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Celebrating 50 Years of Unix


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The Unix logo.

The Unix operating system, created in 1969, went on to revolutionize the computer industry in ways that are still felt today.

Credit: The Open Group

The summer of 1969 was one of the most culturally significant times in modern American history. It was the summer when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, more than 400,000 people attended the legendary Woodstock music festival, and the Stonewall riots brought the fight for gay rights to the national stage.

However, something else happened that summer which you won't find in most history books… a Bell Labs researcher named Ken Thompson created the first version of Unix, which turned out to be one of the most important pieces of computer software ever invented.

The birth of Unix was a product of auspicious circumstances. Earlier in 1969, Bell Labs happened to pull out of a multi-year effort to build a complex computer operating system called Multics. Faced with the ending of that project, Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and a few other Bell Labs researchers began an unofficial effort to create a simpler operating system. Then, Ken's family left for a month-long trip to visit relatives in California and he found himself with just enough free time to code the first version of the operating system which would later be named Unix.

The rest of the story is computing history — Unix went on to revolutionize the computer industry in ways that are still felt today.

Later this month, Bell Labs will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Unix with a special two day "Unix 50" event at their historic Murray Hill headquarters. This event should be one for the history books with many notable Unix and computer pioneers in attendance!

 

From Nokia Bell Labs
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