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Open Source Operating Systems Linux

Linus Torvalds Receives IEEE Computer Pioneer Award 141

Posted by timothy
from the what's-that-guy-done-anyhow dept.
mikejuk (1801200) writes "Linus Torvalds, the 'man who invented Linux' is the 2014 recipient of the IEEE Computer Society's Computer Pioneer Award, '[f]or pioneering development of the Linux kernel using the open-source approach.' According to Wikipedia, Torvalds had wanted to call the kernel he developed Freax (a combination of 'free,' 'freak,' and the letter X to indicate that it is a Unix-like system), but his friend Ari Lemmke, who administered the FTP server it was first hosted for download, named Torvalds' directory linux. In some ways Git can be seen as his more important contribution — but as it dates from 2005 it is outside the remit of the IEEE Computer Pioneer award."
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Linus Torvalds Receives IEEE Computer Pioneer Award

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  • by aussersterne (212916) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @02:28PM (#46914089) Homepage

    there _was_ no free operating system for industry standard hardware, much less a Unix-like one, and the commercial offerings were all platform-specific.

    If you wanted a real computer that could do real stuff (as opposed to a DOS box, which wasn't even network aware in any substantive way, and even in non-substantive ways required $$$ for bare-bones, single-function software tools that were cobbled together out of batch files and nonsense), you had to:

    - Get your hands on dedicated Unix workstation hardware, which was often poorly documented/supported outside of a corporate sales account

    - This meant either $tens of thousands for current workstation hardware or $thousands for last-cycle hardware if it was even available at all (university and government surplus lots were the primary suspects)

    - Phone up the one or two providers that offered OSes for the system

    - Shell out $many thousands for a license (and often $thousands more for media)

    - In many cases, because non-current hardware was tied to non-current OSes no longer for sale, port the current tree yourself to the non-current hardware after spending the $thousands you spent for a license

    In short, it was substantively impossible for—say—a small company, a startup, or a CS/CE student to get their hands on anything beyond a DOS box with Windows 3 on it. With money and time, they MIGHT get web BROWSING working on Windows 3—in unstable ways. Developing software was a nightmare on these DOS/Win3 boxes as well—compilers were expensive, proprietary, and often required runtimes that had to be licensed on a per-user basis (i.e. you spent $200 on the compiler that spoke a non-standard dialect, then if you wanted to sell what you created, you spent another $some amount per copy sold) and that had no hooks for anything network-ish, because there were no standards in the DOS ecosystem for that.

    Linux changed everything. Suddenly, you could pick up commodity i386 hardware and actually do network stuff with it in Unix-y ways. Even in the early days when Linux was unstable, incomplete, and a bear to install/configure, it made things possible for small shops or independent developers/creators that had simply been prohibitive in every practical way just a year earlier.

    As a result, the Unix networking ways—thanks in many ways directly to Linux—would eventually become the industry standard form of networking (TCP/IP over ethernet) that we take for granted today—but in no way was history certain to end up this way. We could just have well been tossing the equivalent of glorified FidoNet payloads today.

    Without Linux, GNU, and BSD, it's no stretch to say that we may not have had an Internet today in any way that we'd recognize, and certainly Linux has been the most visible and most widely distributed amongst the three.

    Much more than the work by Berners-Lee, Linus Torvalds invented the future that we live in.

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @04:12PM (#46914789)

    If you wanted a real computer that could do real stuff (as opposed to a DOS box, which wasn't even network aware in any substantive way, and even in non-substantive ways required $$$ for bare-bones, single-function software tools that were cobbled together out of batch files and nonsense), you had to:

    - Get your hands on dedicated Unix workstation hardware, which was often poorly documented/supported outside of a corporate sales account

    Sorry, but your history is a bit off and overstates the relative impact of Linux at the time. There were actually quite a few real Unix and Unix-like operating systems available in the 80s to early 90s that ran on X86 hardware such as desktop PCs. The prices ranged from pretty cheap to expensive but still much more affordable than proprietary Unix workstations. Some examples include Coherent, PC/IX, AIX, Dell Unix, Rockport Unix, USL UnixWare, Interactive Unix, Xenix, Venix, SCO Unix, Minix, Xinu, Idris, and a number of others. On the Macintosh there was at least A/UX, several different BSD Unix releases, Idris, and MachTen. The Lisa had Xenix. We'll skip over the Amiga and Atari ST series which also had Unix or Unix-like things on them.

