Re: Software Tools Virtual Operating System

In article <8k8m74llu86l087c2s8mbeih1qskdqpenc@xxxxxxx>,
Edward Feustel <efeustel@xxxxxxxxxx> writes:
On 13 Jul 2008 22:36:32 GMT, billg999@xxxxxxxxxxx (Bill Gunshannon)

In article <8b51e563-af76-42b7-8c1d-f4a3426a4e66@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>,
Jim Wilcoxson <prirun@xxxxxxxxx> writes:

The original Software Tools distribution is here:

You, like many people are confusing Kernighan and Plauger's book with
a project that took the basic concepts and became much, much more.

STVOS was much of what POSIX has been trying (unsuccessfully) to accomplish.
POSIX (according to Wikipaedia) dates to around 1985. The paper describing
the graduate project the gave us The Software Tools Virtual Operating System
was published in Communications of the ACM in 1980 when it was already a
very mature system running on over 40 different architectures and over 50
differnt (and often very dis-similar) OSes.

It is sad to think that this, too, has been lost.

I am not so certain that it is completely lost.
I know I have a flock of tapes in the basement, one EBCDIC version of
SWT from Bell and another with SWT in BCPL.

But, you too have missed the point. While "Software Tools" was a book
and pardigm from Bell Labs (K&P) it really has nothing to do with
"The Software Tools Virtual Operating System" which was a grad project
in California beyond providing what looked then (and now) as a great

The sources for "Software Tools" were originally in Ratfor were later
re-done by the authors in Pascal and by others in other languages. But
STVOS was way beyond that and, contrary to what many would have you
believe, had a life of its own in the hands of many developers throughout
the world before there was a FSF or GNU.

So keep asking. Probably one of the Prime Old Timers still has an
original Georgia Tech Prime Tape.

I keep hoping, but that hope is waning. All I have to do is look at the
list of supported systems and see that in several years of searching I
have not found one single copy in existence. Even the organizations who
were the driving forces in this seem to have not bothered to keep a copy.
Like Deborah K. Scherrer who's project it was, they seem to have assumed
someone else (like USENIX) was going to preserve it all for posterity.
It didn't happen.

I agree with you that the SWT system was elegant and in many respects
offered an alternative to UNIX. I used it while I was in the Research
Deptartment at Prime. A problem with it as I remember was that it
was a 16 bit creation. I don't know if it was ever "improved".

I can't remember anything in it that was tied to a machine word size.
Obviously some consideration had to be made considering it was intended
to foster portability between some very different architectures and realize
the state of the industry at that time. Things like Z80's and 6809's
were still very common. There was no Alpha or Itanium or even much more
than a dream that they would ever exist. I am sure that continued
development would have met and overcome things like that. Look at the
time_t debacle and the impending impact on Unix. But I and I am sure
others don't seee this as the end of Unix.

You might write to Phil Enslow through Georgia Tech (if he is still
living) and see if he might have or know of a copy.
Ed Feustel

I don't remember who it was i tried to email there, someone from the
old documentation (might have even been him, but it was a few years
ago) but I never even got a reply. I figured it was someone long since
retired and the email address was just a relic of a bygone era.

I will keep looking, though.....


Bill Gunshannon | de-moc-ra-cy (di mok' ra see) n. Three wolves
billg999@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx | and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.
University of Scranton |
Scranton, Pennsylvania | #include <std.disclaimer.h>