Here are chapters 4 and 5 of Dr. Peter H. Salus's history, The Daemon, the Gnu and the Penguin.
If you missed earlier installments, here's the introduction, and Chapter 1, and Chapters 2 & 3.
The Daemon, the Gnu and the Penguin
by Peter H. Salus
Chapter 4. A Tale of Two Editors
In Chapter 1, I mentioned CTSS and ITS. At that time, early in the
1960s, TECO (Tape Editor and COrrector; later, Text Editor ...) was
the editor everyone used on the PDP-1 and, later, on the PDP-6. Not
only was it widely used, but just about everyone modified it. (In
RFC 681, quoted earlier, an editor "based on QED" is mentioned.
QED was written by Butler Lampson, who wrote the QED text editor for the
Berkeley Time-Sharing System on the SDS 940. It was character-oriented
and based on TECO. Ken Thompson used this version of QED while a
student at Berkeley, prior to going to Bell Labs in 1966.)
Indirectly, TECO was the ancestor of vi; directly, it was the parent
of Emacs (= Editing macros for TECO).
Interestingly, Bill Joy created vi in 1976 and Richard Stallman
(together with Guy Steele and Dave Moon) created Emacs the same year.
The original version was based on TECMAC and TMACS, two TECO
editors. Stallman and Michael McMahon ported it to the Tenex
[for the DEC-10] and TOPS-20 [for the DEC-20] operating
systems. [James Gosling, the creator of Oak/Java, wrote the
first Emacs for UNIX at Carnegie-Mellon in 1981. RMS began work
on GNU EMACS in 1984.]
Joy's creation had a more complex origin.
The editor created by Ken Thompson in August 1969 was called ed.
Ken had written a version of QED for CTSS on the IBM 7094 at MIT.
He and Ritchie then wrote a version for the GE-635 at Bell Labs.
The cut-down version of this for the PDP-7 was ed. While TECO was
known for its complex syntax, ed must have been the most
user-hostile editor ever created.
Across the Atlantic in London, George Coulouris at Queen Mary
College (now Queen Mary and Wakefield College) had gotten UNIX v4
in late 1973. George explained to me how unhappy he had been with
ed and how he created em (editor for mortals) so that QMC students
could "exploit more effectively some vdu [visual display unit] that
we had recently acquired..."
Then I spent the summer of 1976 as a visitor to the CS Department
at Berkeley. I worked in a room full of teletype terminals using
the departmental UNIX. I had brought em with me on DECtape and
installed it there for my own use...
1976! Created in 1969, ed had travelled east to Australia
and west to Vienna. Coulouris had created em in London and brought
it to Berkeley. Now the Berkeley editor, ex, would be available
on the first UCB tape. But vi, which was available on 2BSD (1979),
only made it into a BTL distribution with v8 (1985).
One day, sitting at the next terminal was this fairly frenzied
hacker/Ph.D. Student [Bill Joy] who told me he was writing a
Pascal compiler. I showed him em, and he said "that's nice,
the systems support people might be interested in that." He took
me and introduced me to them. They had a couple of PDP-11s ...
supporting several rooms full of vdu terminals connected at 9600
baud, an environment in which em could really shine.
I explained that em was an extension of ed that gave key-stroke
level interaction for editing within a single line, displaying
the up-to-date line on the screen (a sort of single-line screen
The system support person [Jeff Schriebman] said something
like: "That's very nice, but if we made it available to all of
our users the overheads associated with running in raw mode
would swamp the cpu."
I was rather depressed by this reaction, thinking "I guess I have
been unrealistic in developing an editor that is so expensive
Nevertheless, Bill and the support people took a copy of my source
to see if they would use it. I then went to the East Coast for a
week or so. When I returned, I found that Bill had taken my code
as a starting point and had got a long way towards what was to
become ex and subsequently vi, and that the editor was installed
on the service machines ...
Even in 1976, international communication and access to source
meant the distribution of new tools and new programs encouraged
and enlivened the user community. Let's look at the landscape
for a few minutes.
- In 1974, Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf published the first paper
describing what was to become TCP/IP.
- In 1975, RFC 681 was published.
- In January 1976, there were 63 hosts on the ARPAnet, which
was on the verge of becoming the Internet.
- And UNIX was available throughout the world -- but only on
hardware that cost well over $10,000.
Chapter 5. UUCP and USENET
Also in 1976, Mike Lesk at AT&T developed UUCP
1 V2 was
implemented in 1977.
