The 1980s Research Unix Editions Are Now Available for Study


In 2002 Caldera International licensed the source code distribution of several historic Unix editions. This included all Research Unix editions up to the Seventh Edition, but excluded the 1980s 8th, 9th, and 10th Edition. This was unfortunate, because these editions pioneered or implemented several features that were very advanced at the time, such as streams inter-process communication, graphics terminals and the associated Sam text editor, network filesystems, and graphics typesetting tools.

Yesterday Alcatel-Lucent USA Inc. issued a statement on behalf of itself and Nokia Bell Laboratories agreeing not to assert its copyright rights with respect to any non-commercial copying, distribution, performance, display or creation of derivative works of Research Unix Editions 8, 9, and 10. Although this is not an open source license, it’s still important, because it makes the material available for study and markedly improves its preservation chances. If you think that digital preservation of important stuff is easy, note that some early 1970s Unix editions are no longer available in digital form and have been (partially) resurrected by scanning old printouts.

The 8th, 9th, and 10th Editions have already been made available on the The Unix Heritage Society (TUHS) archives. I’m also working to incorporate this code into the Unix history Git repository.

In the words of Warren Toomey, the spirit behind TUHS, this release of copyrighted material has required “heroic efforts by numerous people over many years”. The illustrious individuals who lobbied for it include Dennis Ritchie (who’s no longer with us), Ken Thompson, Doug McIlroy, Brian Kernighan, Rob Pike, Russ Cox, Norman Wilson, Peter Salus, and Martin Carroll. Thank you all!

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Last modified: Tuesday, March 28, 2017 5:05 pm

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