Change is hard. Once you have things working, however shakily, you realize that making changes could result in a slippery slide back to where you were. Yet change is critical if you are going to advance.
The SRE culture is built upon supporting rapid change and automating away every routine activity possible. But for people outside of that culture, change remains scary, as failure is always an option. And an unpleasant option at that if things were already basically working.
The year 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the UNIX system (™), and Clem Cole, past USENIX Board President, has written an article that helps to explain just why UNIX has been so successful. I’ve read his article several times, and attempted to either create a “digest” version or split his article into smaller parts. In the end, I felt you are better off reading the original.
Clem makes many good points about UNIX, such as, unlike other operating systems of the time, UNIX was a system written by programmers for programmers. If you consider IBM’s OS/360 using the perspective presented by Khurana and Le Dem in their article, you can see that Clem’s point is valid: UNIX had a very different purpose right from the start.
Clem’s article originally appeared in CNAM, a French publication that examines the history of technology sciences, and we present an English version of his article here. If you plan on disrupting the usual course of events when it comes to new systems, I recommend that you take the time to read his entire article.
This article for download below in the Additional Files section is licensed under CC BY 2.0