[TUHS] Etymology of "shell"?
Greg 'groggy' Lehey
grog at lemis.com
Sat Dec 26 11:50:29 AEST 2015
On Saturday, 26 December 2015 at 11:09:00 +1000, Warren Toomey wrote:
> So what is the etymology of the word "shell"? I see that Multics has a shell.
> What the user interface in CTSS also called a shell?
As so frequently, the Oxford English Dictionary has surprisingly good
coverage. This is a draft addition after 33 other main meaning
b. In some operating systems (originally Multics and Unix): a
program that translates commands keyed by the user into commands
that the operating system can act on, thereby providing a
high-level interface with the user. Also (more fully shell
window): a window in which such commands can be invoked.
1974 Communications Assoc. Computing Machinery 17 371/1 For most
users, communication with unix is carried on with the aid of a
program called the Shell. The Shell is a command line
That's the earliest dated reference, but the mention of Multics
matches what you said.
I've also taken a look through the sources of CTSS, and the only
mention of SHELL there was as a local variable of a function that
might be called FLSRTN (not sure I'm reading the aseembler output
correctly). That suggests that the name wasn't used for the command
interpreter. In the file com2 (which is a listing) I see things like:
1 .MAIN - MAIN CONTROL FOR COMMAND ABBREVIATION AND CHAINING PROG. 05/12/69 1512.1 PAGE 3
READ AND ASSEMBLE COMMAND LINE FROM CLS OR INPUT BUFFER.
That sounds like it could be the command interpreter, but there's no
documentation, and it's easy to misinterpret these things.
I've sent mail to Tom Van Vleck, who will be able to shed more light
Sent from my desktop computer.
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