I was wondering if anyone close to Early Unix and Bell Labs would offer some comments on the
evolution of Unix and the quality of decisions made by AT&T senior managers.
Tom Wolfe did an interesting piece on Fairchild / Silicon Valley,
where he highlights the difference between SV’s management style
and the “East Coast” Management style.
[ Around 2000, “Silicon Valley” changed from being ‘chips & hardware’ to ’software’ & systems ]
[ with chip making, every new generation / technology step resets competition, monopolies can’t be maintained ]
[ Microsoft showed that Software is the opposite. Vendor Lock-in & monopolies are common, even easy for aggressive players ]
Noyce & Moore ran Fairchild Semiconductor, but Fairchild Camera & Instrument was ‘East Coast’
or “Old School” - extracting maximum profit.
It seems to me, an outsider, that AT&T management saw how successful Unix was
and decided they could apply their size, “marketing knowhow” and client lists
to becoming a big player in Software & Hardware.
This appears to be the reason for the 1984 divestiture.
In another decade, they gave up and got out of Unix.
Another decade on, AT&T had one of the Baby Bells, SBC, buy it.
SBC had understood the future growth markets for telephony was “Mobile”
and instead of “Traditional” Telco pricing, “What the market will bear” p[lus requiring Gross Margins over 90%,
SBC adopted more of a Silicon Valley pricing approach - modest Gross Margins
and high “pass through” rates - handing most/all cost reductions onto customers.
If you’re in a Commodity market, passing on cost savings to customers is “Profit Maximising”.
It isn’t because Commodity markets are highly competitive, but Volumes drive profit,
and lower prices stimulate demand / Volumes. [ Price Elasticity of Demand ]
Kenneth Flamm has written a lot on “Pass Through” in Silicon Chip manufacture.
Just to close the loop, Bells Labs, around 1966, hired Fred Terman, ex-Dean of Stanford,
to write a proposal for “Silicon Valley East”.
The AT&T management were fully aware of California and perhaps it was a long term threat.
How could they replicate in New Jersey the powerhouse of innovation that was happening in California?
Many places in many countries looked at this and a few even tried.
Apparently South Korea is the only attempt that did reasonably.
I haven’t included links, but Gordon Bell, known for formulating a law of computer ‘classes’,
did forecast early that MOS/CMOS chips would overtake Bipolar - used by Mainframes - in speed.
It gave a way to use all those transistors on a chip that Moore’s Law would provide,
and with CPU’s in a few, or one, chip, the price of systems would plummet.
He forecast the cutover in 1985 and was right.
The MIPS R2000 blazed past every other chip the year it was released.
And of course, the folk at MIPS understood that building their own O/S, tools, libraries etc
was a fool’s errand - they had Unix experience and ported a version.
By 1991, IBM was almost the Last Man Standing of the original 1970’s “IBM & the BUNCH”,
and their mainframe revenues collapsed. In 1991 and 1992, IBM racked up the largest
corporate losses in US history to the time, then managed to survive.
Linux has, in my mind, proven the original mid-1970’s position of CSRC/1127
that Software has to be ‘cheap’, even ‘free’
- because it’s a Commodity and can be ’substituted’ by others.
1956 - AT&T / IBM Consent decree: 'no computers, no software’
1974 - CACM article, CSRC/1127 in Software Research, no commercial Software allowed
1984 - AT&T divested, doing commercial Software & Computers
1994 - AT&T Sells Unix
1996 - “Tri-vestiture", Bell Labs sold to Lucent, some staff to AT&T Research.
2005 - SBC buys AT&T, long-lines + 4 baby bells
1985 - MIPS R2000, x2 throughput at same clock speed. Faster than bipolar, CMOS CPU's soon overtook ECL
John Lions wrote the first, and perhaps only, literary criticism of Unix, sparking one of open source's first legal battles.
November 30, 1999
"By the time the seventh edition system came out, the company had begun to worry more about the intellectual property issues and trade secrets and so forth," Ritchie explains.
