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The origin of Unix

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Misc

Almost everyone thinks that Unix originated with Thomson, Ritchie, and others at Bell Labs in 1969/70, and that's correct but not true. They wrote the first code, originated many of the technologies in Unix, enunciated key design ideas we're still exploring today, and demonstrated the effectiveness of the community and user centric ideas characterising the best in open source today - but they did not invent Unix.

Unix is (trademarks and legal stuff aside) a set of ideas and the products we think of as Unix merely implement some subset of those ideas.

The key ideas are hard to delimit, and correspondingly hard to trace over time - but we can trace the application of some of them to computers to a long running argument that took place predominantly at MIT during the late 1950s and early sixties.

On one side were the people who saw in computing the opportunity to replace people. Backed by IBM, and mostly from the data processing tradition, these people saw the payoff for digital computing predominantly in terms of using computers to do things humans can do, but do them faster, for less money, and more accurately.

On the other side were the people who saw computers as extending human abilities - particularly in terms of computation, memory, and communications or community.

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