Actual UNIX distributions

Anyone here get into actual UNIX systems like SCO for example? Was a bit before my time, but I’m interested in it none the less to find out how much if at all it differs from today’s Linux.

Its a long time ago, but we ran SCO Unix on a pair of 286 PC,s.
They were used to send data over a phone line with modems.
Not much different , except no desktop… terminals were alphanumeric crt screens.
It had sh and csh shells and all the basic Unix commands. I can remember compiling took a long time.

We moved on to Berkeley Unix on a Motorola 68010 processor. Much improved machine, even at 4MHz, but the Unix looked much the same… still alphanumeric terminals and just sh and csh and basic commands. That machine ran 8 users, all connected via twisted pair cable .
We did a lot of overnight batch processing, to try and keep it free during the day for interactive work.

After that, I moved on to SunOS on risc processor workstations. It was then that networking started to come in, and screens (still crt) became graphic, so window systems like X11 were possible. The combination of X11 and networking allowed remote logins… rlogin, rsh, etc.
We had PC,s with dos/win running X emulation so they could be used to access Unix machines.

Linux appeared after the Sun workstation. I did not go Linux then, I went for FreeBSD on 486 machines. I think BSD became available on PC,s before Linux. Anyway BSD on PC was exactly like BSD on a workstation.

Linux is a little different to BSD… mainly the package system and where files are kept.
BSD has ufs instead of ext. It does not look different to the user but they are incompatable and that makes it awkward if you want to share files between BSD and Linux.
Linux boots differently to the BSD kernel.

Anyone who uses Linux command line today would be perfectly happy, on any of the old Unix systems. They might miss their DTE and have to get used to going for coffee while it crunched some data.

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I think part of the charm of those old systems is the wait time while it crunches data. One of the things that attracted me to Linux was the “lines of text scrolling up the screen” aspect of it. I know that’s weird, but it’s oddly relaxing to me.


Working on a multiuser machine is an education.
There are aspects like user groups, quotas, /tmp filling up, local email, using nice… that a home user with a sole user PC never sees.
I dont miss the alphanumeric crt terminals


I used to support SCO OpenServer - worst UNIX ever… I detested it… It was so funky and janky… No wonder, it came out of Microsoft as XENIX… Hideous stuff too, e.g. 8 character hostname limitation (8.3 DOS filenames anyone :smiley: ?), had to reboot if changing IP address (e.g. plumbing a new IP into an unused NIC - yeah : reboot!). I supported about 30 of them dotted around the state of Western Australia, some of them were dial up only - so we had to dial into them over modems (can’t remember the name of the protocol, I think it was related to UUCP - which I haven’t used in 20+ years now). Oh yeah - and the licensing! “Oh you want to use BOTH your CPU in SMP? That will be another $3000 thanks!”

But I’m sure there’s a bunch of legacy environments out there still running SCO “openserver”, chained to Stallion Serial paddleboards with Wyse or whatever brand VT100 compatible serial terminals hooked up to them - I remember quite a few spare parts warehouse systems also ran on SCO and I know Pizza Hut, and few other fast food franchises, used SCO OpenServer extensively.

I liked all of the other UNIX platforms I supported over the years, even the much maligned Data General DG-UX (on AViiON motorola RISC [88010 - i.e. before Motorola partnered with Apple and IBM for PowerPC]), Solaris (SunOS 4.x and SunOS 5 [Solaris 2.5-11] on Sparc), I still think AIX is great, and my favourite was IRIX on SGI MIPS systems - beautiful O/S, they gave us XFS and OpenGL, and I also supported DEC’s UNIX OSF1/Digital UNIX / Tru64 (on 64 bit Alpha - in the 1990s!), but I barely ever touched HP-UX. Also worked with most of the BSD’s (NetBSD, OpenBSD and FreeBSD).

Note - I still support Solaris systems, running on Sparc T series heavy metal… Mostly Solaris 10, and Solaris 10 LDOMs (T series sparc systems have built in hypervisor, the VMs are called Logical Domains : LDOMs) and many of those virtualized LDOM’s host Solaris 10 containers (like Docker for Solaris, but exponentially more mature) or “zones” - not only, but also Solaris 11 on T series, hosting either Solaris 10, or Solaris 11, LDOMs, and many of those host containers or “zones”.

But - having said that - I CRINGE if I get a call at 3:00 am and its for something on a Solaris server - they’re so “legacy” - e.g. Solaris version of “find” cannot do case insensitive filename search! Seriously? Back in the good old days (before Oracle bought Sun just so Larry Ellison could sue google over Java in Android) there were things like SunFreeware, where you could grab GNU’s version of find, tar, make and many others - but Oracle killed that off (they sent their lawyers in)… i.e. nearly everying I’ve grown accustomed to in Linux, DOES NOT apply on Solaris UNIX CLI tools…


That’d be neat to fool around with. Kinda reminds me of how the IBM Z-Series mainframes had “VMs” called LPARs or Logical Partitions. It wasn’t so much an actual VM as it was a slice of the main machine - that’s the best way I can think of to describe it. That way you could be doing 100 different things at the same time on that beast. You could have different operating systems on the partitions, one could be running Z/OS for example, and the other could be running Linux on Z.

