Timeline: 40 Years Of Unix

Some milestones of the Unix operating system's four-decades-long history


AT&T-owned Bell Laboratories withdraws from development of Multics, a pioneering but overly complicated time-sharing system. Some important principles in Multics were to be carried over into Unix.

Ken Thompson at Bell Labs writes the first version of an as-yet-unnamed operating system in assembly language for a DEC PDP-7 minicomputer.


Thompson's operating system is named Unics, for Uniplexed Information and Computing Service, and as a pun on "emasculated Multics." (The name would later be mysteriously changed to Unix.)


Unix moves to the new DEC PDP-11 minicomputer.

The first edition of the Unix Programmer's Manual, written by Thompson and Dennis Ritchie, is published.


Ritchie develops the C programming language.


Unix matures. The "pipe" is added to Unix; this mechanism for sharing information between two programs will influence operating systems for decades. Unix is rewritten from assembler into C.


"The UNIX Timesharing System," by Ritchie and Thompson, appears in the monthly journal of the Association for Computing Machinery. The article produces the first big demand for Unix.


Bell Labs programmer Mike Lesk develops UUCP (Unix-to-Unix Copy Program) for the network transfer of files, e-mail and Usenet content.


Unix is ported to non-DEC hardware, including the IBM 360.


Bill Joy, a graduate student at UC Berkeley, sends out copies of the first Berkeley Software Distribution (1BSD), essentially Bell Labs' Unix v6 with some add-ons. BSD becomes a rival Unix branch to AT&T's Unix; its variants and eventual descendents include FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, DEC Ultrix, SunOS, NeXTstep/OpenStep and Mac OS X.


4BSD, with DARPA sponsorship, becomes the first version of Unix to incorporate TCP/IP.


Bill Joy co-founds Sun Microsystems to produce the Unix-based Sun workstation.


AT&T releases the first version of the influential Unix System V, which would later become the basis for IBM's AIX and Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX.


X/Open Co., a European consortium of computer makers, is formed to standardize Unix in the X/Open Portability Guide.

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