[csw-maintainers] solaris history question

Ben Walton bwalton at opencsw.org
Tue Aug 25 18:05:05 CEST 2009

Excerpts from Dagobert Michelsen's message of Tue Aug 25 06:35:45 -0400 2009:

> This is very interesting. /bin/sh seems to be the only shell
> exhibiting this behaviour, /usr/xpg4/bin/sh (the standard compliant
> shell) does not.

Agreed.  I've yet to find anything else that honours it.

> So, either the authors are not well informed, or Solaris 10 is not a  
> modern unix ;-)

No, I think they're correct.  There isn't anything using/relying on
the feature on a modern system...at least I _hope_ not.

> After reading a bit more I learned that this was already in the  
> precursor of the Bourne
> Shell, the "Thompson Shell" provided with Unix v4:
>    <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thompson_shell>
> This must have been sometime after 1971, the year I was born 8-)

I found that article too, which was very interesting.  After posing
the same question to the 'grey beards' on campus here, the consensus
was that it's either a backward compatibility thing or just a
vestigial organ (more effort to remove than to leave)...maybe both.

Another interesting tidbit was turned up in the discussion:

<quoting Henry Spencer>
Correct.  Back in the dawn of Unix time, there was some use of
terminals which didn't have "|" -- or at least couldn't print it,
although some had ways to trick the keyboard into sending it -- but
did have "^", printed as an upward-pointing arrow.  Hence the
availability of "^" as a synonym.
</quoting Henry Spencer>

The (computer) history geek in me loves this kind of stuff.

Ben Walton
Systems Programmer - CHASS
University of Toronto
C:416.407.5610 | W:416.978.4302

GPG Key Id: 8E89F6D2; Key Server: pgp.mit.edu
Contact me to arrange for a CAcert assurance meeting.
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