Unix turns 40 years old – “Unix is the best screwdriver ever built”

My first exposure to Unix came around 1992-93 when a contractor at my department at the time gave me remote access (via my 2,400bps modem) to his Sun workstation at his office so I could “play around”. I remember how within mins of getting access I was able to crash his machine because I was trying to start X Windows :-)

I was totally intrigued. I used the 2,400bps connection to download one of the first distributions of Linux at the time and since then I was hooked. Back at the department, my favorite professor gave me administrative access to our Dec Alpha workstations and I was off experimenting and learning. He was supportive even when mistakes were made (like the famous incident when “someone” “accidentally” removed the “mail” command from the system, disabling command-line mail access to an entire class for a while :-)

Granted, I always liked Microsoft development technologies but Unix has always been in my heart. Those who know me since my University years will remember my active support for all non-Microsoft operating systems. Even as a poor student, I actually purchased BeOS, OS/2, a distribution of Linux (I think it was RedHat), etc.

All my PhD research was done on a network of Linux workstations. I even played with a GoldRush System V-based machine while at the University of Newcastle.

The programming language C, closely associated with the early days of Unix, was my favorite during my early days at the University (perhaps because I was exposed to Fortran and Cobol at the same time :-)))

It was great to read a mainstream news article this morning on the BBC about the people and the early days of Unix, 40 years ago. The initial work of Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and the rest of the team has had such a huge impact in our world. Here’s to the next 40 years!!!

As Dr. Salus concludes the “40 years of Unix” BBC article, “Unix is the best screwdriver ever built”.