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July 16, 1990

BELL LABS DESERTS UNIX FOR PLAN 9 OPERATING SYSTEM

By CBR Staff Writer

Unix operating system pioneers Dennis Ritchie, Ken Thompson and Brian Kernighan revealed in London last week that Unix is on the way out at its very birthplace, Bell Laboratories in Morristown, New Jersey. Rob Pike, the Bell Labs windowing system expert who designed the Blit terminal, revealed that the Bell Labs team now use their own designed successor to Unix almost exclusively. The system – named Plan 9 from Bell Labs after the cult 1950s science fiction film Plan 9 from Outer Space – is culturally compatible with Unix, but makes no attempt to follow standards. It is a distributed system that ignores the current move towards workstations linked on a local area network, and instead opts for a combination of CPU servers, file servers and intelligent terminals. Pike said that although he would like to see Plan 9 out the door some time in the future, he was not aware of any plans from AT&T to market ship the system at present. The highly portable system currently runs on Silicon Graphics and MIPS Computer Systems kit, with purpose-built 68020-based terminals and AT&T’s never-released CRISP RISC processor, but Pike said a Sparc version is planned, along with a version for AT&T’s own hardware lines, including an as-yet unreleased multi-processor 80486 machine.

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