[TUHS] What UNIX Artifacts Are Still Missing?

Jason Stevens jsteve at superglobalmegacorp.com
Thu Dec 7 16:14:30 AEST 2017

I know in ’87 Microsoft was working on ‘Football’ (http://www.os2museum.com/wp/playing-football/) which was what would eventually ship as OS/2 2.0, and Windows/386 launched in 1987, for the Compaq deskpro 386, and a NEC 386 model.  I see that VP/IX was announced in 1986, with a ship date for 87 as well (https://books.google.com.hk/books?id=C5n2J7iQenwC&pg=PA13&lpg=PA13&dq=VP/IX+emulation+1987&source=bl&ots=4XABChXAMZ&sig=65eY7UV3UVjiji5mK8ZWrxFAc6k&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiZkqO6nffXAhULlJQKHXJlADkQ6AEIJzAA#v=onepage&q=VP%2FIX%20emulation%201987&f=false)

Not to mention products like VM/386 on the PC front.  The hypervisor market was pretty hot, but I guess the price of RAM basically cooled things off pretty quickly.

I had recently bought a copy of Citrix MULTIUSER 2.0 and it’s kind of weird trying to bring terminal functionality to OS/2.

Its funny how NT had a POSIX subsystem that really wasn’t much good for anything other than tar & vi, and decided that if the implementation was too strong nobody would write Win32 apps (much like what happened to OS/2).  Meanwhile a massive ecosystem built around Linux grew that they were unable to get people to use natively.

From: Clem Cole
Sent: Thursday, 7 December 2017 1:16 AM
To: Paul Ruizendaal
Cc: tuhs at minnie.tuhs.org
Subject: Re: [TUHS] What UNIX Artifacts Are Still Missing?

On Wed, Dec 6, 2017 at 9:33 AM, Paul Ruizendaal <pnr at planet.nl> wrote:
lthough Xenix predates Venix, I'm not sure it predates it on PC hardware. 
​It really depends how you count.   I was there at time when AT&T was negotiating the replacement for the V7 license with 10 of us (the 10 firms included Microsoft - the only time I can say I was in the room with Willy G. - but that's another story)​.  This work would become the System III license.

​Xenix, which was V7 based originally, was target for the generic 8086 systems (as well as PDP-11, 68K and Z8000) but the Intel support was generic so it included the PC.   The bigger problem is that it really wanted a hard disk, which made its target a 'high end' computer in those days.  Running on a floppy was sort of possible (besides slow, it tended to wear out the oxide in the center of the disk where the superblock and i-list was storied from all r/w - I used to have an 8" floppy sans case hanging in my office).  

But that said, the V7 based license was terrible for a 'small value system' and I'm not sure Microsoft shipped much against it.   That was the primary reason they wanted to a new license [Gate's line at the time: 'You guys don't get it.  The only thing that matters is volume.'].   So until the System III license, which is what Xenix 2.0 and later shipped, I don't think Microsoft really had much presence.  But at that time, Microsoft [via Bob Greenburg a founder and the only one of Gates roommates at Harvard to graduate btw] was trying to a UNIX porting house, similar to HCR.   That had been the original vision of Xenix, they would OEM the SW to other firms that build HW, just like they did for BASIC and were beginning to do for FORTRAN and COBOL.

As you point out, other firms such as ISC, HCR and Locus appeared on the scene as more UNIX knowledgeable.   I also think IBM already had placed big bets on Microsoft for DOS and BASIC, so they wanted to spread the risk a little which is why ISC got the original UNIX for the PC HW deal.   Once Microsoft had Xenix stable, IBM was already their customer so selling Xenix on IBM was a secondary issue.

For a little more on the history front; my former boss, Phill Shevrin, who would later switch from ISC to Locus where I worked for him, pulled what I always thought was one of the great tricks of salesmanship in the UNIX business.  When he was at ISC, he sold for $1.5M a 'port' to the 386 of System III to each of IBM, AT&T and Intel.   He got paid three times for same work and got to sell the result as their own product when they were done.

Also, from a historical standpoint, I hope we do have the ISC 386 code base - that was the first of the 32-bit linear UNIX ports for the x86 systems.  The other thing that we should try to find is the Phoenix Tech VP/IX code base and the Locus Merge Code base.   These were the first VM/hypervisors.  They ran in PC/IX 386 and allowed Windows to run under it, long before VMware existed.


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