We tend to forget Linux is only a kernel. The GNU component is new. None of those early Unix systems had GNU. You got what came with Unix, and that was it. cc instead of gcc, and it only compiled C. Fortran was f77. awk instead of gawk. No package system because it all came bundled. No networking. Any external connection other than terminals was a special addon. Internally it supported tapes and disks and practically nothing else.

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I’ve used LPARs on AIX - IBM ported that mainframe stuff over to UNIX and microprocessors (i.e. PowerPC - IBM also let you run a Linux S390 LPAR on MVS I believe)… Actually a bit more friendly even, than Solaris LDOMs (mostly all CLI driven and it can be obtuse)… Last time I used an LPAR, was on a Power5 rackmount, running AIX, I created a further AIX LPAR, then installed some IBM software that let you run i386 Linux… Hmmm - that was around 2010/2011 as a proof of concept… This all came about 'cause I suggested that “product X” could be used on AIX or PowerPC version of Red Hat (because we were having trouble getting it to work on Sparc Solaris), so some “bright spark” PM (project / product manager) got it into his head that we wanted to run an Intel CPU version of Linux, and that emulation solution was 32 bit only, so I kyboshed it when I realised how clunky that would be! A whole PowerPC system, to run an LPAR of AIX to then host emulated i386?

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We have some Solaris systems still running. They are a tank. We don’t power them down because they might not come back up.


Seems like yesterday - but - it was 2021 - had to install pairs of Flash PCIe (x4) cards into a pair of “fault tolerant” t-series rackmounts (each already had 2 pairs - needed more for capacity)… These were Oracle branded, but, no longer available from Oracle, and if purchased elsewhere, out of support… What a rigmarole that was - only supported in PCIe Slot 0, and slot 4, 5 and 8, but there was already something else in Slot 4 - so had to move that card, install the PCIe Flash modules, then re-jig ALL the LDOMs, because of the card moved from one slot to another!

Hairy stuff - always on edge, knowing these things can fail easily if left continuously running for years on end… And wouldn’t you know it - one of them had repeated failures after that - RAM, power supply…

Thankfully I kinda knew the Oracle Engineer sent out there, else they might have have raised alarm bells : “Found unsupported configuration - SLA and Platinum HW support NULL AND VOID!”…


I believe back in the late 90’s we had them too. They ran a Unix by Oracle I think.

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Sun’s UNIX was their “own” product, SunOS 4 (1980’s and 1990’s) was BSD based, then along came SunOS 5, rebranded as Solaris (early / mid 90’s), and based on UNIX System V.

Oracle didn’t “own” Solaris until around 2009 or 10… Soon as they took over they killed OpenSolaris (it was quite nice actually) but it was too late for them to close the stable door on ZFS, it was already opensourced and out there in the wild!

  1. Sun Microsystems were not only cool, they had EXCELLENT customer support.
  2. Oracle are not cool, NEVER were, and have the WORST customer support I’ve EVER experienced (and Larry Ellison ticks all the boxes for a “Bond Villain” - he owns a whole Hawaiin Island, a huge yacht, races yachts, and claims all the money he donates to cryogenics research as “philanthropy”).

Yes, you are right! It was a Sun.

We had one of those. It was the first multiprocessor system we experienced. First time I ever encountered System V. Never really got used to all those rc levels . It performed well though. We had an optical disk robot attached to it for storing images. Disks were in Gb then.

You guys are way above my expertise and knowledge level. Would be nice to set down in a classroom and hear the lot of you lecture!!!

Relax. Its just what we experienced. There is no intellectual superiority in it.
I was fortunate enough to work with computers for most of my life, starting as a postgrad at Uni. Things you experience stick with you forever, especially if the experience is exciting or emotional or satisfying in some way.
You know lots more about Gentoo and Windows than most people here.

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That’s for sure. We are just the sum of our experience. Lots of experience but outdated in some cases. :slight_smile:

Sometimes I remember the dumbest thing and yet forget something I shouldn’t. I’m usually good with an IP address. Probably a holdover from when we needed to remember phone numbers.


I can still remember my mate’s phone number from 1978, my family home phone number from 1979, my parent’s phone number from 1983, my bicycle combination lock from 1976… My Uni student ID from 1992, my Commonwealth government staff ID number from 1985… The IP address of my work’s “internet” access machine from 1997… My drivers license number from 1981…

My missus always has to ask me when it’s someone’s birthday, or what year something happened…

I can’t help it - people often ask me how do I remember such details? My answer is usually a rhetorical question : “How do you not?”.

So - anyway - it’s my missus who forgets birthdays and wedding anniversaries :smiley:


This is why I haven’t really adopted or been interested in going to IPV6 on my network. I have all the IPv4 addresses memorized, and I won’t really be able to do it that way with 6 … lol


So true. When I got my first job out of college my checking account number was 1101 0010 or D2 in hex.

My mom still has the same home phone number we got in 1967.

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