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The Influence of Unix on NT

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For several years now I’ve been looking for something Bill Gates said. Unfortunately I had misremembered the actual words, and every time I found someone who thought they remembered it, they had the wrong words too and I’d come up dry yet again.

Finally this week someone in a newsgroup pointed me to this:

(from Bill’s speech at Unix Expo October 9th 1996)

Well, Microsoft stepped back and looked at that situation and said that the best thing for us might be to start from scratch: build a new system, focus on having a lot of the great things about Unix, a lot of the great things about Windows, and also being a file-sharing server that would have the same kind of performance that, up until that point, had been unique to Novell’s Netware.

And through Windows NT, you can see it throughout the design. In a weak sense, it is a form of Unix. There are so many of the design decisions that have been influenced by that environment. And that’s no accident. I mean, we knew that Unix operability would be very important and we knew that the largest body of programmers that we’d want to draw on in building Windows NT applications would certainly come from the Unix base.

I mention this for several reasons. One is to add yet another data point to the web referencing Bill Gates and Unix.

As I said, I had misremembered: I thought he had said something like “Windows NT is effectively Unix” and I’ve heard other people insist it was more like “Windows NT is a better UNIX than UNIX”. Of course it’s still possible that he did say those other things also – but I’m happy enough with this quote for now.

In light of the recent saber rattling about Linux and patents, the “There are so many of the design decisions that have been influenced by that environment” sentence is particularly interesting if these patent threats include things that are prior Unix art. “In a weak sense, it is a form of Unix” is also telling.

I said before that I don’t think that’s the case; I think the patent stuff is talking about things like Samba and Mono, but even there the “influenced by that environment” could be important in the court of public opinion if not in actual law.

In any case, these sentences do remind us of the time when Microsoft at least had grudging respect for Unix.

*Originally published at APLawrence.com

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A.P. Lawrence provides SCO Unix and Linux consulting services http://www.pcunix.com

The Influence of Unix on NT
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