While Kernighan is no stranger to book authorship — he’s written several classics including “the white book” for C and Unix — he has a new book out that is part historical record and part memoir about the birth of Unix.
Usually, when a famous person writes a retrospective like this, it is full of salacious details, but we don’t expect much of that here. The book talks about Bell Labs and Multics, of course. There’s serious coverage of the first, sixth, and seventh editions with biographies of people integral to those releases.
The final part of the book deals with the explosive growth and commercialization of the operating system along with its many descendants. Yes, Linux is in there, of course, as is BSD and others. In broad strokes, this probably doesn’t add a lot to what we all know about the history of Unix, but the personal details and just hearing it from a primary source is worth the price of admission.
We do wonder how many other Kindle Direct paperback books were typeset using groff. We are betting not many.
[CHM] posted an interview with Brian Kernighan last week:
And Kernighan appears in this too (“one of two that Bell Labs made in 1982 about UNIX’s significance, impact and usability”):
Also, in another comment:
Videos of Ken Thompson and Rob Pike telling Unix history stories:
Ken Thompson (interviewed by Brian Kernighan, 2019, starts after 7m38s):
Rob Pike (Unix History presentation, 2018, starts after 3m40s):
And an interesting point in another comment:
there’s a Unix history narrative which begins at Bell Labs goes to Berkeley and then out to the world; this is already extremely limited, in that it ignores Wollongong (where the first Unix port was done, to the Interdata/32, and where important work on TCP/IP networking was done) and what AT&T did with Unix after they closed the sources and what the Research Unix people were up to after Seventh Edition, but I think the biggest loss is that it completely sells Multics short: Unix began when Bell Labs left the Multics project, so Multics, in this narrative, is frozen in time as this unfinished thing that Our Heroes are already bailing out of, and that’s what gets handed down, as if Multics never progressed an inch beyond 1969. Heck, you can even see this as Myth #1 on the multicians.org site
For what it’s worth, this is one of the topics Kernighan’s book covers. He goes over the breakup in pretty good detail and does talk about the further evolution of Multics.
See also the second of the two videos by AT&T: