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The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin - Ch. 10 - By Dr. Peter H. Salus
Thursday, May 26 2005 @ 06:08 AM EDT

Here is Chapter 10 of Peter Salus' serialized book, "The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin," a History of Free and Open Source, which he is publishing in installments on Groklaw under the Creative Commons license, 2.0, attribution, noncommercial, noderivatives. Here are the earlier chapters of The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin:

I thought you might care to know that Dr. Salus will be the guest speaker on June 1st, 2005 at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario Canada, at the next meeting of the Hamilton Linux User Group (HLUG). So any of you in that area have an opportunity to meet him in person.

Dr. Salus has expressed an interest in meeting everyone for dinner before the meeting from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. They need to know how many people are coming beforehand to the dinner portion, so if you plan on attending, please e-mail them at harwoodj at before May 30th. PLEASE NOTE: The actual meeting will start at approximately 8:30pm.

Some links for more information:

Official announcement.
HLUG Forum.
Greater Toronto Area Linux Users Group.
McMaster University.


The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin

~ by Peter H. Salus

Chapter 10. SUN and gcc

The company we think of as Sun Microsystems began with Andreas Bechtolsheim and some other graduate students at Stanford emulating Motorola's 68000 CPU cheaply. Stanford licensed a single board: the Stanford University Network board -- SUN.

Soon companies began licensing the board: Codata, Fortune, Dual, Cyb, Lucasfilm, and others. Machines began appearing. Each was "just another workstation" -- JAWS.

The first UNIX workstation had been the Z8000 ONYX, hardly a VAX on a chip. John Bass demo-ed it at the USENIX Conference in Boulder, CO, 29 January to 1 February 1980.

The system we took to Boulder was on three boards about 15 by 22 inches [Bass told me]. Its performance and architecture was more like a PDP-11/45 or 11/70 ... segmented memory, no paging. ... That aside, the ONYX was the first table-top system designed to run UNIX. With eight serial ports [users] and at under $25k, it made a great short-term alternative to PDP-11 UNIX systems.
But then came those JAWS -- some of them at under $10k. And all of them ran AT&T's System III or 4.1BSD.

System III was AT&T's commercial variety of V7. Though its official release date was 31 October 1981, it reached some of the purchasers earlier and the general public in 1982.

Berkeley 1 issued 4BSD in October 1980. It included a faster file system, job control, auto reboot, delivermail (soon to be renamed sendmail), and Franz Lisp. In June 1981, 4.1BSD, which had autoconfiguration and some minor improvements, was issued. Just why it was 4.1 (leading to 4.1a, 4.1b, 4.1c, 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4) is another of the silly consequences that licensing restrictions forced upon developers.

Bill Joy made a 10-day visit to DEC in early 1981, working with Armando Stettner (who had gone to DEC from Bell Labs as "a sort of UNIX ambassador") on porting 4BSD to the VAX.

We made a dump tape [Armando told me] and Bill packed up and went back to California. [Bill] Shannon and I took the disk pack and brought it up on decvax -- a 780, our main system. Bill Joy called a couple of days later and said, "Hey, there's going to be a lot of hassle with the license if we do another release. So why don't we call it 4.1BSD?"
4.1a, 4.1b, and 4.1c were all "test releases." 4.1a included TCP/IP and the socket interface and was sent to a number of ARPANET sites. 4.1b included the new "fast file system" and new networking code. It was only used on the Berkeley campus once, in a graduate OS class. 4.1c was almost 4.2BSD, lacking only the new signal facility. It was sent to about 100 sites.

System III was distributed by AT&T without source. It was the first version of UNIX to be issued that way. But those customers who were unhappy merely obtained V7 from Western Electric or used the Berkeley editions...which came with source.

The June 1982 issue of ;login: (the newsletter of the USENIX Association) carried an article headlined:

Interesting Developments:
Bill Joy of UCB moving to Sun Microsystems

Bill took a tape of 4.1cBSD with him. It became the basis for SunOS.2 4.2BSD became DEC's Ultrix.

For half-a-dozen years, improvements in BSD were incorporated into subsequent versions of SunOS. But in 1988 AT&T announced a major investment in Sun Microsystems and thereby startled the UNIX community. (Ostensibly, the purpose was to merge the AT&T and Berkeley strains of UNIX. Most saw a far darker purpose.) I'll return to this in the next chapter (11).


The GNU C Compiler (gcc) was Richard Stallman's first free software "hit." There were many C compilers available (at least four or five of them written by Whitesmiths, P.J. Plauger's software company3, but they were all proprietary. Stallman's was unencumbered -- and it worked well. (gcc now stands for GNU Compiler Collection, and comprises compilers for C, C++, Objective-C, Fortran, Java, and Ada, and a large number of libraries; a two-CD set still costs only $45.)

Remember, the USENIX community had been issuing free distribution tapes for a decade, and Rich Morin, one of the founders of the Sun User Group, had emulated this practice. When Stallman's compiler came out in 1987, Morin recognized that the hassles he had encountered in getting permissions from contributors were resolved by the GPL. And he recognized that the GPL made what he was engaged in a possible business. Morin's "service" became Prime Time Freeware.

In 1990 I became Executive Director of the Sun User Group. That December I headed for San Jose for SUG's Eighth Annual Conference and Exhibit. It was a very tense meeting. In the first few hours I was at the hotel and the Convention Center, I became aware of the fact that there were two separate (though overlapping) sets of irate users.

One of these was made up of those who had bought a Sun 386i, Sun's sole venture into the Intel world. Though it was a business failure, the decision to end support for the machine was not greeted with huzzahs. (At the "Meet the Executives" session, Ed Zander explained that Sun wasn't "abandoning" the users and that an external firm would support the 386i for (as I recall it) "up to five years." The faithful were not appeased.

