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Glossary - Unix

Unix (a.k.a., "UNIX") is the operating system upon which the Internet was invented.  Development of Unix originated as an interactive multi-user time-sharing system (and was the first OS to be written in the C programming language) in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a joint venture between General Electric, AT&T Bell Laboratories, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Since then, the popularity of Unix grew significantly due to support from the University of California Berkeley and other universities, and continues to gain popularity today due to its long history of flexibility coupled with solid reliability.

Although pure Unix is centred around the command line interface (also commonly referred as "the shell"), GUI (Graphical User Interface) overlays (such as Xwindows and NextStep) are becomming increasingly common as more software designers are catering to end-user demands.
Recommended reading

The UNIX standard

The Open Group maintains compliance of the UNIX standard among vendors, and provides current and historic information about Unix on its web site at  A quote from The Open Group's official web site: [License plate: Live free or die - UNIX]

"The Open Group is a vendor-neutral and technology-neutral consortium, whose vision of Boundaryless Information Flow™ will enable access to integrated information, within and among enterprises, based on open standards and global interoperability."

The Single UNIX Specification, which is advocated by The Open Group through the web site, benefits the whole IT industry.  For users, products that support the Single UNIX Specification provide a powerful open platform for the development, implementation, and management of mission-critical computer systems.  The specification facilitates freedom of choice across the widest possible range of systems, therefore protecting investment in existing software and data.  (Read more at


Unix is noted for being free software, with many extensions and new ideas provided in many flavours (varieties of versions) by different organizations and individuals.

  • AIX - IBM (mainframes)
  • BSD Unix - Bell Labs / AT&T (see for a list of flavours)
    • DesktopBSD - focuses on being user-friendly
    • DragonflyBSD - focuses on the threading model
    • FreeBSD - focuses on performance
    • MicroBSD - focuses on Bulgarian localization
    • MidnightBSD - focuses on an easy-to-use desktop experience (based on FreeBSD)
    • NetBSD - focuses on portability, and known for its friendly support community that's very helpful to new users
    • OpenBSD - focuses on security
    • PC-BSD - focuses on being user-friendly
    • RoFreeSBIE - ROmanian FREE System Burned In Economy (based on FreeBSD)
  • Digital Unix - DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation)
  • HP-UX - Hewlett Packard
  • IRIX - SGI
  • Linux - Linus Torvalds (originated as Minix; see for a list of distributions)
  • MacOS X - Apple
  • NeXTSTEP - NeXT Computer
  • Solaris - Sun Microsystems (Solaris was forked from BSD at Stanford University as SunOS)
  • UnixWare - Novell (was later sold to SCO; also known as Open Unix)
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