Chronology of the Unix World

1969 Internet begins as the ARPAnet with Doug Englebart (inventor of the mouse) at Stanford Research Institute linking to a Scientific Data Systems mainframe to a Honeywell minicomputer acting as a dumb terminal in remote login--more or less a dialup "telnet" session.

Unix invented by Ken Thompson of AT&T's Bell Laboratories as a Digital PDP minicomputer alternative to the General Electric multi-user mainframe running MIT's Multics. Unix was originally written in assembly language. Unix, in a sense, emerged from the fragmentation of AT&T and GE's attempt to work together.

1970 Intel creates the first microprocessor (4-bit).

AT&T's patent department uses Unix's roff program for text formatting.

1971 Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie release AT&T's Unix for the Digital minicomputer. 80% of U.S. universities license Unix at nominal cost for their Digital minicomputers.
1972 Ken Thompson rewrites Unix in B (after the "A" of assembly language?). Ken Thompson's B, which evolved from Martin Richard's BCPL
1973 Dennis Ritchie rewrites B as C for portability. [PDP-11 time sharing supports 11 users and costs $150,000.)
1974 Unix becomes the first operating system written in the C programming language, which means porting is much easier than a system written in assembler language.
1975 Universities begin to provide Unix to students, thanks to the low cost ($150 for an unsupported version).
1976 The first port of Unix: from the PDP to the Interdata 8/32.
1978 Bell Labs releases Unix Version 7, featuring the Bourne shell.

IBM enters the PC market, seeking to displace Digital's CP/M, the predecessor to DOS. Bill Gate's DOS uses system interrupts instead of system calls.

1979 Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) becomes available: Berkeley added the C shell to make Unix commands more like C commands, networking improvements, and virtual memory.
1980 Apollo Computer founded to provide proprietary "workstations" ($25,000 - $100,000) as a cheaper alternative to mini-computers (Digital, Data General, Hewlett-Packard)
1982 SUN Micrososystems incorporated in February with four employees. First workstation introduced. It includes TCP/IP, now known as the Internet protocol suite; then called "Ethernet". SUN workstations cheaper because they use Motorola chips, the Berkeley flavor of the Unix operating system, "open systems", and networking (modular; distributed computing; collaboration across organizations). Known as the Stanford University Network project, the working prototype and a 6-page business plan lands venture capital to storm the CAD market because engineers hated having to share time slices on a mini.
1983 Sun and Computervision sign a $40 million OEM agreement.

AT&T releases Unix System V.

1984 Sun's Network File System (NFS) licensed free to the industry, so that one logical file system can distribute files to computers running Unix, DOS, MacOS, and Digital VMS. Sun cultivates "engineers selling to engineers" marketing.

Using Sun workstations at Stanford, Leonard Bosack and Sandy Lerner, invent the internet router. Sun decides not to go that path, and allows Cisco to surpass Sun in value.

Apple Computer releases the revolutionary Macintosh, complete with GUI and mouse.

1985 Sun marketing chooses "The Network Is The Computer" slogan instead of "Open Systems For Open Minds". Sun and Fujitsu begin work on the RISC(reduced instruction set computer) base for the SPARC (scalable processor architecture) processor, to be more powerful than Motorola chips.
1986 PC-NFS technology introduced. It brings the power of network computing to PC users, and opens a whole new market for Sun. Initial public stock offering (IPO).
1987 Sun promotes the concept of cloning Sun workstations with SPARC International, but it fails as an "open standard" because Sun retained rights to any collaborator's improvements.

Sun's cowboys and AT&T's bureaucrats try to work together to unify flavors into UNIX System V Release 4, with AT&T to buy 20% of Sun. Two years later, AT&T gave up trying to work with Sun and sold off all of its Unix holdings. Digital, HP, and IBM found the Open Software Foundation (OSF) to oppose Unix International consortium: Sun, AT&T, Motorola, Fujitsu, Toshiba, and Unisys. The division in the Unix world allows Microsoft to plan for Windows NT to take over Unix' space.

