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The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin, ch. 25, by Dr. Peter H. Salus
Thursday, June 15 2006 @ 05:00 AM EDT

Here's the next chapter in Peter Salus' ongoing book, The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin, Chapter 25, "The URL on Your Cereal Box." Earlier chapters are here.

He references a number of papers and books. The best history of the Internet available online, Dr. Salus tells me, is A Brief History of the Internet by Barry M. Leiner, Vinton G. Cerf, David D. Clark, Robert E. Kahn, Leonard Kleinrock, Daniel C. Lynch, Jon Postel, Larry G. Roberts, and Stephen Wolff. Or, if you like visuals, you can see the growth of the Internet in this graphical display, An Atlas of Cyberspaces. Craig Partridge's 1994 book "Gigabit Networking," is reviewed here with a link to buy it on that page. And here's Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson's 1973 paper, The UNIX Time Sharing System. Ritchie's home page is just chock full of UNIX methods and concepts materials, by the way, including this downloadable PDF "A Stream Input/Output System", from AT&T Bell Laboratories Technical Journal, 1984.

Here's the abstract of The UNIX Time Sharing System:

UNIX is a general-purpose, multi-user, interactive operating system for the Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-1 1/40 and 11/45 computers. It offers a number of features seldom found even in larger operating systems, including 1. A hierarchical file system incorporating demountable volumes, 2. Compatible file, device, and inter-process I/O, 3. The ability to initiate asynchronous processes, 4. System command language selectable on a per-user basis, 5. Over 100 subsystems including a dozen languages. This paper discusses the usage and implementation of the file system and of the user command interface.

That makes it sound sui generis, although it also shows that methods and concepts information on the Unix file system structure has been available since 1973. But note what this portion on Influences tells us:

The success of Unix lies not so much in new inventions but rather in the full exploitation of a carefully selected set of fertile ideas, and especially in showing that they can be keys to the implementation of a small yet powerful operating system.

The fork operation, essentially as we implemented it, was present in the GENIE time-sharing system. On a number of points we were influenced by Multics, which suggested the particular form of the I/O system calls, and both the name of the shell and its general functions. The notion that the shell should create a process for each command was also suggested to us by the early design of Multics, although in that system it was later dropped for efficiency reasons. A similar scheme is used by TENEX.

I had never heard of TENEX that I recall. But here's a paper all about it. Here's another on Multics. As you can see, Unix didn't arrive full blown out of the sea sitting on a clamshell. At least some of the ideas were derivatives of other human beings' ideas. SCO may not know it, but that is how science is supposed to work whenever mankind decides progress is desirable, as opposed to the insular, boxed-in thinking of the Dark Ages. SCO of course is now claiming, in addition to methods and concepts, whatever they are, allegedly misused material consisting of the following:

a) the overall structure of SVr4;
b) the structure of the SVr4 file system; and
c) system calls.

Obviously Ritchie and Thompson were not discussing SVr4 in that paper, as you can see from this UNIX timeline, but the graphic also shows the connection. But this 1992 book, UNIX System V system calls: programmer's rapid reference by Baird Peterson, does. Of course, we can't forget The magic garden explained: the internals of UNIX System V Release 4: an open systems design from 1994. I found lots more just like these (ACM Portal is a goldmine) and we've put them into the UNIX Books methods and concepts database, which in my mind I refer to as More Unix Sooper Sekrets Revealed! because there is no way for me not to laugh at SCO's claims regarding methods and concepts. Whatever they are. I so look forward to hearing SCO define methods and concepts and give us the metes and bounds, so to speak. This paragraph from Dennis Ritchie's page for the Unix 10th Edition Manual, dated 1990, says something interesting:

This page will never attempt to reproduce the entire two volumes, but does sample some of its material. Many of the medium-size tool programs (and their documentation) survived into the Plan 9 system, and are described in its programmer's manual and its own collection of papers. Of course some form part of a standard Unix toolset, and are readily available in some form, either on commercial Unix systems, or via independent implementations of their ideas distributed as open-source software.

Well. That's odd. Riddle me this, Batman. If what SCO tells us about methods and concepts is true, about how zealously they were always guarded and kept confidential, how can I find all these books and papers and how come the author of Unix isn't bothered by "independent implementations of their ideas" in open source software?

