“UNIX was the first operating system designed to run on ‘dissimilar’

computers by converting most hardware specific commands in machine language into

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an independent programming language called ‘C,’” Jon Wolfe writes in the

Nashville Business Journal. (Wolfe 29) UNIX was the basis of AT&T’s

telephone system and the government’s wide area network system. Then it became

the basis of communication between engineers and scientists, and eventually the

basis of communication for everyone worldwide (World Wide Web (Web)). It has

held this remarkable spot since 1969. However, in the 1990s there are

competitors in the market, namely, Microsoft Corporation with its Windows NT

product. But UNIX-based software suppliers are not just turning over and letting

the competitors win. UNIX supporters are many, and UNIX remains, and will remain

a major player in the marketplace. The unique advantage of the UNIX operating

system when it was introduced was that it could (and still does) run on

dissimilar machines, unheard of prior to 1969. UNIX also can run more than one

program at a time, store complex graphics and databases, and link to other UNIX

and mainframe computer systems, including DOS since the late 1980s. UNIX-based

systems control various programs written by many companies to distribute

information between multiple computers within the network. This minimizes user

costs and eliminates system-wide hardware crashes. Some of the original UNIX

programs are “still evident today.” (Wolfe 29) UNIX was developed at

AT&T in 1969, primarily for controlling the phone network and handling

government communications. Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Sun Systems, other U.S.

companies and international companies now sell versions of UNIX that work best

on their computers. UNIX at first worked over ARPnet, “named after its sponsor

from the Pentagon.” (Sembawang 1997). The ARPA network grew throughout the

1970s when computer networks from various organizations, both nationally and

internationally, began to link to ARPAnet, mostly for transferring engineering

and scientific research data. “With the advent of satellite transmissions, the

first international network connection was made with the University of London

(England) and the Royal Radar Establishment of Norway in 1973.” (Sembawang

1997) In 1979, the National Science Foundation established the Computer Science

Research Network (CSnet), which connected to ARPAnet through a gateway. This

system was used for e-mail and sharing technical information. (Sembawang 1997)

In the early 1980's, the NSF created its own network, NSFnet, which added

educational links for schools and libraries. However, access to NSFnet was

limited to these government or government research organizations. (Sembawang

1997) In 1992, NSF created Advanced Network and Services, Inc. (ANS), used to

manage the NSFnet, which opened up the Internet to everyone. ANS also opened up

the potential for multimedia on the Internet through the World Wide Web. (Sembawang

1997) Once the potential was there, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics

(CERN) began a project to create the international internet. The CERN project

operated on TCP/IP transfer protocols developed inside a Berkeley UNIX system.

The project was started in the mid-1980s and completed in 1990. By 1993, the

internet had become a world-wide phenomenon. (Segal 1995) The Web allows users

to easily browse through hypertext and multimedia located on various computers

and main frame systems around the world. Prior to the CERN project, internet

users had to know UNIX programming language and move around in a cumbersome UNIX

shell environment. (Segal 1995) The Web can best be described as a “global

interactive, dynamic, cross-platform, distributed, graphical hypertext

information system that operates over the internet. (Lemay 4) It operates on

many protocols, including FTP, Gopher, UseNet, WAIS databases, and TELNET. Most

of the text transferred over the internet is written in hypertext markup

language (HTML). Graphics are transferred via standard generalized markup

language (SGML) through the UNIX operating system. No one owns the web, but a

consortium of U.S. and European individuals and organizations who support its

operation, called the World Wide Web (W3) Consortium, established the protocols

and languages that will be supported on the web. (Lemay 12). Popular browsers

include Netscape, NCSA Mosaic, Lyna, MacWeb and WinWeb. A URL (home pages, BBSs,

etc.) is a pointer to a posting on a Gopher, UseNet or FTP. All of these are

currently transferred over the UNIX operating system. “Today, the Internet is

still growing in terms of size and number of connections. It is estimated that

there are now about 50 million Internet users worldwide, from as many as 100

countries.” (Sembawang 1997). UNIX has enjoyed a long, exclusive history, but

Microsoft is trying to establish Windows NT as the premier Web server and

replace UNIX’s dominant position as the internet’s operating system.

Although the internet was originally developed around UNIX, some companies who

design software for the internet are becoming “reluctant to embrace UNIX for

this purpose.” (Harvey (74(2)) A major reason for moving to NT instead of UNIX

is that the UNIX operating system is expensive, whereas Microsoft Windows NT is

affordable to everyday users. (Harvey (74(2)). The other major advantage of

Microsoft Windows NT is “significantly easier to install and maintain.”

