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A Quarter Century of Unix (Addison-Wesley Unix and Open Systems) Paperback – 31 May 1994

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Addison Wesley; 1 edition (31 May 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201547775
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201547771
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.5 x 22.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 96,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

On June 12, 1972, Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie wrote, "the number of UNIX installations has grown to 10, with more expected." Two years later the number was 50. It is estimated that there are over 3 million UNIX systems in operation today ...

UNIX is a software system that is simple, elegant, portable, and powerful. It grew in popularity without the benefit of a large marketing organization. Programmers kept using it; big companies kept fighting it. After a decade, it was clear that the users had won. A Quarter Century of UNIX is the first book to explain this incredible success, using the words of its creators, developers, and users to illustrate how the sociology of a technical group can overwhelm the intent of multi-billion-dollar corporations. In preparing to write this book, Peter Salus interviewed over 100 of these key figures and gathered relevant information from Australia to Austria. This is the book that turns UNIX folklore into UNIX history.

The book provides the first documented history of the development of the UNIX operating system, includes interviews with over 100 key figures in the UNIX community, contains classic photos and illustrations, and explains why UNIX succeeded.


About the Author

About Peter H. Salus

Peter H. Salus is an internationally recognized UNIX enthusiast and author of A Quarter Century of UNIX, also published by Addison-Wesley. He is the managing editor of the quarterly journal, Computer Systems. He is the author of a number of books, articles and reviews. Salus has an undergraduate degree in chemistry, a master's in Germanic languages, and a doctorate in linguistics from New York University.


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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 14 May 1997
Format: Paperback
There are numerous reference books for Unix, the operating system of choice for the computer-aware. This book, though, brings Unix to life. The rich and storied history of Ken's and Dennis' baby is covered in detail along with pictures of the major players. (Apparently facial hair was a defacto standard. Maybe ZZ Top spent some time in Murray Hill, eh?) Even if you already know Unix, Salus does a wonderful job in helping you *appreciate* this elegant, robust, powerful and selectively-friendly operating system.

UNIX: Live free or die!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 4 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
I was expecting something along the lines of Steven Levy's "Hackers" book, but this is nothing close to that. It's a extremely dry and dull read - and I find UNIX very interesting. A real shame.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Expensive short chronology; most material is available online 9 July 2004
By kievite - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is an expensive short book with mainly trivial chronological information, 90% of which are freely available on the Internet. As for the history of the first 25 year of Unix it is both incomplete and superficial. Salus is reasonably good as a facts collector (although for a person with his level of access to the Unix pioneers he looks extremely lazy and he essentially missed an opportunity to write a real history, setting for a glossy superficial chronology instead). He probably just felt the market need for such a book and decided to fill the niche.

In my humble opinion Salus lacks real understanding of the technical and social dynamics of Unix development, understanding that can be found, say, in chapter "Twenty Years of Berkeley Unix from AT&T-Owned to Freely Redistributable" in the book "Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution (O'Reilly, 1999)" (available online). The extended version of this chapter will be published in the second edition of "The Design and Implementation of the 4.4BSD Operating System (Unix and Open Systems Series)" which I highly recommend (I read a preprint at Usenix.)

In any case Kirk McKusick is a real insider, not a former Usenix bureaucrat like Salus. Salus was definitely close to the center of the events; but it is unclear to what extent he understood the events he was close to.
Unix history is a very interesting example how interests of military (DAPRA) shape modern technical projects (not always to the detriment of technical quality, quite opposite in case of Unix) and how DAPRA investment in Unix created completely unforeseen side effect: BSD Unix that later became the first free/open Unix ever (Net2 tape and then Free/Open/NetBSD distributions). Another interesting side of Unix history is that AT&T brass never understood what a jewel they have in their hands.

Salus's Usenix position prevented him from touching many bitter conflicts that litter the first 25 years of Unix, including personal conflicts. The reader should be advised that the book represents "official" version of history, and that Salus is, in essence, a court historian, a person whose main task is to put gloss on the events, he is writing about. As far as I understand, Salus never strays from this very safe position.