Microsoft and IBM release the first version of OS/2.

1988 Microsoft and IBM collaboration falls apart. IBM will attempt to bring its OS/2 to market before Microsoft can release Windows NT.

Microsoft recruits Dave Cutler from Digital to architect Windows NT.

Sun reaches $1 billion in revenue--the fastest rise ever for a computer company with a direct sales force. [cf. Compaq, Dell]

1989 OSF and Unix International join the X/Open consortium for X-Windows programming standard (Motif is proprietary to Sun).

SPARCstationTM 1 system introduced. Features are so tightly integrated it fits in a 3- by 16- by 16-inch enclosure--the first "pizza box." Sun's expanded alliances with Informix, Ingres, Oracle, and Sybase set the stage for emergence as the number one database platform. Sun loses $20 million and settles an investor class-action lawsuit for $25 million. Sun focuses on its core technology: the SPARC chips, and drops both 386i and Motorola, and creates a small business units: SunSoft; SunService, etc.

Microsoft releases Windows 3.0.

1990 Sun follows up on the success of the SPARCstation 1 with four new models--including the first workstation for under $5,000.
1991 Sun's market share in RISC--the world's fastest, most powerful computing architecture--hits 63 percent. Sun unveils SolarisTM 2 operating environment, specially tuned for symmetric multiprocessing. (Solaris does have some of AT&T's Unix in it.)

Linus Thorvald's begins writing the GNU/Linux kernel.

1992 Leading the desktop performance race, Sun introduces the SPARCstation 10 system, the first multiprocessing desktop computer. Sun's name appears on Standard & Poor's 500.

Sun ships more multiprocessing UNIX servers in a single year than any other vendor shipped in its history.

Microsoft releases Windows 3.1, with object linking and embedding (OLE).

1993 Windows NT released (after 5 years of development).
1994 Linux Thorvalds releases Linux (version 1.0), an OS running with less than 2 MB of RAM..
1995 Sun introduces the first universal software platform, designed from the ground up for the Internet and corporate intranets. Java technology enables developers to write applications once to run on any computer.

More than 100 Sun systems are used to render images for Disney's "Toy Story," the first all computer-generated feature film.

Novell transfers its UnixWare to SCO (Santa Cruz Operation)--runs on Intel. [UnixWare combines NetWare with SRV4 Unix to eliminate the TCP/IP gateway to servers.]

1996 Sun UltraTM workstation family introduced. Features the 64-bit UltraSPARC processor with on-chip multimedia, graphics, and imaging technologies. Sun licenses Java technology to all major hardware and software companies.

Linux gains SAMBA, software that tricks Windows machines into believing they have a Windows NT server instead of a Linux server.

1997 Using Java technology, NASA engineers develop an interactive application allowing anyone on the Internet to be a "virtual participant" in the space administration's groundbreaking mission to Mars. Sun's new server family introduced. Includes the 64-processor Sun EnterpriseTM 10000 server with the processing power of four mainframes.

In 1997, SCO UNIX server software shipped in more volume than all of the Sun, HP, and IBM RISC-based alternatives combined.

Linux users total 3 million.

1998 Sun redefines storage for the network age with an Intelligent Storage Network architecture that delivers mainframe-class reliability, virtually unlimited expandability, and cross-platform information sharing. Say hello to instant networking. Sun's latest breakthrough, Jini technology, enables all kinds of devices to connect to the network-- instantly. Just plug it in, and it works. Solaris 7 operating environment raises the bar for network software. Advanced 64-bit technology delivers dramatic increases in performance, capacity, and scalability. America Online acquires Netscape; Sun and AOL to accelerate the growth of e-commerce and develop next-generation Internet devices in a historic three-year alliance. Next generation of Java technology introduced. Java 2 software delivers more speed, more flexibility, and a complete set of foundation classes.

Linux users total 7 million.

1999 With offices in 150 countries, Sun is a $9 billion global leader in network computing. More than half the medium to large companies worldwide are using Java technology.

There is a good introduction to Unix at this site.