[TUHS] Why Linux not another PC/UNIX [was Mach for i386 ...]

John Labovitz johnl at johnlabovitz.com
Fri Feb 24 15:31:56 AEST 2017

> On Feb 21, 2017, at 9:56 PM, Steve Nickolas <usotsuki at buric.co> wrote:
> On Tue, 21 Feb 2017, Clem Cole wrote:
>> See my comment to Dan. I fear you may not have known where to look, or whom
>> to ask.​ As I asked Dan,  were you not at an university at time? Or where
>> you running a Sun or the like -- i.e. working with real UNIX but working
>> for someone with binary license, not sources from AT&T (and UCB)?
> No, and no.  I was in high school, actually, and I only attended college - a local 2-year school - for one semester before dropping out because I couldn't handle it.

Apologies for the late response, but just wanted to chime in to say that I, too, was in a position similar to Steve’s.

As a teenager around 1982, I’d been fortunate enough to sneak my way onto the ARPAnet (via a DOD TAC dialup in DC), and had wrangled accounts on MIT-CCC (a V6 machine) and Brookhaven National Lab (V7 on an 11/44). I believe both machines had source (CCC definitely did), and I enjoyed perusing the code.

Instead of going to college, I moved west to the Bay Area, and no longer had local dialup access to the ARPAnet (not to mention Unix source code), so moved over to UUCP. I ported the UUCP/NNTP code to Mac OS (classic, not OS X) using the Lightspeed C compiler, splurged on a Telebit Trailblazer, and somehow convinced some very kind person at MIPS to call my modem in Sonoma County once an hour. For a time, I think I had the only Mac-based UUCP node — sly.graton.ca.us. I still regret not releasing my port.

At some point there in the late eighties, I had the bright idea to start a small Unix ISP, and bought (with too many $$$) what I recall was an ESIX system, on a big 386 tower. I remember SVR4 (?) feeling pretty corporate and sterile, and there definitely was no source. I can’t remember why I couldn’t/didn’t buy a BSDi system — maybe too expensive? Spent too much time writing code, not enough time actually getting the ISP up, but the experience was educational.

A few years hence, I worked for O’Reilly & Associates (also in Sonoma County) on Global Network Navigator, the first commercial web publication. We had a few Sun workstations, but mostly these clunky monochrome X terminals. So the idea of Linux — a downloadable, hackable, personal, fun, almost punk-rock Unix, easily installable on a fairly generic 386 machine (once I downloaded the fifty-odd diskette images) was pretty damned appealing. And because my previous experience had been mostly V6 and V7 (with only a smattering of BSD), the supposed difference between Linux and “real Unix" felt quite minimal to me.


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