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Unix vs Linux – Key Differences You Need To Know

Unix and Linux are two operating systems that have many significant overlapping features and, yet, continue to be unique in their own ways. While most of the world today is dominated by Linux, it is Unix which is very old and also known as the mother of all operating systems. In fact, the Linux kernel is also derived from Unix. You will find Linux to be an ideal operating system, widely used for game development, computer software and hardware, tablet PCs, and mainframes. The “Linux Revolution” has allowed the operating system to rule over our desktops, servers, smartphones, and even some electrical appliances like refrigerators. Unix is primarily used in workstations, internet servers, and PCs by Intel, HP, Solaris, and more. 

Before we dive in to get an insight into the differences between Unix and Linux, let us first take a look at their individual history and purpose of development. 

What is Unix?

Unix is an operating system that finds its roots in the late 1960s when AT&T Bell Labs, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and General Electric were trying to design a mainframe operating system called MULTICS (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service). However, when the project became too complex and performed poorly, AT&T Bell Labs decided to pull out of it. Two members of the Bell Labs research facility, Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie, decided to build a new operating system for Digital Equipment Corporation’s PDP-7 based on their experience and previous work on the MULTICS project. A few developers came together to form a small team and together they developed a file system and a new multitasking operating system that included a command-line interpreter as well as some utility programs. Initially, it was named as Unics (Uniplexed Information and Computing Service) as the version supported only a single user. Soon, when the version started supporting multiple users, it was renamed as Unix.

Unix got distinguished from the other operating systems when the team decided to rewrite it in the C programming language. Until then, operating systems were written in assembly language that required the code to be written for specific hardware. This bound the OS to the said hardware platform, making it hardly portable. But, refactoring code on the C language allowed Unix to be ported to many other hardware architectures. This led to the quick expansion of Unix beyond AT&T Bells and across academic, research, and commercial uses. 

Another factor that contributed to Unix’s expansion was AT&T’s decision to send its free license and source code to universities, government agencies, and corporations that had mainframe computers. The first public version of Unix was called System 5 with more branches and improvements being released in the later years. Some of the most popular variations of Unix include BSD (Berkley Software Distribution), Linux, Solaris (Sun/Oracle), HP/UX (Hewlett-Packard), and Mac OS X (Apple). 

What is Linux?

Linux is a free, open-source operating system. In an attempt to create a free and open source alternative to the proprietary Unix system, Richard Stallman created the Free Software Foundation. He also developed the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) that allowed the software to spread freely. By the early 1900s, many programs such as compilers, libraries, text editors, a windowing system, and a UNIX shell, that are required in an operating system were completed. But, other elements such as daemons, device drivers, and the kernel were not complete. The first Linux kernel was released for the Intel x86 PC systems on 17th September 1991. It was developed by Linus Torvalds, who was working on a Unix-like operating system called MINIX. The MINIX OS code was available under the GNU GPL project. A usable operating system was created by including the system utilities and libraries from the GNU project. 

Linux | iTMunch

SEE ALSO: Key Differences Between Red Hat vs Ubuntu

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Ketki Hanamshet
Ketki Hanamshet
Ketki is a content writer who develops engaging content after exhaustive research for a variety of sectors. A graduate in Mechanical Engineering, she turned towards writing for reaching out to the masses. Besides writing, she loves travelling and exploring different places. Ketki writes for iTMunch as a freelance contributor.