September 18, 2003

It Does Not Matter, It Is In The Past

Filed under: Archives — mhoye @ 12:00 pm

From the Unix Hater’s

Chromosomes accumulate random genetic material;
this material gets happily and haphazardly copied and passed down the
generations. Once the human genome is fully mapped, we may discover
that only a few percent of it actually describes functioning humans;
the rest describes orangutans, new mutants, televangelists, and used
computer sellers.

The same is true of Unix. Despite its small beginnings, Unix accumulated
junk genomes at a tremendous pace. For example, it’s hard to find a
version of Unix that doesn’t contain drivers for a Linotronic or Imagen
typesetter, even though few Unix users even know what these machines
look like. As Olin Shivers observes, the original evolutionary pressures
on Unix have been relaxed, and the strain has gone wild.

Date: Wed, 10 Apr 91 08:31:33 EDT
From: Olin Shivers <>
Subject: Unix evolution

I was giving some thought to the general evolution (I use the term
loosely, here) of Unix since its inception at Bell Labs, and I think
it could be described as follows.

In the early PDP-11 days, Unix programs had the following design parameters:

Rule 1. It didn't have to be good, or even correct,


Rule 2. It had to be small.

Thus the toolkit approach, and so forth.

Of course, over time, computer hardware has become progressively more
powerful: processors speed up, address spaces move from 16 to 32 bits,
memory gets cheaper, and so forth.

So Rule 2 has been relaxed.

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