[TUHS] Mach for i386 / Mt Xinu or other

Dan Cross crossd at gmail.com
Wed Feb 22 11:50:45 AEST 2017


On Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 10:02 AM, Clem Cole <clemc at ccc.com> wrote:
>
> On Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 7:02 AM, Noel Chiappa <jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu>
> wrote:
>
>> So there is a question here, though, and I'm curious to see what others
>> who
>> were closer to the action think. Why _did_ Linux succeed, and not a Unix
>> derivative? (Is there any work which looks at this question? Some Linux
>> history? If not, there should be.)
>>
>
> ​I​'ve thought and written a bit about this question a bit [
> Would it be possible/advantageous to rewrite the Linux kernel in Rust when
> the language is stable?
> <https://www.quora.com/Would-it-be-possible-advantageous-to-rewrite-the-Linux-kernel-in-Rust-when-the-language-is-stable>
>  &
>  Why did Unix succeed and not Multics
> <https://www.quora.com/Why-did-Unix-succeed-and-not-Multics> ] ​
>> and I'll not repeat all of here but
> ​as one of the people that did switch from 386BSD to linux at the time,
> the reason for me was purely because of the AT&T/BSDi case.    You are
> right, I wanted a "free" (i.e. very inexpensive) UNIX for the 386 and the
> "big guns"​ were not going to give it.   I thought we had it the 386 port
> BSD which I had helped in a small way to create.
>
> ​But I like, most hackers of the day, misunderstood incorrectly​ the case
> to be about *trade secret *and the all based around the 1956 consent
> decree, IBM vs AT&T; telephones and the computers. I was worried AT&T
> would win because it was going to hard to cleaim that that the BSD code was
> not a derivative work of the AT&T *copyright code base *(not
> understanding the *trade secret*  and the  *copyright* difference
> mattered).
>
> So...I switched to Linux *not because I thought it was "better"* - in
> fact, I b*tched (and still do) about many gratuitous differences, but as I
> knew that we needed something for "consumer" HW (which was bring driven by
> the WINTEL economics), and I was willing to use the "lessor" technology
> (Linux) because it was "good enough" and gave me what I needed (UNIX on a
> PC/386).  I thought (incorrectly) somehow original Linux's European
> authorship was going to protect me and my fellow hackers ever though it was
> not as good as my beloved BSD system.
>
> Simple put - using Christiansen's theories:  Linux "won" because:
>
>    - it was "good enough",
>    - had a lot of people behind it that valued that was there and
>    invested in making it "better", and
>    - the economics of the platform (PC/386 - WINTEL etc) was on the
>    fastest grow curve [and its Christiansen's economic disruption was
>    displacing the Mini & Workstation].
>
>
> BTW: at the time, I argued with the Roger Gourd and the OSF folks, that if
> they released (sold) the OSF/1 RI uK which had not AT&T technology in it
> (again thinking Copyright not Trade Secret); I was suggesting $100/copy
> there was a market for it.  I just could not get them interested.
>
> Sun has done the RoadRunner and had their 386 port of Solaris; but again.
> All the "UNIX" folks were still interested in pushing out "iron" so were
> blind to the WINTEL economic disruption.
>
> Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda .... sigh
>

If I may, I think there was an additional thing at play: Linux was
essentially Unix.

Linux "won" because people wanted low-cost or free (as in gratis) Unix with
source that could run on modest commodity hardware, and Unix wasn't
available at a price point that was reasonable for most individuals
(certainly not with source). The people working on successor systems
weren't trying to reinvent Unix: they were working on new systems that
weren't Unix, but that's not what people wanted: Unix was good enough and
people were familiar and comfortable with it and that's what they wanted.
So Linux comes along and it's basically a "simplest possible solution"
Unix, freely available, runs on a PC, comes with source, and wasn't mired
in a lawsuit brought by a major US company. It was the right thing in the
right place at the right time.

I think there's a network effect that blinds a lot of folks to this
reality. Most of the folks on this list had access to Unix source and, with
no disrespect intended, it's easy to lose sight of what a big deal that
was. But unless you were in a position to already have access to it, it was
remarkably difficult to come by. Linux filled a gap that a lot of people
were looking to have filled.

        - Dan C.
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