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Programming Unix

Steve Bourne Talks About the History of Sh 232

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the dear-steve-tyvm-xoxo dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Steve Bourne, the creator of the Bourne shell, or sh, talks about its history as the default Unix shell of Unix Version 7. Bourne worked on the shell in 1975 and said the process took no more than 6 months. Sh aimed to improve on the Thompson shell. 'I did change the shell so that command scripts could be used as filters. In the original shell this was not really feasible because the standard input for the executing script was the script itself. This change caused quite a disruption to the way people were used to working. I added variables, control flow and command substitution. The case statement allowed strings to be easily matched so that commands could decode their arguments and make decisions based on that. The for loop allowed iteration over a set of strings that were either explicit or by default the arguments that the command was given. I also added an additional quoting mechanism so that you could do variable substitutions within quotes. It was a significant redesign with some of the original flavor of the Thompson shell still there. Also I eliminated goto in favour of flow control primitives like if and for. This was also considered rather radical departure from the existing practice. Command substitution was something else I added because that gives you very general mechanism to do string processing; it allows you to get strings back from commands and use them as the text of the script as if you had typed it directly. I think this was a new idea that I, at least, had not seen in scripting languages, except perhaps LISP,' he says."
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Steve Bourne Talks About the History of Sh

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  • Sh! (Score:5, Funny)

    by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:21PM (#27079213) Journal

    That was a pre-emptive "sh!" Now, I have a whole bag of "sh!" with your name on it.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:22PM (#27079225)

    The history of "Sh" started when the first kid was born, and it has continued to this day. Later forked versions include "Shh!" and "STFU".

  • PowerShell (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:26PM (#27079297)
    Welcome to 1975, Microsoft.
    • Re:PowerShell (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CannonballHead (842625) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:46PM (#27079603)

      Because most Windows users need a shell. Right.

      UNIX wasn't exactly one of those home-user targeted operating systems. It makes sense to have a rather powerful shell on it, scripting abilities, compilers, etc.

      Windows 95, 98, XP, etc., all the non-server ones, didn't need a shell. I grew up using Windows and never once needed something like that. Arguably, it would be nice on the server side, I guess... but Windows did appear to try to get AWAY from the command line.

      Besides. If they included a shell, everyone would just complain how they're copying UNIX and thus are even more useless. :)

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by iminplaya (723125)

        Oh, how I wish they would copy UNIX. File management would almost be tolerable.

        --Brought to to you by the letters "c" and "p".

      • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:13PM (#27079993)

        Because most Windows users need a shell. Right.

        I think the original comment was directed at Windows Server users not Windows consumer desktop users (unless the user of that consumer desktop is a developer or an admin). I'll agree that most consumer desktop users don't need a shell. I may be a developer these days but I have been an administrator for Linux, Solaris, AIX, several lesser known incarnations of *NIX, Windows NT, Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2003. I can tell you that there are times when you really miss the command-line power of the Unix shell on Windows servers. There are tasks you simply can't do on a Windows server except through the GUI which is nice if you don't have to do it often but when you have, say... a project where you have to do the same set of tasks a few thousand times in a row and want to complete this project in a sane amount of time scripting is a must. The only alternative for solving some such problems even on Windows 2003 is to write a C# program because you can't solve the problem by scripting. Writing a C# program is something I wouldn't expect an average Windows admin to be able to do anymore than I require a Unix admin to be a seasoned Java developer. IMHO an average Windows Server admin or Unix admin should be seasoned at scripting but I wouldn't expect either to be seasoned at C# or Java programming, VB or Perl would be good though. I am not prepared to take a server OS seriously unless I can do more on it's command-line than I can do with the slick GUI management tools.

        • by TheLink (130905) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:38PM (#27080383) Journal

          You can use perl and python for windows.

          For example, for perl there's Bundle::Win32

          http://search.cpan.org/~jdb/Bundle-libwin32-0.30/libwin32.pm [cpan.org]

          Useful stuff like: Win32::TieRegistry , Win32::ChangeNotify

          But be good and don't write malware. The antivirus people might give up trying to detect perl malware (think about it - polymorphic TMTDOWTDI perl malware...), they might just flag/blacklist perl itself :).

        • Hence, me stating the following?

          Arguably, it would be nice on the server side, I guess... but Windows did appear to try to get AWAY from the command line.

          I guess it's not even fashionable on slashdot to read the comment you are replying to ;) hehe.

          I admit, shells and command-lines are pretty nice. If I want to know the IP of my windows box I do ipconfig, not double click the network connection.

