[TUHS] Happy birthday, Dennis Ritchie! [ really sun vs dec/apollo --> X and NeWS ]

Steve Johnson scj at yaccman.com
Wed Sep 13 06:15:43 AEST 2017

Funny.  From the outside I had a rather different view of why Sun was

In 1986 I came to CA to work for what became Ardent/Stardent.  We
made the decision to go with Sun disc-less workstations.  They got us
more computing power, on paper, for less $$.

Roughly a quarter of the machines shipped to us were DOA.  When we
got them running, the OS had a memory leak and needed to be rebooted
several times a day.  The NFS server had the delightful property of
sometimes inserting 1024 zeros into a file it was writing or
serving.    (It was so bad that we hacked the OS to check every
executable for 0-blocks in the instruction space and refuse to run
it.  This was especially true for the MIPS cross compiler -- 0 was a
NOP on the MIPS, and encountering a block of zeros caused execution to
slide down a slippery slope of NOPs into the middle of some other
routine with a different stack layout, where it proceeded to do the
most mysterious things...)

We would go out to lunch every day and trash talk Sun up one side and
down the other.  And then we would go back to work and order more
GIVE IT TO US.  The other manufacturers were selling application
delivery vehicles rather than attempting to support software
development.  Eventually we ironed out many of the issues (often by
changing or hacking the code).  The only fly in the ointment was the
service department.  Dealing with Sun customer service was like
spitting into the wind.  We would report the same bug every week and
they swore the bug had not been reported before.  The memory leak
problem became so serious that we told them that we would only renew
the service agreement if they would put a date when that would be
fixed.  They refused to do so, and we canceled the service contract,
bought a couple of extra Suns for spares, and heaved a sigh of relief.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Jon Steinhart" <jon at fourwinds.com>
To:<tuhs at tuhs.org>
Sent:Tue, 12 Sep 2017 08:35:24 -0700
Subject:Re: [TUHS] Happy birthday, Dennis Ritchie! [ really sun vs
dec/apollo --> X and NeWS ]

 arnold at skeeve.com writes:
 > In particular, the creation of NFS and then the efforts to make it
 > a de-facto standard (giving away the RPC and XDR code) was a HUGE
 > They weren't afraid to swim upstream, either. Even though NeWS
never took
 > off (even when combined with an X server), it was an interesting
 > ahead of its time even.

 It's interesting that you mention the two of these together. It's my
 opinion that the main reason that NeWS failed was because of the
 of NFS.

 I recall that Apollo was really pissed off by NFS because they felt
 their token-ring network was better but lost because NFS was given
 In hindsight, they were wrong; while the token-ring performed better
 large networks, the advent of switches made that moot. In any case,
 NeWS was released nobody except Sun knew how to do the graphics (even
 Adobe didn't know how to do it fast for display) and Apollo et. al.
 worried that Sun would give NeWS away and make it yet another de
 standard a la NFS. This led to the formation of the Hamilton Group
 was a thinly-disguised industry consortium that existed only for the
 purpose of making sure that NeWS didn't succeed.

 > DEC, IBM, and HP, all seemed to be playing follow the leader to Sun
 > many years.

 I mentioned this to a lot of people after Sun died. Few seem to
 how much of what became PC manufacturing technology resulted from
 at Sun.

 ron at ronnatalie.com writes:
 > NeWS had serious issues. However, the same guy who was the NeWS
 > learned from mistakes and the result was the must more successful
 > tehnology: JAVA.

 I'm going to take issue with the above. NeWS had way fewer serious
 than X. It's main reason for failure was the coordinated effort to
kill it
 from others in the industry. As the guy who single-handedly prevented
 from becoming an ANSI standard, I'd be happy to start another thread
 this topic if people are interested. Part of the result of the
 Group effort was the misguided attempt to merge X and NeWS which was
 botched disaster.

 Java is not the result of learning from mistakes in NeWS. I have
joked with
 James that I feel that his legacy is being the person who first
realizes that
 technology is changing to the point where something can be done using
 interpreter. If you look at his project history, he's done this many
 I think that it's more accurate to say that Java is the result of a
 of learning from interpreter projects. I fully expect some new
 to take over AWS sometime soon :-)


-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://minnie.tuhs.org/pipermail/tuhs/attachments/20170912/5d44e60c/attachment.html>

More information about the TUHS mailing list