[TUHS] pre-UNIX legacy in UNIX?

Grant Taylor gtaylor at tnetconsulting.net
Wed Dec 20 04:21:26 AEST 2017

On 12/18/2017 11:00 PM, Nigel Williams wrote:
> I blundered today into the GECOS field in /etc/passwd:
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gecos_field
> "Some early Unix systems at Bell Labs used GECOS machines for print
> spooling and various other services,[3] so this field was added to
> carry information on a user's GECOS identity."

Was the GECOS field meant to be consumed by a computer or human?

All the descriptions I've seen about the GECOS field made me think that 
it was for human friendly information [1] and not really machine parsable.

So, was there some sort of ID in the GECOS field in a users /etc/passwd 
entry that was then used by the GECOS machine / OS to identify the user?

Or is my (complete) ignorance of GECOS (OS) showing that I'm not aware 
of something about user IDs on GECOS (OS)?

> I had forgotten about this field and I don't recall it being
> previously described as related to GECOS (I likely didn't take note at
> the time I first encountered it).

I had often wondered why it was called "GECOS", but had never really 
given it any thought as it seemed logical to have something to store the 
users contact information somewhere convenient and easily accessible by 
all applications.  Thus the /etc/passwd file seemed like a logical choice.

Now I wonder if we are using the GECOS field to store the same data as 
years ago?  Or did we re-purpose the now unneeded GECOS to store name, 
address, office phone number, home phone, etc?

I never knew about GECOS (OS) to put two and two together.


Grant. . . .
unix || die

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