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January 18, 1988

THE UNIX YEAR IN REVIEW – PART TWO

By CBR Staff Writer

July Sun Microsystems launches the SPARC reduced instruction set processor, lays down a development schedule under which semiconductor companies will take performance up to several times the 10 MIPS claimed for initial implementations, and offers to licence the product to the world in general. IBM, which has a long-term Unix development pact with Interactive Systems Corp, ignores the Interactive-endorsed VP/ix and goes to Locus Computing Corp for a version of MS-DOS under Unix for the 80386 based PS/2, generating further gossip and speculation about its long term Unix plans. In Sweden, the Government rejects established suppliers NCR and DEC in favour of an increased emphasis on European vendors for its second phase of Unix systems purchasing. Marking another stage in the quitely growing Unix threat from Japan, Fujitsu is tipped to offer Amdahl’s Unix on its supercomputer line. And in a wonderful illustration of how a common operating system can open the way to unlikely alliances between manufacturers, US company Tolerant Systems, Bull of France and Denmark’s RC Computer have a technology exchange agreement under which Bull and RC will use Tolerant’s operating system for new products which will then be fed into Tolerant’s product line. Latest chapter in the sad story of AT&T’s ill conceived Unix PC is that the machine can be had for $1,900 compared with the $5,400 list price. By the end of 1987, some US observers reckon they can get one for under $1,000.

AT&T, whose tardiness in introducing a System V mechanism for handling different European languages led the X/Open Group to base its standard on interfaces devised by Hewlett-Packard, finally announces French and German Native Language Supplements for System V.3.1.

August GEC Computers finally throws in the towel on its Series 63 Unix minicomputer after making only a handful of sales. The Korean Government is the latest to make a sizable Unix commitment, using Tolerant systems as the basis of a $176m development of administrative systems. Industry entertainment is provided by DEC’s appeal against the US Air Force Computer Acquisition Centre’s decision to specify System V compatibility for a $4,500m, 20,000-system office automation contract. DEC, which is one of the most vehement opponents of AT&T’s System V.3 licensing policy, wants the non-proprietary Posix standard used. The International Standards Organisation, which has begun to work on the adoption of Posix as a standard, rebuffs an attempt by Japanese manufacturers to promote a rival standard.

September Those holding their breath for the legendary Unix/Xenix merged 80386 product will have to hold it a little longer: the development has gone the way of many collaborative efforts and delivery dates have slipped to the second half of 1988. AT&T launches a mass of Data Systems products including a top-end multiprocessor – and steps up its effort to generate business in licensing Unix-related software by promising to resell source code for communications software.

October Torch Computers Ltd is the latest UK manufacturer to feel the crunch as Australian company Catsco acquires a majority shareholding. Just 15 months earlier, Whitechapel Workstations also needed a drastic refinancing package. X/Open works with the US National Bureau of Standards towards a common applications environment. The Posix 1003.1 standard slips to spring 1988. IBM half-reveals plans for a new line of engineerinmg workstations – and is tempting customers with talk of a 50 MIPS RISC machine crammed into a PS/2-like floor-standing system. AT&T is readying a secure Unix for the market to satisfy some of the stringent requirements emerging from government procurements.

Sun, meanwhile, scores yet another coup by teaming with AT&T to proliferate its SPARC RISC processor and Unix implementation throughout the industry; the agreement promises a standard hardware platform with software guaranteeing binary applications portability between products – and what is the software? Why, the merged System V/Berkeley/SunOS product for which AT&T enlisted Sun

‘s efforts back in 1985.

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Old developments from innovative US startups never die, it seems, they just get bought up by large European manufacturers and after Nixdorf finally gave birth to fault-tolerant systems based on technology from defunct Auragen, British Telecom launches an integrated voice/data system using technology acquired from long gone Sydis Corp.

DEC is finally rebuffed in its battle over the US Air Force System V specification, and shortly afterwards commits to doing a System V-compatible product – something the company promised several years ago but coveniently forgot about.

November One of the few sparks of originality on the world of mainframe operating systems, Amdahl’s Aspen transaction processing system, is killed off by the company which will transfer the effort to Unix. IBM meanwhile is said to be readying versions of AIX to run native on its mainframes. Unisoft and Motorola collaborate on a distinctly low-key attempt to bring to 68000 family Unix systems the same level of compatibility as is promised for the Intel 80386.

AT&T’s computer systems partner Olivetti deals a further blow to the AT&T 3B line with the launch of its own range of Unix systems.

December The Japanese industry has invested vast amounts in the development of Unix hardware and software, although it so far has little to show for its efforts in overseas markets. Undeterred by early lack of success and sounding a warning to the rest of the industry, Japanese vendors are lining up a mass of new products for 1988: NEC plans a new line of workstations, Sony plans a new US drive behind its News workstation, and Hitachi launches a new range of superminis.

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