Definition

Unix

Unix (often spelled "UNIX," especially as an official trademark) is an operating system that originated at Bell Labs in 1969 as an interactive time-sharing system. Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie are considered the inventors of Unix. The name (pronounced YEW-nihks) was a pun based on an earlier system, Multics. In 1974, Unix became the first operating system written in the C language. Unix has evolved as a kind of large freeware product, with many extensions and new ideas provided in a variety of versions of Unix by different companies, universities, and individuals.

Partly because it was not a proprietary operating system owned by any one of the leading computer companies and partly because it is written in a standard language and embraced many popular ideas, Unix became the first open or standard operating system that could be improved or enhanced by anyone. A composite of the C language and shell (user command) interfaces from different versions of Unix were standardized under the auspices of the IEEE as the Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX). In turn, the POSIX interfaces were specified in the X/Open Programming Guide 4.2. These interfaces are also known as the "Single UNIX Specification" and, in the most recent version, "UNIX 03"). The trademarked "UNIX" is now owned by the The Open Group, an industry standards organization, which certifies and brands Unix implementations.

Unix operating systems are used in widely-sold workstation products from Sun Microsystems, Silicon Graphics, IBM, and a number of other companies. The Unix environment and the client/server program model were important elements in the development of the Internet and the reshaping of computing as centered in networks rather than in individual computers. Linux, a Unix derivative available in both "free software" and commercial versions, is increasing in popularity as an alternative to proprietary operating systems.

 

This was last updated in August 2010
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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