Word Notes 12.8.20
Ep 27 | 12.8.20

Unix (noun)


Rick Howard: The word is: Unix.

Rick Howard: Spelled: U as in Utahraptor, N as in Nanotyrannus, I as in Iguanodon, and X as in Xenoceratops.

Rick Howard: Definition: A family of multitasking, multi-user computer operating systems that derive from the original Unix system built by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie in the 1960s.

Rick Howard: Example sentence: From the 1993 Jurassic Park movie, Lex, played by Ariana Richards, has to reboot the dinosaur park's computer systems in order to lock the doors and prevent the Velociraptors from eating everybody.

Ariana Richards: It's a Unix system. I know this. It's all the files of the whole park. It tells you everything.

Rick Howard: Origin and context: According to Dennis Ritchie, also known for creating the C programming language, the Unix origin story begins with the failure of a predecessor operating system called "Multics" that had the right goals but didn't perform well. 

One of the key characteristics of the new Unix system was its use of plain text files for storing data, traversing the file system, and inter-process communications. By the 1980s and 1990s, commercial licenses for different versions of Unix were expensive and predictably became legally entangled. 

In 1983, one of the Internet's founders, Richard Stallman, working with the Free Software Foundation, or FSF, announced the GNU project to build an open source version of Unix that anyone could use. Volunteer coders began writing the supporting programs that a complete operating system would need, but they didn't start working on the kernel yet. A kernel is the first program the bootloader runs at startup because it handles the low level interface tasks between the user and the hardware components of the system. 

At the end of 1991, Linus Torvalds publicly reversed version dot zero two of a basic kernel for a flavor of Unix called Minix. By version dot one two though, Torvalds joined the GNU project with its famous copy-left general public license. The combination of the GNU project with the Linux kernel is generally known today as the Linux operating system, and it's become a dominant force in server deployments around the world both in data centers and in cloud deployments.

Rick Howard: Nerd reference: G-N-U pronounced "GANU" stands for "GNU’s not Unix." It is a recursive acronym joke created by Richard Stallman that I leave as an exercise for the computer science nerds out there to unpack and understand. For the muggle non-computer-scientists listening. Be warned, recursion will blow your mind. There "be dragons" down that path.