          But most people aren't running Windows Server. Most people are running Windows XP, Vista, whatever. They don't need a shell for most things... and, as someone replied to you, you can use python and perl on Windows. And there's always

          • I guess it's not even fashionable on slashdot to read the comment you are replying to ;) hehe.

            You said it would be 'nice' which implies you could live without it, even on the server side. I was trying to make the point that a powerful shell on a server or scripting ability for an admin is not optional it is required. :-)

            • I suppose it depends on what the admin is doing. Running a simple web server or something like that doesn't require a ton of shell power, in my experience...

              That said, point taken. I think ther'es a reason Linux/UNIX is way more popular on the server side than it is on the home consumer side.. :)

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by RAMMS+EIN (578166)

          The question, though, is why C# or Java "programming" is so different from "scripting" that you'd expect a sysadmin to know the latter, but not the former.

          • by tepples (727027) <{tepples} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday March 05, 2009 @04:07PM (#27081647) Homepage Journal

            The question, though, is why C# or Java "programming" is so different from "scripting" that you'd expect a sysadmin to know the latter, but not the former.

            Perhaps because the syntactic salt of C# and Java makes them cumbersome than the "P" languages for the sorts of automation tasks that sysadmins handle routinely:

            • The developer must compile a program explicitly, unlike the "P" languages that automatically call the compiler to produce bytecode.
            • The developer must define explicitly what class a particular translation unit represents, compared to Python where each file implicitly describes a module.
            • C# and Java use named interfaces instead of the typical duck-typing approach of Python where any object that implements a given set of methods will work.

            Not to mention that a lot of sysadmins learn some of their languages through hobby projects on shared web hosting, and more shared web hosting environments have "P" languages than ASP.NET and Java servlets.

        • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)

          Does Windows seriously not come with any way to automate things? I mean, besides batch scripts, which, unless I'm mistaken, allow you to do some of the things you could do under DOS, but that don't actually interface to what you would normally work with under Windows much.

          • Windows Script Host (Score:3, Informative)

            by tepples (727027)

            Does Windows seriously not come with any way to automate things?

            Windows Script Host [wikipedia.org] allows a program written in JScript or VBScript to control any app that exposes APIs through OLE Automation [wikipedia.org].

          • Every version since Win98 has included the Windows Script Host [wikipedia.org] by default. This allows one to automate quite a variety [microsoft.com] of tasks out of the box using vbscript or javascript. It's a little clunky for some things (e.g. recursive file searches), but is generally flexible enough for most needs.

          • Yes, PowerShell (Score:5, Informative)

            by benjymouse (756774) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @04:22PM (#27081843)

            Available from Microsoft for XP, 2003; included in Server 2008 and Windows 7.

            The name is really lame, but it *is* damn powerful. At least for Windows which has most of it API exposed through object-oriented technologies (COM, .NET and WMI) which are easily used in a unified way by PowerShell.

            Just a few quick samples:

            • List all .exe files in current dir and below: ls -r . *.exe
            • Calculate their combined size: ls -r . *.exe | measure -sum Length
            • Find the latest version of all .exe files below the current directory: ls -r . *.exe | sort -des LastWriteTime | group Name | %{$_.Group[0]}
            • Instead of finding the latest, delete those with a more recent version somewhere: ls -r . *.exe | sort -des LastWriteTime | group Name | %{$_.Group|select -skip 1} | rm
            • Read files and directories from current directory out loud through the speakers: $sam=new-object -com SAPI.SPVoice; ls | %{$sam.Speak($_)}
            • List processes consuming (the "working set") more than 100MB: ps|?{$_.WS -gt 100MB}
            • -Kill them instead: ps|?{$_.WS -gt 100MB}|kill
            • Wait for the "import" process to exit: (ps "powershell_ise").WaitForExit()
            • by wumpus188 (657540)

              Here's another example: finding all empty folders below the current one

              In PowerShell:


              $a = Get-ChildItem . â"recurse | Where-Object {$_.PSIsContainer -eq $True}
              $a | Where-Object {$_.GetFiles().Count -eq 0} | Select-Object FullName

              Using find:

              find . -type d -depth -empty

              Hmm... No COM, .NET or WMI technologies required.

              • Why so verbose? (Score:3, Informative)

                by benjymouse (756774)

                when

                ls -r | ?{-not($_|ls)}

                would suffice?

                Explanation:

                1) list all items recursively from the current location

                2) filter only those items where ls returns an empty set.

                Btw, the objects returned from that command are *still* DirectoryInfo objects, allowing even further operations or property accesses.