(Harvey (74(2)). Also, UNIX requires additional utility software such as NetWare

which is already built in to Microsoft Windows NT. (Harvey (74(2)). There are a

few companies that have already switched to NT, such as Irvine, California’s

Platinum Software Corp. However, they will lose 175 customers in the process who

are tied into Sun Systems, which do not operate on Windows NT. “A lot of

Platinum UNIX customers are on Sun Microsystems, Inc. platforms,” Mark

Lefneski, a Toronto independent consultant, said. (King 4) The cost of replacing

that hardware is a strong consideration for most companies considering a switch

to Microsoft Windows NT. Other users are not so quick to jump on the NT

bandwagon. They believe that Microsoft's BackOffice, “which comprises the NT

operating system and SQL Server database, will be less robust than the

UNIX/Sybase combination.” (King 4). UNIX designers have responded to the

competitive threat by upgrading software and hardware to run “very large

databases (VLDB).” (Nash 67) VLDBs can either store several hundred gigabytes

or a few terabytes of data. UNIX retail companies are also reducing the price on

hardware and software in combination with Informix Software, Inc. in Menlo Park,

California, Oracle Corp. in Redwood Shores, California, and others. The reduced

price “makes VLDB a viable option for UNIX shops.” (Nash 67) Kim Nash,

writing for Computerworld, states that UNIX still needs to develop software

interfaces for planning and running even larger inventory systems. (Nash 67) TRW

is working with a UNIX system that maps consumer credit histories better than

current systems. TRW’s system is a combined “UNIX-based Oracle and

mainframe-resident IBM DB2 databases.” (Nash 67) TRW is now using VLDBs to

process transactions, whereas “most UNIX-based VLDBs are used for data

warehousing....” (Nash 67) Nash writes: “...today's craze for data

warehousing the technology hula hoop of the 1990s that will result in UNIX

users' pushing the outer limits of database size, according to Richard Winter,

an analyst at The Winter Corp., a consulting firm in Cambridge,

Massachusetts.” (Nash 67) According to Winter, writes Nash, “grocery stores,

clothing chains, discounters and other consumer-oriented companies to find out

why people buy what and when.... ‘That's really just a series of sophisticated

database queries on very large amounts of data,’ he said.” (Nash 67) Other

enhancements enjoyed by UNIX upgrades include quicker file transfer. Jay Milne

of Network Computing writes that when NFS (Network Filing System) is installed,

UNIX speed is increased by placing the burden of file transfer on the UNIX

server while program processing is still retained on individual workstations.

Milne says that NFS is integrated in the UNIX operating system and is

“...available on a variety of platforms, including Novell NetWare, Microsoft

Windows NT, Digital VAX and IBM OS/2.” (Milne 162). UNIX systems are widely

used by banking institutions and other public service industries as a means of

doing business with their customers over the Internet. In one example, customers

of Kansas City Power & Light Co. in Kansas City, Missouri can access their

accounts to determine how much electricity they’ve used, and the company is

experimenting with “online bill payment.” (Wagner 59) Although the company

sees security as a major concern, they find no reason to “stay off-line.”

The claim that internet security devices, such as encryption and firewalls are

“relatively safe” security devices. Mitch Wagner writing for Computerworld

writes that “Marriott and Kansas City Power & Light shelter legacy systems

from the Internet by allowing access only at ‘mirror’ sites servers outside

the firewall that contain duplicates of the data stored on internal sites.

‘It's like having a lock on your door,’' said Ray Pasley, supervisor of

network services at Kansas City Power & Light.” (Wagner 59) Wagner writes,

“...the risk of being off-line outweighs the risk of being online, because

customers are increasingly demanding online access to data and will take their

business to companies that have a dynamic online presence, Pasley said.”

(Wagner 59) It is obvious that with public demand for internet services,

combined with the fact that the internet is UNIX-based, there is no immediate

threat to the UNIX operating system. UNIX has served many different government

and scientific entities in the past and continues to be enhanced by software

designers in order to better serve customers by being responsive to today’s

marketplace. UNIX serves, and will continue to serve the world through the Web.


Lemay, Laura (1995). Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML In 14 Days.

Sams.net. Indianapolis IN. Nash, Kim S. “UNIX Databases Handling Larger

Loads.,” Computerworld. (1995) : May, pp. 67. Segal, Ben. “A Short History

of Internet Protocols at CERN.,” CERN PDP-NS. (1995) : April. wwwcn.cern.ch/pdp/ns/ben/TCPhist.html.

Sembawang Media (1997). www.cybertime.com.sg/us.html Wagner, Mitch. “Firms:

Open the store, lock the safe.,” Computerworld. (1997) : April, pp. 59. Wolfe,

Jon. “Enhancing skills takes more than a keystroke..,” Nashville Business

Journal. Vol. 11. (1995) : August, pp. 29.