[TUHS] System Economics (was is Linux "officially branded UNIX")

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Thu Mar 16 06:08:04 AEST 2017

BTW Josh, I am trying to be respectful here.  I suspect you are tad younger
I am and your early introduction into UNIX was on the WINTEL platform, not
on the DEC systems like mine.  So, if I'm going to make a guess you were
not in a position when you were introduced to be able to get access to the

So in your experience the UNIX source were closed to you personally (and
many others).  I get that.   But it does not change the fact it, there were
available and there open and were not a secret.   Which was very different
from many of "closed" systems (says Cisco, or much of the other
infrastructure) of the day.  They always have been.  Even System V.

It was quite easy to get source if you were willing (and could pay).   I'm
not suggesting that it was easy for you could and I understand that
frustration.  I personally would not have been able to pay for the
licenses, but I was being employed by firms that could and valued my
abilities, so they did.  This was also true for many educational

Sun and DEC actually were quite liberal with their source licenses, because
AT&T had been.  They had to be also - because their customer required it.

The point is there is a difference between "open" and "free."   There are a
lot of things that are open and we can look at but not touch or have the
wearwithall to modify.  But that does not change their openness - we can
still (and do) learn from them.

Linus and many of us learned because UNIX (the ideas) and the basic
implementations were open.  We talked about them, they were well specified.
  We wrote application that relied on those ideas, APIs etc.   And Linus,
Andy Tannenbaum and Plaguer before them reimplemented those ideas and
created clones.   *Unix was and is "open" and the implementations were and
are available.*   The problem for many is the price to look at the
implementations - that I grant. And for many, for some of those
implementations, can be high.  But it does not make them "closed."

The effect may seem that way to you, but it was not and is not the same.
All, I'm asking you to say, is that traditional UNIX implementations such
as System V were not "Free and Open," unlike Linux some of the other Unix
clones.  And that make all the difference.

They were and still are open.

On Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 3:28 PM, Josh Good <pepe at naleco.com> wrote:

> On 2017 Mar 14, 21:11, Clem Cole wrote:
> >
> > My point is that you (and many others)  equate "open" and "free" - I ask
> > you to please not make that error.   Open means we can talk about it and
> > share it, see it.  Which is exactly what we did "back in the day".  But
> as
> > people pointed out you had to pay AT&T to be a member of the UNIX club if
> > you were commercial, although any University type could be apart for
> free.
> What UNIX for PC in the '90s had the option to buy a source code license
> for that specific version, so that PC hackers could write drivers for
> their hardware and tune the kernel internals to their liking, or be able
> to fix themselves a bug in the serial port driver, etc.?
> Certainly not OpenServer, not UnixWare nor SCO Xenix. Did DELL Unix
> offered a payware source code license for their product? I'm not aware
> of such.
> From System V onwards, UNIX became closed source in what matters, that
> is, the version running on your hardware and the version with the drivers
> you are using (unless you were an employee at IBM, DEC, HP or SUN running
> propietary hardware and happened to be in the right group).
> It is obvious to me that RMS's GNU movement was aimed at solving that
> very problem. And if that was a problem, then the "UNIX openness" you
> talk about does not seem to have been very practical at all. At least,
> it was totally useless to PC hackers, like Linus Torvalds - he had to
> write his own UNIX, because he was not able to get any UNIX source code
> he could readily compile and run on his i386.
> --
> Josh Good
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