Unix or UNIX?
Line 2238 Comment!

Outside of Bell Labs and Berkeley a countless number of people contributed to Unix. Some as early as John Lions, some in recent years...
John Lions
What is to be the meaning of     x =+ 1;    ? [4]

John Lions wrote A Commentary on the UNIX Operating System, probably the most illegally copied book in computer history. His book, accompanied by the V6 source code, helped countless number of people understand and appreciate the ground breaking work done in the Unix kernel.

John was a professor at the University of New South Wales, Australia, when he read Ritchie and Thompson's The UNIX Time-Sharing System in May 1974. He encouraged the CS department to get a license, and at the same they were in the process of replacing their IBM hardware with CDC Cyber and DEC PDP.

He founded the Australian UNIX systems Users Group, and later started using Unix to teach his OS classes, for which he created the famous two slim volumes, one in red cover and one in bright orange, containing the V6 source code and his line-by-line commentaries.

His books became very popular and he kept receiving overseas orders. Even Bell Labs ordered the book for their own internal training courses. Later They assumed the responsibility of distributing the books, and as V7 came out because of license restriction they stopped publishing them.

But anxious people made copies and copies and copies... Finally in 1996, with a lot of hard work and follow up by Dennis Ritchie and Peter Salus and help of Michael Tilson, CIO of SCO (owner of Unix at the time) The legal issues were resolved and the books were finally published. Dennis says in his preface to the newly published volumes:

"In Lion's commentary, you will see a fresh and questioning attitude... John clearly admired what he saw, but was quick to point out its inadequacies..."

Thompson, who as said before does not write much, wrote a paragraph in the foreword of the book too, which tells us in just a few words how good a book we're dealing with:

"Finally--one of the most widely distributed underground computer science documents is freely available. I can still vividly remember the day in 1977 the first draft of these books came to me by mail. I took a casual look expecting very little. I ended up reading every word.
After 20 years, this is still the best exposition of the workings of a "real" operating system."

John spent three sabbatical periods in Bell Labs as a member of technical team. His medical condition was failing by the time the books were published, but he saw the printed version. Joh Lions died on December 5th, 1998.

Code Critic An excellent article about John and his books by Rachel Chalmers.
In Memoriam: John Lions by Peter Salus
The Book introduced by the publisher


Under Construction
Will cover the following people...

  • Andrew S. Tanenbaum
  • W Richard Stevens
  • Richard Stallman
  • Linus Torvalds
  • Eric Raymond



Primary Bell Labs people       Berkeley CSRG people       Other Bell Labs people

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