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Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- raya's research on "The Four Freedoms"

From: David Kastrup
Subject: Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- raya's research on "The Four Freedoms"
Date: Sat, 07 Oct 2006 09:23:19 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.0.50 (gnu/linux)

John Hasler <> writes:

> David Kastrup writes:
>> ...we are talking about the language use at the start of the eighties,
>> not nowadays.
> From _UNIX Programmer's Manual_ Copyright 1983, 1979 Bell Telephone
> Laboratories, Inc.:
> This new form of the Seventh Edition manual attests to the gratifying
> poularity of the UNIX operating system.
> ...
> ...
> ...
> ...
> 1.  Commands
> 2.  System calls
> 3.  Subroutines
> 4.  Special Files
> 5.  File formats and conventions
> 6.  Games
> ...
> ...
> Commands are programs intended to be invoked directly by the user...
> ...
> ...
> System calls are entries into the UNIX supervisor.
> ...
> ...
> From _The UNIX System_ by S. R. Bourne Copyright 1983 Bell Telephone
> Laboratories, Inc.:
>     Chapter 1
>     Introduction
> UNIX describes a family of computer operating systems developed at Bell
> Laboratories.  The UNIX system includes both the operating system and its
> associated commands.  The operating system manages the resources...
> ...
> The commands provided include basic file and data management, editors...
> ...
> Looks to me as if Bell Labs was a bit ambiguous as to the exact definition
> of an operating system.

Yes.  There is definitely a language dichotomy between the
_marketable_ entity "operating system" (which is most of the time, but
not always, just referred to as "system"), and the _technical_ entity
"operating system".

The same can be observed on the current Wikipedia page
<URL:>: the page starts
off with a formal definition:

    An operating system (OS) is a software program that manages the
    hardware and software resources of a computer. A key component of
    system software, the OS performs basic tasks, such as controlling
    and allocating memory, prioritizing the processing of
    instructions, controlling input and output devices, facilitating
    networking, and managing files.

that is _very_ clearly just describing the task of kernel and kernel
threads.  The following section "Introduction" tries to cast some
light on the actual usage of the word, and in the rest of the article,
"operating system" is sometimes used to clearly indicate just kernel
and kernel threads, sometimes in the terms of the encompassing system.

I consider it likely that UNIX itself was one of the major systems
responsible for this mixup, since the concept of "thousand little
utilities, all alike" as an essential toolbox for solving standard
problems (usually employing pipes) more or less became popular with
UNIX.  I think UNIX was one of the first systems where the bulk of
code constituting the system look-and-feel was actually in the
applications included with the system, not just the shell.

David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

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