[TUHS] Windows roots and Unix influence (was Re: Happy birthday, Ken Thompson!)

Angelo Papenhoff aap at papnet.eu
Sun Feb 4 19:14:35 AEST 2018

On 03/02/18, Nemo Nusquam wrote:
> On 02/03/18 19:37, Dan Cross wrote (in part):
> > The design of the original NT kernel was overseen by Dave Cutler, of VMS
> > and RSX-11M fame, and had a very strong and apparent VMS influence. Some
> > VAX wizards I know told me that they saw a lot of VMS in NT's design,
> > but that it probably wasn't as good (different design goals, etc:
> > apparently Gates wanted DOS++ and a quick time to market; Cutler wanted
> > to do a *real* OS and they compromised to wind up with VMS--).
> I recall that Cutler wanted a portable OS and had a cli version running 
> on MIPS first.  Eventually, Gates ordered a GUI "bolted on" and things 
> went bad.

You seem to be simplifying things...

Windows NT was originally called NT OS/2 and was supposed to be a 32
bit OS with OS/2 compatibility. The name "NT" comes from codename of the
processor they initially targetted, the i860 aka N-Ten.
When they got the physical hardware they were disappointed by its poor
performace and switched to MIPS instead, other ports followed.
When the Windows GUI became more and more popular (at the expense of
OS/2), they renamed it to Windows NT, but still shipped it with the OS/2
subsystem. The other subsystems were Win32 (an updated version of the
original 16 bit Windows API for the NT kernel) and POSIX.
None of these APIs is native to NT, they're implemented on top of it.
I think only at boot you can run code that uses the NT API directly.

At some point they moved some graphical things into the kernel that were
in user space originally (I don't know what exactly), this was done for
performance reasons. Perhaps that's what you meant with the "bolted on"


More information about the TUHS mailing list