Universally UNIX

For $64,000, and a chance of a three-year vacation in the Bahamas, here’s your next question:  What is UNIX?

Thanks, Bob. You know I love the easy ones. Briefly, UNIX was the brainchild of  Bell Laboratories computer genius Ken Thompson. Thompson developed UNIX in 1969 on a scavenged DEC PDP-7 minicomputer as a platform for a game he had written called Space Travel. Ultimately, it became a means of testing  theories about operating system design. With the aide of Dennis Ritchie (who invented “C”) Thompson rewrote UNIX entirely in “C,” allowing it to be used on different computers. When UNIX was licensed to universities for educational purposes, recipients of the — originally free — UNIX source code began developing modified versions of the operating system. Dozens of different UNIX versions appeared in a short time, each with unique qualities, yet all sufficiently similar in character to the original design to be deemed variants of UNIX (much like French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Catalan and Romanian are all Romance languages stemming from a common Latin root). In the early 1980’s, the market for UNIX systems had grown so large that industry noticed it, and the question “What is UNIX?” transformed into “How can UNIX be used for business?” Universities, researchers, state and federal agencies, and software companies all used UNIX to develop technologies which were revolutionary at the time — computer-aided design (CAD), factory automation, computer simulations, and the Internet itself all began life with UNIX. Today, of course, UNIX is part of the infrastructure of the world; without UNIX the Internet would not function, telephone calls could not be made, and e-commerce would come to a screeching halt.

Now let’s go for the big money — lob me the predictable softball question about LINUX’s not-quite-successful bid to take over the universe and I’ll split my winnings with you. Promise.

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