[TUHS] System Economics (was is Linux "officially branded UNIX")

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Wed Mar 15 11:11:59 AEST 2017


On Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 6:45 PM, Josh Good <pepe at naleco.com> wrote:

> In "internet lingo": UNIX closed its source, that was felt as breakage, and
> it was "routed around". Therefore, Linux.
>

​Arghhh ​..  sorry you pushed a "Clem Hot Button" -- Traditional AT&T UNIX
was always "Open Source" but it was licensed for $s however and you could
see it unless you paid to get a ticket from AT&T.  But if you did, it was
very open and if fact that is why Unix flourished.  I admit, I have found
it fascinating to hear from many of you that you did not believe it was so
easy to get access to the sources in those days, but the truth is - it was
open and because it was open, an industry was born around UNIX.   Not the
real "closed" systems of the day.

That said... the original code was never "Free and Open Source" - although
some believe it was made so (such as the UCB lawyers described here and
I'll not re-debate).   Others on this list, such as Larry, strongly believe
that IP was ripped off and have argued that.  The argument about
BSDi/386BSD/ et al is based is the "Free" part, not the "Open" part.

As I have pointed out, I switched from 386BSD to Linux because I was
worried we were going to lose access to "free" UNIX.  This is very much the
same as what happened by many other hackers in the day.  And as Larry
points out, when people like Larry, me et al started hacking, Linux
improved.   But the improvement happened *because of the economics of the
system*.

The other issue is that economics of UNIX changed.  When UNIX was
originally developed, for a University, the cost the systems was say
50-100K and the cost of Unix was at most $100.  For a firm it was $20K for
the first system and 5K for each system there after.   Expensive, but
manageable.

As for the cost of entry in a Unix system dropped to a $5-$10K for the HW
and SW together, the AT&T went up to $100K for the first system and $20K
for the second, although if got a redistribution license it could drop to
about $1K per system (BTW - that was the big fight with MSFT during the
time of the negotiation for what would become the System III license -
Gates wanted to pay $25 per CPU for Xenix and we laughed at by AT&T, DEC,
HP, IBM et al - I was in the room during that discussion in fact).

My point is that you (and many others)  equate "open" and "free" - I ask
you to please not make that error.   Open means we can talk about it and
share it, see it.  Which is exactly what we did "back in the day".  But as
people pointed out you had to pay AT&T to be a member of the UNIX club if
you were commercial, although any University type could be apart for free.
  Note the university restrictions were imposed by them (for probably good
reasons), but none the less - the code was open and >>was<< made available
at many places.

But it was not "free."  Linus chose to make make Linux free, bless him.
This single act, changed the economic potential of his "product" and in the
end, is what allowed it to expand.

But as I said, earlier today, this is right out Prof. Clay Christensen's
disruptive technology theory
<https://www.amazon.com/Innovators-Dilemma-Technologies-Management-Innovation/dp/1633691780/ref=dp_ob_title_bk>
.

Rant over....

Clem
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