UNIX on the PC, 1989

For anyone interested in the history of UNIX on PCs, an article rather appropriately called UNIX Packages For The PC on page 40 of the Nov-Dec 1989 issue (#50) of Micro Cornucopia ought to be interesting. Now available in PDF on bitsavers.org.

The first part of the article covers the general situation of UNIX on PCs and explains the various ports of AT&T’s code to the PC platform (XENIX, microports/Microport, ISC…). The general structure of UNIX (base OS, development, text processing, documentation, etc.) is also explained.

The second part briefly covers several PC UNIX implementations: SCO XENIX (not SCO UNIX just yet), ISC 386/ix, Everex ESIX, Dell UNIX, and one variant that does not ring any bells—Bell UNIX, which apparently had just been acquired by Intel. Perhaps that is the same product which was later sold as AT&T UNIX… or perhaps not?

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3 Responses to UNIX on the PC, 1989

  1. KJ says:

    Bell Unix is from Bell Technologies; I understood that the founders came from Fortune Systems. They had a SVR3.2 port + enhancements to the i386. Intel picked them up around 1990. They also shipped:

    – Blit Express: A monochrome, ISA-bus video card built around the Intel i82786 video chip. 1600×1200 when 640×480 was hi res. Bell had an X10.4 port and later X11. No connection to the AT&T Blit terminal.
    – Color Blit: Color version of above. Limited to 256 colors and as I heard awfully slow. I never actually saw one.
    – HUB6: A 6-port, ISA, dumb serial card (3 x 8250 chips (usually upgraded to ns16450/550), no processor offload). At the time, a very popular way to get more serial ports on an ISA bus machine on the cheap. The driver is still maintained in *BSD and Linux.

    I had an Intel 302 (built by Intel…early 386/387, ISA bus ‘workstation’) with a Blit running Bell Unix as a replacement for a Sun 3. Much faster machine; much, much worse Unix. Much happier when we moved to Dell SVR4.

  2. Michal Necasek says:

    There’s no connection between Bell Technologies and Bell Labs, is there?

    Dell SVR4 seemed to have pretty good reputation.

  3. KJ says:

    There was no connection between Bell Tech and Bell Labs that I knew of beyond both being into Unix. 🙂

    I was a big fan of Dell SVR4 Unix (they had an earlier SVR3 port, but I didn’t use it much). At the time, I was working at a company that made multi-port serial cards and I ran basically every 386 Unix of the time for testing. Dell became my standard desktop. More stable than the others, was well packaged and easy to install (due to an autoconfig capability for common hardware noone else had), and they included some precompiled open source tools as a nice touch before this was trivial (as a C compiler was almost always an extra cost item and internet connections were laughably slow). I recall gcc, perl, TeX and some nifty email & news readers. Alas, it wasn’t a money maker apparently and Dell decided to just resell other folks Unix in the end.

    An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.

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