    Coherent [wikipedia.org]

    In the early years of its existence, MWC received a visit from an AT&T delegation looking to determine whether MWC was infringing on AT&T Unix property. The delegation included Dennis Ritchie, who concluded that "it was very hard to believe that Coherent and its basic applications were not created without considerable study of the OS code and details of its applications" and "that looking at various corners [for peculiarities, bugs, etc. that I knew about in the Unix distributions of the time] I couldn't find anything that was copied. It might have been that some parts were written with [AT&T] source nearby, but at least the effort had been made to rewrite. If it came to it, I could never honestly testify [...] that what they generated was irreproducible from the manual."[1]

    --------

    As a result, the Unix networking ways—thanks in many ways directly to Linux—would eventually become the industry standard form of networking (TCP/IP over ethernet) that we take for granted today—but in no way was history certain to end up this way. We could just have well been tossing the equivalent of glorified FidoNet payloads today.

    Without Linux, GNU, and BSD, it's no stretch to say that we may not have had an Internet today in any way that we'd recognize, and certainly Linux has been the most visible and most widely distributed amongst the three.

    Both the internet and Unix networking were well established before Linux had any real influence, including TCP/IP and Ethernet.

    Linux was a great accomplishment, but the BSDs would have done just as well for the role it played. The time gap would only have been about 18 months. Both Linux and the BSDs are really for the most part just reimplementation of Unix work done before. They made Unix technology more widely available to the masses.

  • by Arker (91948) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @05:04PM (#46915099) Homepage
    "There were actually quite a few real Unix and Unix-like operating systems available in the 80s to early 90s that ran on X86 hardware such as desktop PCs. The prices ranged from pretty cheap to expensive but still much more affordable than proprietary Unix workstations"

    I was supporting SCO Unix in '93, and you are wrong. There was no *nix on PC that could possibly have been considered 'pretty cheap.' SCO was the best of the lot and you were still looking at a couple grand per seat, expect to pay for 'extra's in order to get a working system, and pay more for any support needed. And if you needed a bug fixed or a feature added you'd be paying a LOT more.

    In '94 we switched a LOT of shops over. The machines that were running SCO went to Slackware. The machines that were running Windows instead because of cost went to Slackware as well. Installation, training, support, across the office, at less than half the cost of *just licensing* with SCO. And if you needed a bug stomped or a feature added you had the source code and there were multiple options offering similar or better quality of work at a much lower price.

    Linux put GNU on the desktop and allowed us to turn relatively common and inexpensive toys into real computers. The impact of that is still being felt.

    Git may be a damn fine version control system, but it's one of many, and the notion it is somehow more significant than linux is laughable.
  • by cold fjord (826450) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @06:10PM (#46915381)

    Sorry, but I'm right. Coherent was pretty cheap, ~ $100.00. Minix wasn't that pricey either. SCO competitors often undercut them on price and could often run the wide range of commercial software available for it.

    For comparison: " Windows NT operating system. Initial version is 3.1. Price is US$495, or US$295 as an upgrade from a previous Windows operating system. - Chronology of Microsoft Windows Operating Systems [pctimeline.info]"

    Unix list princes from 1993: [google.com]

    Consensys System V:
    Base 2 user license - $249
    Unlimited users complete package - $1,295

    Dell Unix System V R4
    Base 2 user license - $495
    Unlimited users complete package - $1,295

    Interactive Unix
    Base 2 user license - $495
    Unlimited users complete package - $3,195

    SCO Open Desktop
    Base 2 user license - $1,295
    Unlimited users complete package - $4,290

    Univel UnixWare
    Base 2 user license - $249
    Unlimited users complete package - $2,495

    A/UX was a flat cost ( ~ $700 on cdrom) and could support 16 users and came with a fully loaded system including utilities, fortran and C compilers. Licenses to copy were $439. On top of that it could run Macintosh software.

    Many of the free and open tools, such as the GNU collection, could run on lots of the commercial releases as well. And that's before considering the UCB code. By '93 the BSDs were entering the scene as well.

    And lets not forget the fact that as wonderful as Linux & *BSD were in the early 90s there was little commercial software that ran on them, and even if it did it might not have been cost effective to run things on a PC compared to what a workstation or bigger machine could do.
       

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