UNIX is a computer operating system originally developed in the 60’s and 70’s by a
group of AT & T employees at Bell Laboratories. UNIX operating systems are widely
used in both servers and work stations primarily by large corporations. The UNIX
environment and the client-server program model were essential elements in the
development of the Internet and the reshaping of computing as centered in networks
rather than in individual computers.
Both UNIX and the C programming language were developed by AT & T and
distributed to government and academic institutions causing both to be opened up to a
wider variety of machine families than any other operating systems. As a result, UNIX
became synonymous with “open systems”.
UNIX systems are characterized by various concepts. They are known as the UNIX
philosophy and they include:
* The use of plain text for storing data
* A hierarchical file system
* Being able to treat devices and certain types of inter-process communication as files
* The use of a large number of small program that can be strung together through a
command line interpreter using “pipes” as opposed to using a single program with the
Under UNIX, the operating system is many utilities along with a master control
program called the kernel. The kernel provides services to start and stop programs,
handle the file system along with other common “high level” tasks that most programs
share. Most importantly, UNIX schedules access to hardware to avoid conflicts if two
programs try to access the same resource or device simultaneously. To mediate this
access, the kernel was given special rights on the system. This divided the space into
two sections: the user space and the kernel space.
UNIX has been the basis for many other offshoot operating systems including Linux
and GNU. While UNIX is an operating system, it is one that is meant for larger
mainframe computers as opposed to individual personal computers. It is widely
considered to be the basis for many operating systems that have been developed and
honed over the years.
The technology provided by the UNIX system led to other developments in computer
mainframe and server technology. It is now widely used by corporations such as AT &
T, Sun Micro Systems, and Novell.
Often referred to as “the most important operating system you’ll never use”, UNIX
became an important advancement in computer programming. In fact, it remains an
important part of many new operating systems currently in development.