDP-11 distro, I was 1 week ahead in the queue
    from Microsoft. So, as I was told from HCR, I had the first Xenix
    distribution in the US, ahead of Microsoft. I ran it on a LSI-11/23
    with insanely expensive 256Kb of memory and a giant 20Mb
    drive from Charles River Data Systems. It also had 2 eight inch
    floppies (errrtt, clunk, clunk, errrrttt), and 2 four port serial cards
    that each ran a VT100. The distro came on a 9-track tape (which
    I still have) and the take drive was this weird, front loading thing
    where you loaded the tape in the front like a big floppy and it
    auto threaded the tape (sometimes). As I remember, it seemed
    pretty fast, I'd start up stuff on all of the terminals, just to do it.
    Of course, it wasn't that fast but at the time....

    The Unix itself was a more or less pure Unix v7. The only thing,
    as I remember that made is Xenix, was the boot message and
    the captions on the man pages. There was no vi at that time,
    the editor of choice was "ed". It did have a nice /usr/games
    and I got a Zork for it from a friend.

    We ended up selling a few of the boxes. The company was
    called MSD. The only record of such is in a 1981 (Jan?) issue
    of Byte with our little ad in the back. And that's the story of the
    first commercial Unix sold in the US.
  • I'd like to see a summary of all the various "departments" under which the stories are posted.

    I'd bet my left nut that "stuff-to-read" has to be the most common department by a longshot.

  • by MacBoy ( 30701 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @04:17PM (#3213699)
    A/UX or Apple UNIX was Apple computer's entry into the desktop UNIX world. It ran on their 68030 and '040 based systems, but was never ported to the PowerPC when they made the move to that CPU architechture in the early 90's.

    A/UX had a nice GUI (it was from Apple after all!) which was very similar to the Macintosh GUI of the time (System 7). It had all the greatness of UNIX, including pre-emptive multitasking and protected memory, and it was even able to run most Macintosh applications without modification. Yes, you could bring up a terminal window and much around with a command line if you so pleased, but like today's Mac OS X, you never needed to. Sadly Apple only marketted it to corporate and higher-education users, so it never caught on and was forgotten.
  • NT, Xenix. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @06:28PM (#3214133)
    Did MS actually *write* xenix, or just license it?

    Regarding NT...

    First, NT stands for "New Technology". It is a coincidence that "WNT" is offset by one from "VMS".

    NT had some of the same designers as VMS.

    NT was new. It is not based on unix.

    NT *is* cool, and has done some cool things since day one. Do not confuse the NT kernel with the abortion of an operating environment Microsoft chose to build with it. As a kernel, it's very cool in many ways.
    Yes, I mean cooler than unix.

  • by mihalis ( 28146 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @08:40PM (#3214531) Homepage

    The National Exhibition Centre ("NEC") in Birmingham, England had an inventory system running on Xenix in 1988. There were 5-10 terminals across the site, mostly Wyse VT terminals plus the console (VGA graphics).

    I think the system was called "Impact" but I'm not sure. It had some problems in the UI with a large data set (all character-based graphics of course).

    I got a job there as a student in my second year at University doing data entry. We would read an entry from a Kalamazoo paper based inventory book like "Rubber grommet, 1/16 cubit, 12.50/100, 12.5% discount, Acme Grommets" and convert it to a price each (yes, we had to throw away information) and enter it into the new system by hand.

    I worked on the console of the server which was a 10MHz AT-clone which ran "like shit off a shovel" according to the vendor rep.

    Every night I would back up the whole system to tape. I think it was a 250MB QIC cartridge, but I'm not sure. I know they had that distinctive metal plate on one side (a Travan NS20 is quite similar, but smaller, and 10GB).

    In my lunch-hours I would read about strange things like "Bourne Shell" and "echo".

    It was the first multi-user system I ever used so we all had fun looking at each others files.

    I seem to remember making a directory called personal, which contained another called private, and in there a file called readme.txt, which contained only the words "aren't you nosy". Someone asked me about that within a week.

    The Word processor was quite nice for the day and called "Lyrix". Unix systems in those days had real printed manuals which is good for beginners who don't know their way around. All the messages that Lyrix used could be overriden in a text file, so again we had a lot of fun with that.

    I seem to remember I was being paid 100 pounds a week in total for a full-time job, and paying rent and running a car out of that. I lost quite a bit of weight that summer.

  • by xeno ( 2667 ) on Saturday March 23, 2002 @09:51PM (#3214697)
    If it is indeed true that Microsoft was running on Xenix up until Windows 3.1, it casts an interesting light on how flexible Bill's vision of the future was right up until the early 90s.

    Funny, that. When I was at MS from 94 to 95 or so, there were still quite a few Xenix systems around in the "Business Systems" group or whatever the hell they were calling it then. I found it particularly humorous because I was working on the MS Exchange Server project, and here my co-workers were using Xenix mail. Some folks apparently wanted to *read* their email, not just to "eat dogfood"

    When I think what MS *could* have done with the amount of development effort that went into MSExchange v. 1.0^H^H^H 4.0, if they had applied it to Xenix mail... We'd have rock-solid secure email that'd be delivered before it was sent, managed by a system running on a 486 with 16mb ram, hosting 10,000 accounts. Instead, we have memory leaks, a GUI designed by Smurfs, and secure coding philosophies that led to inclusion of auto-executing-content as message body (= by-design vehicle for viruses, which we reported internally in the company in '95). What a waste.

    The hell with it, I'm buying a Mac.

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.