After WWDC: Eclipse 1988

WWDC 1988 left almost no traces in the “Apple” of the media of the time. There are no mysteries in February of the same year in Dallas, a conference was held Uniforum, she was overshadowed by WWDC. Apple and Unix, 30 years ago?

Apple Computer announced at Uniforum 1988 own Unix-like operating system A/UX. Arch-enemy Apple, progress and humanity, IBM, along with Apple (in a hall two floors above), announced with AIX, its Unix-like system. And yet, it did not escape the attention of journalists, Apple and IBM have shown to each other is of particular interest. Love?

“Relationship” IBM and Apple are worthy of poetry and high prose, they had everything. From hate to love and back. To delve into this topic are not going to postpone it until another time.

Uniforum 1988 was very important for Unix, turning a gradual and almost invisible wide computer mass penetration of Unix and Unix-like systems in the personal computer industry in an open aggressive invasion.

The mystery of birth

There are questions.

First, Apple second half of the 80-ies, no one has been porting Unix to the Mac. This was done by the developers of the operating system for BigMac, one of the most favorite projects of Steve jobs, but his departure has put on this cross. All who had to do with BigMac, in 1985 or left Apple and moved to other projects. Where did the Apple in 1988 took albeit buggy, but real Unix-like system?

Second, the company’s management at this time is still not fully understood the importance of operating system for the well-being of the company. I doubt that John sculley knew about the existence of Unix and Unix-like systems – not to mention the understanding of the significance of these phenomena. Who and when gave the command and has allocated the funding?

With A/UX, I had to interfere several times, but its origin and other details of her fate wasn’t interested – sorry. One of the employees of the company where I worked, was involved in its creation, but he never worked for Apple. I could have so much to learn!

But the answers to these questions could be found without field examination of witnesses.

Start with the answer to the second. A/UX – a product of the nightmare that engulfed Scully and his fellows companions when gone nowhere and depressed Steve jobs founded NeXT Software, and industry rumors about his intention to cross a personal computer with Unix.

At the urgently convened meeting, it was decided to crush the upstart in his field, creating his own, “proper” Unix. With a graphical user interface for the Mac, which really is (whatever has been written in the late 90s, criticism of Apple) wanted almost all industry leaders, and with not quite understandable to the layman, but promising, according to experts, a “superhuman” Unix.

To create a superweapon decided to see a specialist, to the company UniSoft. From 1981 to the late 90s UniSoft made a living porting Unix to various platforms, she didn’t have worthy opponents and took it for their services expensive.

In addition, since 1985 UniSoft has developed for the Open Group the Toolkit to verify compliance Unices with the X/Open standard. In other words, how a particular Unix is actually Unix. Apple had (theoretical) opportunity to capitalize on Federal programs, where the stake was huge sums to approach him, needed Unix with a certificate of compliance to POSIX. Before the news about the plans of Steve jobs, this direction was closed due to the inability of the company to obtain such a certificate, and everything is so well formed.

What and on what terms you agreed Apple Computer and UniSoft, is unknown. Judging by his results, for this Apple Computer could be put “neud”. For UniSoft it was problem like the dozens already done all the pitfalls and everything that could happen during its implementation, employees of UniSoft knew, and the reputation for them was very important.

Contract Unix system with a native Mac interface ought to be completed by July 1987. At UniSoft was not yet familiar with the eccentric lady named Apple, and, most likely, because of the peculiarities of her character and style of doing things has turned out, what happened.

With a delay of 7 months, A/UX 1.0 was announced at the Uniforum 1988. The quality of A/UX was not consistent with normal for UniSoft so that this company didn’t even hurt. All agreed that she is stubbornly and persistently prevented.

In those days, Apple defended its own interests, regardless of anything else, even with their own interests. It is, more than once. Although in the case of A/UX is only a guess. UniSoft has kept the details secret.


In February 1988, anyone who was interested, performed a miracle: for the Mac II, in the guise of the most ordinary System 6 (6.0.5), worked as a real Unix. Certification for the title Unix it would not have passed, but it was definitely a Unix-like system, and the applause of the audience was appropriate.

The basis of A/UX was System V, release 2.2 from AT&T. At the end of 1988, AT&T issued a release 4, but apparently UniSoft were any serious reasons not to use the newest release of UNIX novel framework. A/UX was included items of SV5R3 and SV5R4 (version 5, releases 3 and 4), and from 4.2 BSD and 4.3 BSD.

