Geert Rolf - UTX/32 and the art of fire breathing -- a long forgotten chapter in UNIX history


UTX/32 is an operating system that dates back to the 1980s and was designed for Gould/SEL 32-bit machines. Competing with DEC VAX 11/780, the Gould PowerNode 6000 and 9000 systems were very powerful and cost effective. Marketing labelled them fire-breathing dragons. This paper takes you back to the 1980s. Back to the wars fought in the Unix world and the position UTX/32 held. Are you a BSD or a System V believer? UTX offers the choice of whatever your favourite is. Last year a simulator for the SEL-32 systems, SIMH/sel32, was released. The legacy of a long-gone piece of UNIX history has revived, running UTX/32 and applications on today’s computers. After about three decades, the fire breathing dragons have returned.

My paper contains a lot of “deja-vu” moments for people who actually used the SEL/Gould systems in the 80s and 90s. To address todays Unix/Linux public, I will adapt my talk and among others bring some interesting topics of the SIMH/sel32 implementation that brought this legacy system back to life. I will illustrate the world of big iron computers with some pictures though.

The paper is here:


Geert Rolf finished the Hogere Informatica Opleiding in 1982. He worked in a variety of jobs maintaining, developing and supporting Unix systems. He has been interested in computer history. The first computer he encountered is an Electrologica X1 that did not run UNIX. Next came PDP-11 and in 1977 he first touched the keyboard of a terminal connected to a UNIX machine. Geert collected old computers for a long time, but is now dismantling his Tehuis voor Bejaarde computers. He will keep some 32 and 64 bit machines for future hobby.



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