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A critique of UNIX

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date12/1985
JournalSoftware: Practice and Experience
Number of pages15
Original languageEnglish


The UNIX operating system enjoys an ever increasing popularity throughout the computing community; there will be 1.4 million UNIX licences distributed by 1985, rising at a rate of about 400,000 per annum.

With universal acceptance of a system comes a dangerously high degree of inertia. Consider the analogous area of programming languages, where there has been great resistance to change, despite major advancements.

This paper presents a critique of UNIX, based on three areas which we consider to be of vital importance to future operating systems. These areas are operating system structures and design, programming support environments and distributed computing.

The criticisms presented are in no way intended to discredit UNIX. UNIX compares favourably with most of the present generation of operating systems. The intention is to highlight deficiencies in the state of the art in operating system design.