[TUHS] Windows roots and Unix influence (was Re: Happy birthday, Ken Thompson!)

Michael Kjörling michael at kjorling.se
Tue Feb 6 07:19:23 AEST 2018

On 5 Feb 2018 14:43 -0500, from paul.winalski at gmail.com (Paul Winalski):
> This architecture eventually ended up
> being called Alpha.  The east coast won the political battle.  PRISM
> and MICA were cancelled.

Out of curiosity, when was this? Obviously it's later than "the
mid-to-late 1980s", but more precisely than that?

> After PRISM was cancelled, Dave Cutler left DEC and went to Microsoft
> as architect for their new OS.  Under the covers, the original Windows
> NT looked a lot like MICA, VAXeln, and VMS before it.  Not surprising
> since they shared the same designer.  Like MICA, Windows NT was
> microkernel-based, with OS personality modules layered on top.  There
> were two of these originally:  Win32 and POSIX.  Microsoft and Intel
> were having a little lover's quarrel at the time--Intel didn't like
> Microsoft's forays into the hardware side of things with Xbox and the
> like; Microsoft wasn't pleased by Intel doing its own compilers, etc.
> This led to Microsoft porting Windows NT to both PowerPC and Alpha.
> Neither port caught on in the marketplace.

Honestly, I think you've got the timeline mixed up. Wikipedia puts the
Xbox introduction in 2001, which sounds about right to me. Designing
the core of the original Windows NT would be about a decade before
that, maybe a little earlier still, around 1990-ish. Around 1990 in
terms of game consoles was the Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive
(A.K.A. Sega Genesis), which the original Xbox was definitely _not_
contemporary with. I _think_ (but could certainly be mistaken about
this) that Windows 2000 ("NT 5") was the release that dropped several
non-Intel architectures; I'm _almost_ certain that NT 4 shipped with a
bunch of versions on the same installation CD, and believe that those
included both PowerPC and Alpha.

Also, I think the original NT "personality modules" included OS/2 (but
without Presentation Manager, the OS/2 GUI, so it only supported
text-mode OS/2 applications). The way I recall it, the OS/2 module was
a first-class citizen in NT 3.x, relegated to second-class citizen
status in NT 4.0 (it was there, but you had to jump through some hoops
to get it installed), and dropped with 5.0/2000.

Michael Kjörling • https://michael.kjorling.semichael at kjorling.se
  “The most dangerous thought that you can have as a creative person
              is to think you know what you’re doing.” (Bret Victor)

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