The second group was irate because Sun had "unbundled" its software. That is, rather than getting all of Sun's developer tools together, they had to be purchased separately. And of course, they cost more this way.

But wait. Why purchase the C compiler from Sun, when you could get a better one for less money from the FSF? That's what a large number of Sun's users asked themselves. And the net result was a real jump in CD sales at the FSF. (Several years later, when I organized the Freely Redistributable Software Conference [February 1996] and then was Vice President of the FSF, I realized more fully just how much Sun had benefited the FSF. I'm certain this was not a foreseen consequence.)

The GNU C compiler was not the first piece of freely redistributable software, but it was the first widely circulated product of Stallman's project.

1 I owe most of the BSD version chronology to Keith Bostic.

2 Sun was always a UNIX company, but the Sun-1 ran on UniSoft's v7.

3See my interview with Plauger, Quarter Century of UNIX, pp. 174-176.

Dr. Salus is the author of "A Quarter Century of UNIX" and several other books, including "HPL: Little Languages and Tools", "Big Book of Ipv6 Addressing Rfcs", "Handbook of Programming Languages (HPL): Imperative Programming Languages", "Casting the Net: From ARPANET to INTERNET and Beyond", and "The Handbook of Programming Languages (HPL): Functional, Concurrent and Logic Programming Languages". There is an interview with him, audio and video,"codebytes: A History of UNIX and UNIX Licences" which was done in 2001 at a USENIX conference. Dr. Salus has served as Executive Director of the USENIX Association.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin - Ch. 10 - By Dr. Peter H. Salus | 56 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Off topic here please
Authored by: fudisbad on Thursday, May 26 2005 @ 06:43 AM EDT
For current events, legal filings, 3rd amended complaints and Calderaź

Please make links clickable.
Example: <a href="">Click here</a>

See my bio for copyright details re: this post.
Darl McBride, show your evidence!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections here please
Authored by: fudisbad on Thursday, May 26 2005 @ 06:44 AM EDT
If required.

See my bio for copyright details re: this post.
Darl McBride, show your evidence!

[ Reply to This | # ]

GCC as RMS's "first free software hit"? How about GNUemacs?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 26 2005 @ 09:36 AM EDT

Somewhere between disputing a point, and offering a tentative correction:

You write:

The GNU C Compiler (gcc) was Richard Stallman's first free software "hit."
and say that it came out in 1987; I'm pretty sure that GNUemacs was well-established by then. I don't know the relative numbers of users, though. I'm sure there are users of other editors who use gcc, and users of GNUemacs who don't use gcc.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Ch. 10 - Where did the GPL come from?
Authored by: rsteinmetz70112 on Thursday, May 26 2005 @ 11:53 AM EDT
Perhaps I'm reading ahead, shouldn't there be a discussion of the creation of
the GLP and copyleft in here somewhere?

Chapter 8 has RMS starting his project and Chapter 10 has someone else using the
GLP. Seems like we skipped a step or I speed read right past it.


"I could be wrong now, but I don't think so."
Randy Newman - The Title Theme from Monk

[ Reply to This | # ]

4BSD and fsck
Authored by: RealProgrammer on Thursday, May 26 2005 @ 12:05 PM EDT
Rob Kolstad says:

The 4bsd release date ... is particularly significant because it included 'fsck' and thus enabled UNIX to be run by people who did not have intimate knowledge of the filesystem structures.

Before that, manual filesystem checking required as much as an hour *for every single reboot* and the MTBF was less than one day.

(fsck is "file system check". I usually pronounce it "effesscheck", but sometimes say "fisk")

(I'm not a lawyer, but I know right from wrong)

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • 4BSD and fsck - Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 26 2005 @ 07:02 PM EDT
  • 4BSD and fsck - Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, May 27 2005 @ 12:43 PM EDT
    • 4BSD and fsck - Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, May 27 2005 @ 02:43 PM EDT
The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin - Ch. 10 - By Dr. Peter H. Salus
Authored by: Nick Bridge on Thursday, May 26 2005 @ 01:05 PM EDT

Thank you SO much for releasing this wonderful work this way.

As soon as it's available in printed form, I'll be buying a copy - it already
has a place on my bookshelf.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Agreed! nt - Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 26 2005 @ 06:30 PM EDT
No forward links???
Authored by: sad on Friday, May 27 2005 @ 12:49 AM EDT
If I start reading at the introduction I am not able to jump forward to the next
article in the book because there are only backwards links (links to previous
chapters) shown in each chapter's web page. This makes it hard to read in order.


Steven A. DuChene

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin - Licensing question
Authored by: AJO on Friday, May 27 2005 @ 06:58 AM EDT
Excuse me if I seem rude, but what is the reason for choosing a no-derivatives
license for this work?

It would seem appropriate, given Groklaw's championing of the GPL, to release
this under an embrace-and-extend version of the Creative Commons license (in the
spirit of the GPL).

If nothing else, it'd allow future historians of Linux and Unix to create
non-commercial second editions etc., picking up the story where this version

It seems a shame, imvho, to remove one of the freedoms that makes free software

Thank you

P.S I am not 'trolling', nor am I trying to claim there is some kind of
controvesy where there is not. I fully respect that the author may choose to
restrict the use of his work however he so pleases. I also think it is an
excellent account of a very interesting time.

P.P.S I posted this same question when the TOC was published. It remains
unanswered (possibly [hopefully] because I posted too late and the thread was
dead, or possibly because it isn't worth answering). I apologise for the

[ Reply to This | # ]

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