Virtual memory, preemptive multitasking, support for the three command shells (Bourne, C and Korn; they are also sh, csh and ksh) and many more. Real Unix!

In one of the next versions were promised full compatibility with the POSIX standard and the implementation of the X Window System. The promise was fulfilled in the A/UX 1.1, in 1989.

During the demonstration, as expected, the sharp corners have been neatly bypassed. A/UX was shining, the appetite and hope for a great exciting future. Apple in the forefront!

The needs of the “Apple” of UNIX, too, was impressive – it would take at least 4 megabytes of RAM to install the required 80-megabyte disk. Of course, A/UX was required a 68020 and PMMU-68851 coprocessor from Motorola.

Impressive and price: for Mac II with 2 megabytes of RAM (less than the minimum 4 MB – why?) 12-inch black and white monitor, 4 bit video card and 80-megabyte hard disk with a pre-installed A/UX 1.0 requested 8597 $ 1988.

If we subtract from 8597 $ the cost of equipment, the price of A/UX was less than a thousand dollars – commercial UNIX s cost three times more expensive, so impressive the prices could not dampen the enthusiasm.

A little (and few) alarmed some of the highlights of the demonstration: for example, no one never showed several simultaneously operating devices Mac applications. And all that is related of UNIX, showing on one Mac II and Mac’ovsky interface on the other.

When A/UX 1.0 fell into the hands of eager, it was even worse.


2 megabytes of RAM, A/UX could barely breathe. 4 MB even the most elementary problems caused shortness of breath and often “brasili” system. It was found experimentally that the minimum amount of memory, in which A/UX capable of something, is 8 megabytes.

In 24-bit addressing is the maximum size of RAM that can be used. To install it can be more, but…

When 32-bit addressing the maximum amount of RAM in 1988 was almost endless – 4 gigabytes! There were even pundits, who calculated that the RAM to 4 GB will cause irreparable damage to the ecology of the globe. In a Mac, on which I write this text, RAM twice (sorry, environment), this to me is still not enough.

Other pundits (and I was among them) considered it bad manners to use it to read and to modify values of checkboxes of the memory block written for this API. Where these boxes were located in the “extra” byte of the address, knew everything, possibly even my cat. Because of these wise men, the environment was safe, but on a system with 32-bit addressing mode program-violators stupidly did not work.

And, well, A/UX 1.0 required 32 megabytes. Or at least 16. Then this is the product turned into something working. But it was a “no ice” in UNIX novel part of the number of bugs exceeds the limit. None of the Unices from UniSoft such, probably, was not. On their account, 225 transfers, all can not judge. If this was repeated two or three times, would not have a great reputation.

But bugs in UNIX e nothing compared to the bugs in the “fourth shell” A/UX System 6. And not just with bugs – with the peculiarities of the implementation, so to speak.

To switch between UNIX Ohm and System 6 had to restart the computer. And Woe to you if you forgot to save a work in progress.

At the same time could work only… Could only run one program for the Mac, if you’re lucky. Despite the presence of MultiFinder, system programs, using System 6, which was implemented cooperative multitasking.

Generally, in the System 6. all that I could.

Who is it for?

The initiators of A/UX, seeing how envy competitors on the graphical user interface Macs, believed that Unix this interface will become, if not a bestseller, then at least a good replace all sorts of other UNIX’s, including those that are yet to come out (NeXT).

Alas. In those days, even Steve jobs was wrong more often than allowed. And Scully…

The Unix user A/UX was interesting, but more as a curiosity. They didn’t miss Mac ovskogo of the interface, and to pay for it plus no one wanted. To the same Unix station was significantly more productive (twice at least) and usually cost less than Mac and in a similar configuration.

For the casual user Macs it was overkill. So many unnecessary complications and unnecessary restrictions – and nothing really useful in return.

In addition, the reality of which was not written in the most good-natured articles in the computer press have been too harsh.

The system was sold, in spite of everything – but to speak about serious success, alas, is not necessary.

During the presentation, sculley said that Apple has prepared 100,000 sets with A/UX 1.0 for sale. I doubt that all of these kits have found a buyer. Data on sales of this system. Anyway, I couldn’t find them. Well, if $ 10 were able to sell or donate.

The first version sold really became a A/UX 2.0.

To be continued. In the next series A/UX 2.0, A/UX 3.0, MachTen (a competitor!) and the Apple Workgroup Server.

0 Comments on “After WWDC: Eclipse 1988”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *