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For readers with high sensitivity to grammar errors access to this page is not recommended :-)

Shells History Webliography

Sven Mascheck's pages provide background information about the Bourne shell.

See manual pages of two main predecessors of the Bourne shell, the "Thompson" and the "Mashey" shell:

Jeffrey A. Neitzel maintains a source package of a reimplementation of the Thompson shell, which compiles on current systems.
You'll also find some example scripts there.

See also an extensive V6 manual collection and a simh tape from Wolfgang Helbig

source port of a current Bourne shell by Gunnar Ritter. This is the first officially available Bourne shell source code.

[Mar 4, 2000] Slashdot Articles AT&T's Korn Shell Source Code Released KSH93 source was released.

Henk Langeveld writes, "This announcement can be found at March 1, 2000: I am happy to annouce the the 'i' point release of ksh93 is now available for download. For the first time, source is available as well as binaries for several architectures. If you build binaries for new architectures, and send them to us, we can add them to the download site. The download page has been completely revised in a manner that hopefully will be easier to use. ksh93 is part of the ast-open package. tksh (ksh with tk support) is also part of this package. -- David Korn As a long-term fan I'm glad to see the korn shell now being released under a new license. The license is quite non-standard, and does include some restrictions (changes can only be distributed as patches), but as far as I can see it does allow anyone to bundle binaries with their products. The distribution format is quite non-standard. The research group at AT&T has their own packaging system, built around nmake. "

 Usenet posting by John Mashey that summarize shell history till mid 80th very well:

From: mash@mips.UUCP (John Mashey)
Newsgroups: net.unix-wizards
Subject: Re: Shell history, true facts, but long
Date: 18 Mar 86 09:05:12 GMT

At Todd Williams' request:

1) In the Beginning, there was the shell, /bin/sh, by Ken Thompson. I can't remember what version this appeared in, but it was well before my time, i.e., it sure looked and acted like a shell before late 73. For more info on the early days, see DMR's paper in the 2nd UNIX BLTJ. Almost nothing was builtin (on purpose), but there were separate if/goto commands. Goto acted by seeking the file pointer it shared with its parent shell. For a single-stream command-line interpreter, most, if not all of the fundamental (in my opinion) ideas were already present. See reference [1].

2) During the period 1973-1976, lots of people hacked on that shell in various and sundry ways. USG (UNIX Support Group at Murray Hill) added some things, and so did we:

3) The "PWB Shell" first appeared in mid-1975. It derived from a set of requirements and suggestions from me in early 1975 in trying to do serious shell programming. In mid-1975, the shell acquired variables, including 3 that were derived from per-process data. This is where the idea of more generalised path- searching came in. Some of the existing support commands were beefed up, including if/else/endif. Most of this work was done by Alan Glasser or Dick Haight. I ended up taking this over, doing performance analysis, moving most of the control structure commands into the shell, adding switch,, while, etc. etc. By this time there was serious shell programming in massive amounts. This had mostly stabilised by early/mid 1976, although a few more features were added in early 1977. For various reasons this came to be called the "Mashey shell", a term I universally abhorred, since it was fundamentally still a Thompson shell with selected additions and tunings by various of us, constrained to be mostly upward compatible, leading to some things that I found less than esthetic. Even less than esthetic was the title of a later internal Bell Labs course: "Bourne Shell Programming for Mashey Shell Programmers". See [2] and [3].

4) The Bourne shell work started either in early 1976, or maybe late 1975. The first version was VERY different; for example, it used $ as the escape character instead of \. During 1976 there was a long sequence of modification, dialog, discussion, with various players in shifting alliances [like the game Diplomacy]. Besides the Computing Research crew, SRB himself, and me, this is when (as I recall) Dave Korn started getting involved (as heavy earlier user and extender of Bourne sh). To summarise, some of the Bourne shell's fundamentals came from the Thompson shell, but some were new. Some of the added semantics, and a few pieces of syntax came either from the PWB shell, or by agreement on what it ought to be, given that everything was changing anyway. [For example, the environment idea was a much-needed generalisation of the restricted PWB variables; this came from DMR, SRB, and I.] This did become the standard shell, although it took PWBers a while to convert, since they had huge investments in existing shell procedures. [Not that many had been written in the standard V6 or earlier shells.] See [4]. As a minor tidbit, how many 68K programmers out there have cursed the shell's trapping of memory fault to grow it's storage? I admit to causing this, having goaded SRB into it by moaning at the speed of the then-current Bourne shell vs the faster PWB shell.

5) I haven't tracked the exact influences on the C-shell. However, I believe that certain pieces were at least derived from the PWB shell's documentation (implementation, if not always exact syntax, of control cmds): if-the-else- endif, break, breakaw, onintr, while-end. Ask Bill where he got everything. Finally, note that there have been a number of other interesting and important shells around, but I'm tired, and I think more people understand the later work.

[1] K. Thompson, "The UNIX Command Language", in Structured Programming, Infotech State of the Art Report, Nicholson House, Maidenhead, Berkshire, England: Infotech International Ltd (March 1975), 375-384.

Classic Thompson-style paper of maximal insights per word, incl: "Many familiar computing 'concepts' are missing from UNIX. Files have no records. There are no access methods. User programs contain no system buffers. There are no file types. These concepts fill a much needed gap...

[2] J. R. Mashey, "Using a Command Language as a High-Level Programming Language", Proc. 2nd Int. Conf on Software Engineering, IEEE (Oct 13-15, 1976), 169-176.

Includes some usage data; state of the world in PWBland in mid-1976.

[3] T. A. Dolotta, J. R. Mashey, "Using a Command Language as the Primary Programming Tool", in Command Language Directions: Proc. IFIP Working Conference on Command Languauges, Sept 10-14, 1979, D. Beech, Ed, North- Holland, AMsterdam, 1980.

3 years later; more data; Bourne shell(called here nsh) included.

[4] S. R. Bourne, "An Introduction to the UNIX Shell", BSTJ 57, No 6, Part 2 (Jul-Aug 1978), 2797-2822.

-john mashey UUCP: {decvax,ucbvax,ihnp4}!decwrl!mips!mash
DDD: 408-720-1700
USPS: MIPS Computer Systems, 930 E. Arques, Sunnyvale, CA 94086

Other classic historical papers:




Groupthink : Two Party System as Polyarchy : Corruption of Regulators : Bureaucracies : Understanding Micromanagers and Control Freaks : Toxic Managers :   Harvard Mafia : Diplomatic Communication : Surviving a Bad Performance Review : Insufficient Retirement Funds as Immanent Problem of Neoliberal Regime : PseudoScience : Who Rules America : Neoliberalism  : The Iron Law of Oligarchy : Libertarian Philosophy


War and Peace : Skeptical Finance : John Kenneth Galbraith :Talleyrand : Oscar Wilde : Otto Von Bismarck : Keynes : George Carlin : Skeptics : Propaganda  : SE quotes : Language Design and Programming Quotes : Random IT-related quotesSomerset Maugham : Marcus Aurelius : Kurt Vonnegut : Eric Hoffer : Winston Churchill : Napoleon Bonaparte : Ambrose BierceBernard Shaw : Mark Twain Quotes


Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law


Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Haterís Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor

The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D

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