The first port of Unix

The first port of Unix 

port vt [ME, fr. MF, fr. porter to carry, fr.
L portare] The process of transferring computer software from one
computer hardware system to another, non-compatible, system. 

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Between 1972 and 1974 Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs converted
and extended Thompson's PDP-7 Unix to C for the PDP-11. They published
its description in The Unix Time-Sharing System in Comm. ACM of
May 1974.

Many computer folk thought Unix looked like a good thing but they didn't
all have PDP-11s. There didn't seem any good reason why it couldn't be
transferred to different hardware, but the first ports of UNIX were audacious
projects driving into uncharted territory.

In 1977, Tom Lyon started a port
of AT&T Version 6 to the IBM 360 at Princeton
University.  About the same time Dennis Ritchie and Steve Johnson
started a port of Version 7 to the Interdata 8/32
at Bell Labs in New Jersey and quite independently Juris Reinfelds and
Richard Miller
Version 6 to the Interdata 7/32 at the University
of Wollongong.

The Australian effort was completed first, in early 1978.

The teams used different techniques for porting.

  • Richard Miller proposed an innovative approach to the port and proved its
    effectiveness by single handedly porting the kernel code and most applications.
    The Wollongong port later became the first computer vendor supported UNIX.
    John Lions (UNSW author of the "Lions Book" commentary on Unix) also contributed
    to the port.
  • The Bell Labs port was somewhat sidetracked by improvements to the C language
    to better support different hardware platforms.

Richard Miller described their work in Operating Systems Review
(Volume 12, Number 3, July 1978): UNIX - A Portable
Operating System?
  The computing world knows the answer was 


Other articles in this issue include: 

Greg Rose: Performance Evaluation under Unix and a Study of PDP-11
Instruction Usage

John Lions: An Operating System Case Study.