UUCP meant that information could be directed around the network
(as it was). It also meant that one could establish a telephone
connection and transmit information across that (relatively
expensive) link. Two years later, three graduate students in North
Carolina (Tom Truscott, Jim Ellis, and Steve Bellovin) took the
Tom Truscott had an early interest in chess. While a student at
Duke in 1974, he devised a chess program (Duchess) and played
against Ken Thompson's Belle. Duchess lost on time. (In
competitive chess, each side has a given time to make its next
move; Duchess exceeded that time due to a core dump.) But
Truscott competed in every ACM computer chess tournament from
1974 through 1980. He also attended the 1976 UNIX Users Group
meeting at Harvard (1-2 April) and the 1978 meeting at Columbia
(24-28 May), where he met Ken and others.3 In 1979, Truscott
went to the Labs as a summer student and, on his return to Duke,
arranged for a UUCP link. (He also attended the USENIX meeting
in Toronto [20-23 June], to which we'll return in the next
When he returned to Duke, he found that Jim Ellis had installed
V7 on the Computer Science PDP 11/70. They employed the
auto-dialer capacity to dial up two other Duke computers and
one at the University of North Carolina. Ellis and Truscott
then called a meeting to discuss their idea -- to have something
like the mailing lists on the ARPAnet for computer sites that
weren't on the ARPAnet. Steve Bellovin, then a graduate student
at the University of North Carolina, attended and then wrote the
first Netnews program -- three pages of shell script (later
rewritten in C). The first implementation was between the Duke
and UNC Computer Science departments; the Duke Medical Center
Department of Physiology was added at the beginning of 1980. In
January 1980, Ellis and Truscott went to Boulder, CO, and announced
their Netnews design at the USENIX meeting (January 29 - February 1).
The first version of Netnews was fairly simple and efficient. It
periodically checked the "last saved" time-stamp of each file in a
specified directory, and then sent any file updated since the last
check to another computer using UUCP across a modem connection.
Tom Truscott and Steve Daniel (also a graduate student at Duke)
then rewrote the program to create what was called Netnews Version
A. Since Netnews was designed for UNIX at a university, it was
automatically categorized as public domain software under the
conditions of the AT&T UNIX license, which greatly facilitated
its subsequent use and adoption. This implementation appeared on
the 1980 USENIX distribution tape, which was distributed at the
Newark, DE, meeting (June 17-20). Duke University then invited
other sites to join the network, which was made easier by the
fact that the software was free, starting the first Usenet
expansion -- to 15 sites. But one of those was Berkeley, which
resulted in an explosive growth spurt.
That connection was the responsibility of Armando Stettner, then
with DEC. Someone at the Delaware meeting complained about
the inordinate cost of the long-distance telephone connections
needed to get news to the West Coast. Armando spoke to Bill
Shannon and they said that if they could get a news feed to
decvax (in New Hampshire), they'd pick up the Berkeley phone bill.
[Armando later supplied the first news feeds to Europe, Japan,
and Australia, too.] The network soon spread to universities
across North America, quickly establishing a critical mass of
useful information, which made it even more popular.
In under a year, Usenet grew to 100 sites and over 25 articles
per day (the original protocol had been optimized for 1-2 messages
per day). Mike Lesk had never contemplated such uses of uucp.
Truscott, Ellis and Bellovin had never imagined such popularity.
The system collapsed.
In 1982, Netnews Version B was developed by Mark Horton (a
graduate student at Berkeley) and Matt Glickman (a high school
student) to increase efficiency so that USENET could cope with
the increasing loads on the growing network. Horton continued
to maintain the system till 1984, when Rick Adams at the Center
for Seismic Studies took over maintenance of Version B, releasing
2.10.2. There were 135 news groups at the end of March. Version
2.11 of Netnews was released in late 1986.
In 1989, Netnews Version C was developed by Henry Spencer and
Geoff Collyer at the University of Toronto again increasing
By the late 1980s there were 20,000 newsgroups. Looking at
what was current became nearly impossible. The remedy was
"searching." As Mike O'Dell put it: "The Internet is now
a rich fabric of resources and capabilities, and it is no
longer possible to simply know all the places where
interesting stuff is available. We now need tools with
which to discover and navigate this world-wide treasure
trove" (Computing Systems 5.4 [Fall 1992] p. 373).
Searching in a Distributed Environment
By the beginning of 1992, there were a number of "resource
discovery systems" (much of this section is drawn from
the special issue of Computing Systems cited
The earliest of these were search engines which pointed at
specific, dedicated servers: whois, which responded to
queries about people, network numbers and domains across
the Internet; and X.500 (ISO DIS 9594-1 ), a distributed
directory look-up service.
The next tool was archie, developed by Alan Emtage and Peter
Deutsch when they were at McGill University in Montreal.
archie maintained a directory of materials available on
about 1100 UNIX archives accessible by anonymous FTP. In
1992 it contained about 2.6 million files with 150 gigabytes
Gopher (from the University of Minnesota's "Golden Gophers")
provided a simple menu-driven interface to data searching.
Prospero (Neuman, 1992) was an "enabling technology," allowing
users to create their own views of information in a
distributed file system.
WAIS, wide-area information service, developed by Brewster
Kahle and colleagues at Thinking Machines, was a network
of over 70 servers world-wide, offering access to over
300 databases by natural language keyword search.
There were also knowbots (developed at the CNRI) and
Netfind and a host of others.
But the "winner" was the World Wide Web (WWW), invented by
Tim Berners-Lee at CERN, and first published in Electronic
Networking in Spring 1992. We will return to the Web
in about a dozen years.
1Lesk earned a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics and worked in the
UNIX group, where he wrote tbl, refer, lex, and UUCP. He went
on to Bellcore; was head of a Division at the National
Science Foundation (1998-2002); and is currently Professor of
Library and Information Science at Rutgers University.
2 UUCP has a rich history; see Chapter 15 of
Casting the Net.
3 This was the meeting
at which the name was changed to USENIX, spurred by a letter from
an AT&T lawyer stating that Western Electric had not granted
permission to use "UNIX" in "UNIX User Group."
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.