"There was somewhat of a struggle between us in the research group who saw the benefit in having the system readily available,
and the Unix Support Group ...
Even though in the 1970s Unix was not a commercial proposition,
USG and the lawyers were cautious.
At any rate, we in research lost the argument."
This awkward situation lasted nearly 20 years.
Even as USG became Unix System Laboratories (USL) and was half divested to Novell,
which in turn sold it to the Santa Cruz Operation (SCO),
Ritchie never lost hope that the Lions books could see the light of day.
He leaned on company after company.
"This was, after all, 25-plus-year-old material, but when they would ask their lawyers,
they would say that they couldnt see any harm at first glance,
but there was a sort of 'but you never know ...' attitude, and they never got the courage to go ahead," he explains.
Finally, at SCO [ by July 1996 ], Ritchie hit paydirt.
He already knew Mike Tilson, an SCO executive.
With the help of his fellow Unix gurus Peter Salus and Berny Goodheart, Ritchie brought pressure to bear.
"Mike himself drafted a 'grant of permission' letter," says Ritchie,
"'to save the legal people from doing the work!'"
Research, at last, had won.
Tom Wolfe, Esquire, 1983, on Bob Noyce:
The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce | Esquire | DECEMBER 1983.webarchive
IEEE Spectrum Magazine
Robert W. Lucky (Bob Lucky)
Why does place matter? Why does it matter where we live and work today when the world is so connected that we're never out of touch with people or information?
The problem is, even if they get da Vinci, it won't work.
There's just something special about Florence, and it doesn't travel.
Just as in this century many places have tried to build their own Silicon Valley.
While there have been some successes in
Research Triangle Park, Austin, and
Cambridge in the U.K.,
to name a few significant places, most attempts have paled in comparison to the Bay Area prototype.
In the mid-1960s New Jersey brought in Fred Terman, the Dean at Stanford and architect of Silicon Valley, and commissioned him to start a Silicon Valley East.
[ Terman reited from Stanford in 1965 ]
Steve Jenkin, IT Systems and Design
0412 786 915 (+61 412 786 915)
PO Box 38, Kippax ACT 2615, AUSTRALIA
[TUHS to Bcc]
On Wed, Feb 1, 2023 at 3:23 PM Douglas McIlroy
> > In the annals of UNIX gaming, have there ever been notable games that have operated as multiple processes, perhaps using formal IPC or even just pipes or shared files for communication between separate processes
> I don't know any Unix examples, but DTSS (Dartmouth Time Sharing
> System) "communication files" were used for the purpose. For a fuller
> story see https://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~doug/DTSS/commfiles.pdf
Interesting. This is now being discussed on the Multicians list (which
had a DTSS emulator! Done for use by SIPB). Warren Montgomery
discussed communication files under DTSS for precisely this kind of
thing; apparently he had a chess program he may have run under them.
Barry Margolin responded that he wrote a multiuser chat program using
them on the DTSS system at Grumman.
Margolin suggests a modern Unix-ish analogue may be pseudo-ttys, which
came up here earlier (I responded pointing to your wonderful note
> > This is probably a bit more Plan 9-ish than UNIX-ish
> So it was with communication files, which allowed IO system calls to
> be handled in userland. Unfortunately, communication files were
> complicated and turned out to be an evolutionary dead end. They had
> had no ancestral connection to successors like pipes and Plan 9.
> Equally unfortunately, 9P, the very foundation of Plan 9, seems to
> have met the same fate.
I wonder if there was an analogy to multiplexed files, which I admit
to knowing very little about. A cursory glance at mpx(2) on 7th
Edition at least suggests some surface similarities.
- Dan C.