Maybe because Ritchie himself used ideas from TENEX and Multics? You think?

But I digress. Here now is Chapter 25 of Dr. Salus' book.


The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin

~ by Dr. Peter H. Salus

Chapter 25: The URL on Your Cereal Box

In Chapter 17, I limned the creation and development of the Web. In a subsequent chapter, I'll talk about the geographical spread of Linux. But first, I want to look at the spread of the Internet and the Web that depends on it.

The ARPAnet became functional in 1969: at the end of that year, there were four nodes. In January 1976, there were 63 (so much for 5- or 6-bit addressing). Five years later, in August 1981, Host Table #152 listed 213 hosts. In May 1982, Host Table #166 listed 235.

The great switch to the domain system occurred on January 1, 1983. It was none too soon. The 562 hosts of August 1983 just wouldn't have been feasible under the older protocols and the older scheme.

Here's the growth over the next few years:

  • 10/84 1024
  • 10/85 1961
  • 02/86 2308
  • 11/86 5089
  • 12/87 28174
  • 07/88 33000
  • 10/88 56000
  • 01/89 80000
  • 10/89 159000
  • 10/90 313000
  • 10/91 617000

I'll stop there for a while, for several reasons, not least because this marks the advent of both the Web and of Linux. But this marks several other things as well.

On the political front, the Department of Defense relaxed its notion that only government, academic and research sites could connect. This was partially the result of recognizing the expansion of private networks (like IBM's VNet and Prodigy) and of networks distributing news and mail (UUNET, Bitnet, Fidonet), as well as the recognition that the network of networks was already vastly larger than the US and its "allies."

On the "engineering" side, the advent of the desktop machine and the commercial modem, meant that individuals could have a computer at home and plug in to their telephone lines. All for under $3000!

In 1971, BBN estimated 10 users per host. It was extrapolating from 617000 to one million and multiplying that gave the Internet Society the 10,000,000 users that TIME magazine claimed in 1992. In an informal poll a decade ago, I found that I knew individuals who owned a dozen domains and who were sole user on most (0.1 user/domain?) and that IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center had over 4000 users and one domain. I didn't know then and don't know now what the "correct" ratio is. Craig Partridge estimated 5/domain in 1994. John Quarterman estimated 3.5. These sound more reasonable than double or triple those ratios.

The advent of NAT (Network Address Translation) makes all the rations and estimates yet more unreliable: we have no way of determining in any accurate fashion how many desktops on a LAN are lurking behind a single address.

But in 2003 (the last dates for which the numbers seem feasible), there were about 175 million domains. Using the growth rates of 1995-2002 for 2002-2006 would mean 600-700 million domains at the end of 2006, and about 2,000,000,000 users worldwide. (This counts students in schools and people in libraries, of course.) Just under a third of the world's population has access to an Internet-connected device.

There were about two dozen in January 1970.

In 1990, when there were about 300,000 hosts, three students at McGill University in Montreal set about writing a search engine that would poll FTP archives on a regular basis. Alan Emtage, Bill Heelan and Peter Deutsch called it archie. Soon there were other search engines, too: jughead, veronica, WAIS [Wide Area Information Server].

They were very useful, for a brief period of time. The University of Minnesota, where gopher was developed, wanted to profit from it. Tim Berners-Lee offered the Web free. Though he's now Sir Timothy, he's not a millionaire. But, by 1994, the World Wide Web had swept away all the other browsers.

Why is this important? Well, in 1973, when Dennis M. Ritchie and Ken Thompson gave the first UNIX paper, there were about 200 people in the room. There were just over 40 hosts on the Net. Word of mouth and then the CACM paper were how the word got out. When Linus Torvalds posted his note on the comp.os.minix newsgroup, there were about 200 groups. There were over 600,000 hosts connected to the Internet. The potential audience for Linux was enormous. And it was virtually instantaneous.

I wonder what my long-ago Toronto colleague, Marshall McLuhan, would say; today's Internet and Web are "hot" media far beyond his notions.

As I wrote in Chapter 17, try buying a candy bar that doesn't have a URL on it.

Dr. Salus is the author of "A Quarter Century of UNIX" (which you can obtain here, here, here and here) 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.

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