Thanks For The Memories

Tuesday, July 15 2003 @ 06:58 PM EDT

Contributed by: PJ

Dennis Ritchie has posted an old UNIX license issued to Katholieke Univerisity, dated 1974, found and scanned by Prof. Karl Kleine in Germany. This university was, he writes, "one of the early educational users, and probably the same license was used for all the educational organizations at that time":

"Despite the name of the file, from the date of the contract, the license probably refers to the Fifth Edition system; the Sixth Edition manual is dated May, 1975. It's quite possible, however, that it was the 6th Edition that was actually delivered."

He mentions the importance of the clause 4.05 and that "the restriction against disclosing methods or concepts (as distinct from actual source code) caused ill-ease to some university lawyers. The restriction was indeed a bit peculiar: the concepts had already been published, for example in the C.ACM paper." Here's the clause he is referring to:

"Software Agreement "Effective as of December 1, 1974 "WESTERN ELECTRIC COMPANY, INCORPORATED, a New York corporation ("WESTERN"), having an office at 222 Broadway, New York, New York 10038,

"and KATHOLIEKE UNIVERSITEIT ("Licensee"), having an office at Nijmegen, The Netherlands . . . .

"Section 4.05 LICENSEE agrees that it shall hold the LICENSED SOFTWARE in confidence for WESTERN and its ASSOCIATED COMPANIES. LICENSEE further agrees that it shall not make any disclosure of the LICENSED SOFTWARE or any portion thereof (including methods or concepts utilized therein) to anyone, except to employees or students of the LICENSEE to whom such disclosure is necessary to the use for which rights are granted hereunder. LICENSEE shall appropriately notify each employee and student to whom any such disclosure is made tht such disclosure is made in confidence and shall be kept in confidence by him."

However, there is another clause that I noted that next says that anything already disclosed by then or later wasn't covered by the restrictions in Section 4.05. Here's the wording that set such software, including methods or concepts, free:

"Section 4.06 The obligation of the LICENSEE and of its employees and students under Section 4.05 shall survive and continue after any termination of rights under this agreement; however, such obligations shall not extend to any information or technical data relating to the LICENSED SOFTWARE which is now available to the general public or which later becomes available to the general public by acts not attributable to LICENSEE, its employees or students."

How will SCO get around that clause, I wonder, when trying to say that all UNIX methods belong to them? It illustrates the value of making sure this history is collected and preserved and the value of many eyeballs, too, even outside of a software context. He noticed one significant part, I noticed another he hadn't, and you may see something else of significance.

And here he has three old UNIX ads, including one for MS's flavor of UNIX, XENIX, circa probably 1980, scanned in by Vincent Guyot. There is a little girl standing next to XENIX saying, "Your name is different but you're really a UNIX system too, aren't you?" A woman to the right says: "UNIX is an operating system, in other words, a program that supervises a computer."

This is exactly in harmony with what IBM wrote in its answer to the complaint, that UNIX is a system, a standard, for operating systems.

And here is a paper Ritchie gave in 1977, "The UNIX Time-sharing System -- A Retrospective", as an employee of Bell Laboratories at a conference in Hawaii. He describes it here but here are some relevant snips:

"UNIX is a general-purpose, interactive time-sharing operating system primarily for the DEC PDP-11 series of computers, and recently for the Interdata 8/32. Since its development in 1971, it has become quite widely used, although publicity efforts on its behalf have been minimal, and the license under which it is made available outside the Bell System explicitly excludes maintenance. Currently there are more than 300 Bell System installations, and an even larger number in universities, secondary schools, and commercial and government institutions. . . .

"In most ways UNIX is a very conservative system. Only a handful of its ideas are genuinely new. In fact, a good case can be made that it is in essence a modern implementation of MIT's CTSS system [1]. This claim is intended as a compliment to both UNIX and CTSS. Today, more than fifteen years after CTSS was born, few of the interactive systems we know of are superior to it in ease of use; many are inferior in basic design. . . ..

"One problem in discussing the capabilities and deficiencies of UNIX is that there is no unique version of the system. It has evolved continuously both in time, as new functions are added and old problems repaired, and in space, as various organizations add features intended to meet their own needs. Four important versions of the system are in current use:

"The standard system maintained by the UNIX Support Group at Bell Laboratories for Bell System projects.

"The 'Programmer's Workbench' version of UNIX [6, 7], also in wide use within Bell Laboratories, especially in areas in which text-processing and job-entry to other machines are important. Recently, the PWB system has become available to outside organizations as well.

"The 'Sixth Edition' system (so called from the manual that describes it), which is the most widely used under Western Electric licenses by organizations outside the Bell System.

"The version currently used in the Computer Science Research Center, where UNIX was developed, and at a few other locations at Bell Laboratories.

"The proliferation of versions makes some parts of this paper hard to write, especially where details (e.g., how large can a file be?) are mentioned. Although compilation of a list of differences between versions of UNIX is a useful exercise, this is not the place for such a list, so the paper will concentrate on the properties of the system as it exists for the author, in the current Research version of the system.

"The existence of several variants of UNIX is, of course, a problem not only when attempting to describe the system in a paper such as this, but also to the users and administrators. The importance of this problem is not lost upon the proprietors of the various versions; indeed, vigorous effort is underway to combine the best features of the variants into a single system. . . .

"A number of facilities provided in other systems are not present in UNIX. Many of these things would be useful, or even vital, to some applications--so vital, in fact, that several variant versions of the system, each implementing some subset of the possible facilities mentioned below, are extant. The existence of these variants is in itself a good argument for including the new extensions, perhaps somewhat generalized, in a unified version of the system."

So... still think all UNIX in the known world was written solely by AT&T, as SCO claimed in its Complaint? These are just some of the goodies you can find on Ritchie's Home Page. Say, he's doing his part, huh?

Speaking of goodies, you might like to take a look at the photo of Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie back when they began writing UNIX. Here is a thumbnail:

SCO and other corporate types have sometimes dismissed Linux because it's written by a bunch of young guys, some with beards and not in suits (actually some females do write code -- take a look at the writers of the GIMP, for example, if you have the GIMP). For example, in 1999, then president and CEO of the Santa Cruz Operation Doug Michels derisively called them "punk young kids" and said Linux's weakness compared to UNIX was this:

"It takes millions of dollars to run [reliability] tests. It takes expensive people, expensive labs, expensive [electric] bills, racks and racks of hardware, and really boring, hard, grubby work. It isn't stuff that people do for fun at home with volunteers."

Funny what time does to a guy's memory. Look at the picture of the two guys who started writing UNIX. Does it match Mr. Michels' description? I see a couple of young guys not in suits, with long hair, and one, Dennis Ritchie, in a -- gasp -- beard. I don't think today's Linux's writers look too different from Thompson and Ritchie in this picture, Alan Cox excepted, of course. No offense Mr. Ritchie. And thanks for the memories.