So I've been studying the Interdata 32-bit machines a bit more closely lately and I'm wondering if someone who was there at the time has the scoop on what happened to them. The Wikipedia article gives some good info on their history but not really anything about, say, failed follow-ons that tanked their market, significant reasons for avoidance, or anything like that. I also find myself wondering why Bell didn't do anything with the Interdata work after springboarding further portability efforts while several other little streams, even those unreleased like the S/370 and 8086 ports seemed to stick around internally for longer. Were Interdata machines problematic in some sort of way, or was it merely fate, with more popular minis from DEC simply spacing them out of the market? Part of my interest too comes from what influence the legacy of Interdata may have had on Perkin-Elmer, as I've worked with Perkin-Elmer analytical equipment several times in the chemistry-side of my career and am curious if I was ever operating some vague descendent of Interdata designs in the embedded controllers in say one of my mass specs back when.
- Matt G.
P.S. Looking for more general history hence COFF, but towards a more UNIXy end, if there's any sort of missing scoop on the life and times of the Bell Interdata 8/32 port, for instance, whether it ever saw literally any production use in the System or was only ever on the machines being used for the portability work, I'm sure that could benefit from a CC to TUHS if that history winds up in this thread.
I don't know if a thousand users ever logged in there at one time, but
they do tend to have a lot of simultaneous logins.
On Mon, Mar 13, 2023 at 6:16 PM Peter Pentchev <roam(a)ringlet.net> wrote:
> On Wed, Mar 08, 2023 at 02:52:43PM -0500, Dan Cross wrote:
> > [bumping to COFF]
> > On Wed, Mar 8, 2023 at 2:05 PM ron minnich <rminnich(a)gmail.com> wrote:
> > > The wheel of reincarnation discussion got me to thinking:
> > > The evolution of platforms like laptops to becoming full distributed systems continues.
> > > The wheel of reincarnation spins counter clockwise -- or sideways?
> > About a year ago, I ran across an email written a decade or more prior
> > on some mainframe mailing list where someone wrote something like,
> > "wow! It just occurred to me that my Athlon machine is faster than the
> > ES/3090-600J I used in 1989!" Some guy responded angrily, rising to
> > the wounded honor of IBM, raving about how preposterous this was
> > because the mainframe could handle a thousand users logged in at one
> > time and there's no way this Linux box could ever do that.
> > For that matter, a
> > thousand users probably _could_ telnet into the Athlon system. With
> > telnet in line mode, it'd probably even be decently responsive.
> sdf.org (formerly sdf.lonestar.org) comes to mind...
> Peter Pentchev roam(a)ringlet.net roam(a)debian.org pp(a)storpool.com
> PGP key: http://people.FreeBSD.org/~roam/roam.key.asc
> Key fingerprint 2EE7 A7A5 17FC 124C F115 C354 651E EFB0 2527 DF13
Howdy folks, I wanted to get some thoughts and experiences with regards to what sort of EOL handling of mainframe/mini hardware was typical. Part of this is to inform what and where to look for old hardware things.
So the details may differ with era, but what I'm curious about is back in the day, when a mainframe or mini was essentially decommissioned, what was more likely to be done with the central unit, and peripherals if they weren't forward compatible with that user's new system.
Were machines typically offloaded for money to smaller ops, or was it more common to simply dispose of/recycle components? As a more pointed example, if you worked in a shop that had IBM S/3x0, PDPs, larger 3B hardware, when those fell out of use, what was the protocol for getting rid of it? Were most machines "disposed of" in a complete way, or was it very typical to parts it out first, meaning most machines that reached EOL simply don't exist anymore, they weren't moved as a unit, rather, they're any number of independent parts floating around anywhere from individual collections to slowly decaying in a landfill somewhere.
My fear is that the latter was more common, as that's what I've seen in my lab days; old instrumentation wasn't just auctioned off or otherwise gotten rid of complete, we'd typically parts the things out resulting in a chassis and some of the paneling going in one waste stream, unsalvageable parts like burnt out boards going in another, and anything reusable like ribbon cables and controller boards being stashed to replace parts on their siblings in the lab. I dunno if this is apples to oranges though because the main instruments I'm thinking of, the HP/Agilent 5890, 6890, and 7890 series, had different lifespan expectations than computing systems had, and share a lot more of the under the hood components like solenoids and gas tubing systems, so that may not be a good comparison, just the closest one I have from my own personal experience.
- Matt G.