Actually Unix created a new style of computing, a new way of thinking of how to attack a problem with a computer. This style was essentially the first successful component model in programming. As Frederick P. Brooks Jr (another computer pioneer who early recognized the importance of pipes) noted, the creators of Unix "...attacked the accidental difficulties that result from using individual programs together, by providing integrated libraries, unified file formats, and pipes and filters.". As a non-programmer, in no way Salus is in the position to touch this important side of Unix. The book contains standard and trivial praise for pipes, without understanding of full scope and limitations of this component programming model...

I can also attest that as a historian, Peter Salus can be extremely boring: this July I was unfortunate enough to sit on one of his talks, when he essentially stole from Kirk McKusick more then an hour (out of two scheduled for BSD history section at this year Usenix Technical Conference ) with some paternalistic trivia insulting the intelligence of the Usenix audience, instead of a short 10 min introduction he was expected to give; only after he eventually managed to finish, Kirk McKusick made a really interesting, but necessarily short (he had only 50 minutes left :-) presentation about history of BSD project, which was what this session was about.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Overview of the Unix World 25 Oct. 2003
By FePe - Published on
Format: Paperback
In 1969 the Unix operating system was born. The main developers were Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie, two programmers at Bell Telephone Labs. Unix was born because of the cancellation of another operating system developed at BTL, Multics. Learning from the experience they gained from Multics, Thompson and Ritchie began working on Unix, which would later prove to be a good choice. At first they used the PDP-7 machine, assembler language, and the programming language B (by Dennis Ritchie). Only later did BTL upgrade to PDP-11. Because of the upgrade and because of the development of the C programming language, Unix could mature.
The book has six parts: Genesis, Birth of a System, What makes UNIX Unix?, Unix Spreads and Blossoms, The Unix Industry, and The Currents of Change. In the first part, Peter Salus introduces us to Thompson and Ritchie; there's also a chapter on computers in general. Part two, Birth of a System, tells the story about how Unix came to be with what today is seen as much outdated hardware. Later parts give information on the many companies and groups involved in the Unix history, most notably the development of the BSD systems.
Peter Salus has been involved in the Unix history himself, and therefore he writes about it with sympathetic understanding. That means that we don't get introduced properly to the persons. And it means that the pages are full of acronyms. The writing is very compact and full of quotes from interviews, magazines, books and other sources, and that makes the book difficult to read. The book also has some minor errors.
But if you can live with these flaws, "A Quarter Century of Unix" is a good read. It gives an overview of the Unix world, and shows that Linux is just a small part of the whole operating system landscape, and that there are alternatives.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The coolest book on Unix History 6 Jan. 2001
By Santosh Raghavan - Published on
Format: Paperback
By far the coolest book on Unix!!
The little stories on Unix are amazing.
e.g. Bill Joy's start of BSD distribution or Steve Johnson's lex and yacc development. This book is full of zany characters that we just know names of. This book gives a picture of their personality. The best of the lot are of
Ken T, Dennis R, Robert Morris, Bill Joy, McKusick, and the rest of the looney unix toons. These guys are awesome. A must read for any Unix Lover.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
What you needed to know about Unix! 9 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is an excellent overview of the history of Unix. It will help you to understand how Unix came to be, and how it came to be split up into so many different versions. A must for every Unix nerd.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Pricey but well worth it 16 May 2006
By Abdulmajed Dakkak - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is the first one I read about the history on Unix and I really appreciate the author's for the taking the time trying to preserve the history about Unix before it is lost. The book starts with a very early mention of computers, from 1870s and then ends with around the year 1994. Of course keep in mind that this is a Unix history and not Linux. And because it is published in 1994 do not expect it to tell you the history of Unix of the past decade. The book, however, cover the Unix history from 1969 till 1994 extensively.

The one thing that I did not like about the book - and it is very minor - was that the quoted text should have been italicized. Sometimes during the reading I would get confused as to whether the author is talking or he is quoting someone else. Other than that minor inconvenience the book is worth to look at.
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