[TUHS] Troff to ps

John Gilmore gnu at toad.com
Thu Jan 28 13:19:59 AEST 2021

Clem Cole <clemc at ccc.com> wrote:
> Actually  It was very cheap. $5 a copy if I remember correctly

We may both be right.  The AT&T license to sell binary copies of UNIX
might have cost Sun only $5 per copy.  Microsoft's Xenix license was
similar; it probably got down to $1 or 50c per copy.  The price per copy
went steeply down as you sold more copies; the licenses soaked the small
sellers and catered to the large volume sellers.  After all, it cost
AT&T *nothing* for a company to sell twice or ten times as many copies;
they weren't supporting the software anyway.

As I recall, when Microsoft supplied the OS for the TRS-80 Model 16,
they blew the doors off all the tiers in their UNIX license.  The 16B
sold 40,000 copies in 1984 (according to Wikipedia), making it the
highest volume UNIX computer of the year.  Clueless monopolist business
people at AT&T had never anticipated that ANYBODY would sell 40,000
copies of UNIX.  Remember when IBM estimated in 1943, "I think there is
a world market for maybe five computers" and DEC in 1977 said "There is
no reason anyone would want a computer in their home"?  See:


After the first few years, Sun was shipping high volumes of UNIX systems
(tens or hundreds of thousands per year).  For many years they didn't
need any of the later USL licenses, because they shipped a BSD UNIX that
they were maintaining themselves, and that was (in many peoples'
opinions) higher quality software than anything that USL was offering.
The licensing for the ancient 32V license they needed was written back
in the days when shipping 100 copies was a big deal, so the prices at
the 1,000 or 10,000 or 100,000 copy tiers were very cheap.  Adding 1c to
ship ditroff rather than troff might have been reasonable, but not $5!


More information about the TUHS mailing list