Hi all, I'm looking for a 16-bit big-endian Unix-like development
environment with a reasonably new C compiler and a symbolic debugger.
And/or, a libc with source code suitable for a 16-bit big-endian environment.
Rationale: I've designed and built a 6809 single board computer (SBC) with
8K ROM, 2K I/O space for a UART and block storage, and 56K RAM. It's a
big-endian platform and the C compiler has 16-bit ints by default. I've
been able to take the filesystem code from XV6 and get it to fit into
the ROM with a hundred bytes spare. The available Unix-like system calls are:
dup, read, write, close, fstat, link,
unlink, open, mkdir, chdir, exit, spawn
and the spawn is like exec(). There is no fork() and no multitasking.
I've got many of the existing XV6 userland programs to run along with a
small shell that can do basic redirection.
Now I'm trying to bring up a libc on the platform. I'm currently trying
the libc from FUZIX but I'm not wedded to it, so alternative libc
recommendations are most welcome.
There's no debugging environment on this SBC. I do have a simulator that
matches the hardware, but I can only breakpoint at addresses and single-step
instructions. It makes debugging pretty tedious! So I was thinking of
using an existing Unix-like platform to bring up the libc. That way, if
there are bugs, I can use an existing symbolic debugger on the platform.
I could use 2.11BSD as the dev platform but it's little-endian; I'm worried
that there might be endian issues that stop me finding bugs that will arise
on the 16-bit 6809 platform.
As for which libc: I looked at the 2.11BSD libc/include and there's so
much stuff I don't need (networking etc.) that it's hard to winnow down
to just what I need. The FUZIX libc looks good. I just came across Elks
and that might be a possible alternative. Are there others to consider?
Anyway, thanks in advance for your suggestions.
Good afternoon or whichever time of day you find yourself in. I come to you today in my search for some non-UNIX materials for a change. The following have been on my search list lately in no particular priority:
Minimal BASIC 78
Full BASIC 87
SQL (any rev)
IS0 9660 (CD FS, any rev)
ISO 5807 (Flow Charts, any rev)
PDP-11/20 Processor Handbook
(EAE manual too if it's separate)
WE32000 and family literature
GE/Honeywell mainframe and G(E)COS documents
The IBM 704 FORTRAN Manual (The -original- FORTRAN book)
The Codasyl COBOL Report (The -original- COBOL book)
Any Interdata 7 or 8/32 documentation (or other Interdata stuff really)
The Ti TMS9918 manual
The Philips "Red Book" CDDA standard
If it's part of one, the Bell System Practices Issue containing, or separately otherwise, BSP 502-503-101 (2500 and 2554 reference)
If any of these are burning a hole in your bookshelf and you'd like to sell them off, just let me know, I'll take em off your hands and make it worth your while. I'm not hurting for any of them, but rather, I see an opportunity to get things on my shelf that may facilitate expansion of some of my existing projects in new directions in the coming years.
Also, I'm in full understanding of the rarity of some of these materials and would like to stress my interest in quality reference material. Of course, that's not to dismiss legitimate valuation, rather, simply to inform that I intend to turn no profit from these materials, and wherever they wind up after their (hopefully very long) tenure in my library will likely have happened via donation.
- Matt G.
P.S. On that last note, does anyone know if a CHM registration of an artifact means they truly have a physical object in a physical archive somewhere? That's one of the sorts of things I intend to look into in however many decades fate gives me til I need to start thinking about it.
 - https://www.computerhistory.org/collections/catalog/102721523
> From: Matt G.
> PDP-11/20 Processor Handbook
> (EAE manual too if it's separate)
Yes and no. There are separate manuals for the EAE (links here:
the -B is the same to program as the -A; its implementation is just a single
board, though) but the -11/20 processor handbook (the second version; the one
dated 1972) does have a chapter (Chapter 8; Part I) on the EAE.
(For no reason I can understand, neither the -11/05 nor the -11/04 processor
handbook covers the EAE, even though neither one has the EIS, and if you need
multiply/etc in hardware on either one, the EAE is your only choice).