                Also, this command will work the same even if the "current location" is a node in the registry, the certificate store, the credentials store, a group in active directory etc etc.

                In other words if you

            • Re:Yes, PowerShell (Score:4, Insightful)

              by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @06:10PM (#27083457) Homepage Journal

              We should make a coreutils package that outputs XML, JSON or similar, so we don't need stupid cut/grep/head tricks anymore and can, for example, directly access a column, or sum stuff up.

              The last command in the pipe chain would output in a user-readable format.

        • by nuckfuts (690967)

          Bah. Every version of Windows I've used has a command shell. Even when the available commands were basically equivalent to MS-DOS, it was possible to do almost anything via a .BAT file. One can pass variables, prompt for input, do conditional branching, loops, even create and call new batch files dynamically.

          I personally enjoy the challenge of writing .BAT files that rely soley on native commands. As far back as Windows 95 I've written .BAT files that could: Run automatically on a per computer OR per user

        • by afidel (530433)
          Windows has the following standard options for scripting:
          vbscript, jscript, batch, and on most 2008 boxes powershell.
          Optional:
          perlscript

          Also there are quite a few third party scripting engines available. There are a TON of things you can do on the command line that you can't do in the GUI including almost all AD debugging. I write batch files every week and vbscripts probably at least monthly. I can't wait until powershell supports remote objects so that it becomes more useful in a networked environment
        • by Spit (23158)

          Cygwin makes windows bearable.

      • by pimpimpim (811140)
        Washing machines also don't have shells, though still using a functional computer, and you get things done with it: washing your laundry. On a Windows system that has no advanced shell, I still get things done, like making powerpoint presentations. On a system with a high-quality shell, like linux, I can basically automate anything a computer can do. That is a lot. Not good for doing your laundry, though.
      • by guruevi (827432)

        I don't know about any other sysadmin but I regularly need to go into the MSDOS shell in order to do something really fast or control something. eg. if you want to check why a certain file doesn't show up in explorer, you can drop down in shell and see the file and change it's attributes or delete/copy large amounts of files based on extension or any other part of the name (using * and ?)

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by qazwart (261667)

        Many Mac users have found the Unix shell hidden under Mac OS X to be quite useful. And, remember that pre Mac OS X, not only didn't the Mac OS have the concept of environment variables. It didn't even have a command line prompt.

        Of course, it isn't just the shell, it's the whole OS philosophy that's important. It's why people who use Linux/Unix based systems can easily cobble together their own backup solutions. Use "rsync" with Amazon's S3 service, and you have an online backup solution that's cheap and sec

      • UNIX wasn't exactly one of those home-user targeted operating systems.

        It was in my home. Using Unix (in one form or another) since 1986, baby, yeah!
      • winipcfg -release
        winipcfg -renew

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hatta (162192)

        When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. When the only tool you have is a GUI, every problem looks like a clickfest. Until you know the command line, you don't realize how handy it is. So I would argue that every user needs the command line, they just don't know it yet. I'm a pretty normal desktop user, more skilled than most perhaps, but the tasks I do are pretty common. There's almost nothing I do that doesn't benefit from a CLI.

        But this is old news now, Windows has a

        • by steelfood (895457)

          Start->Run.

          That's the GUI interface to the Windows command line (whereas CMD is the command line interface itself). That there exists such a thing indicates that command lines are useful even to regular users.

        • PowerShell ideas are more relevant to Windows than they are to *nix. PowerShell is object-oriented: The pipes are objects, not text. That saves a lot of parsing and allows interaction (like calling methods) with the objects flowing through.

          PowerShell also unifies the object-oriented models on Windows: COM, .NET and WMI. Most of Windows APIs are now either fully object-oriented (e.g. DirextX, Speech) or have been wrapped in by object-oriented models such as .NET or WMI.

          *nix generally does not expose API

      • by mlwmohawk (801821)

        Windows 95, 98, XP, etc., all the non-server ones, didn't need a shell

        Umm, except for XP, all versions of Windows in your list had "command.com." All DOS versions of Windows executed "autoexec.bat" at start up with the DOS shell command.com. XP has "cmd.exe"

        I grew up using Windows and never once needed something like that.

        *you* may not have needed it.

        but Windows did appear to try to get AWAY from the command line.

        Yes, but because *you* don't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there and not used.

        Besides. If they

        • Umm, except for XP, all versions of Windows in your list had "command.com." All DOS versions of Windows executed "autoexec.bat" at start up with the DOS shell command.com. XP has "cmd.exe"

          I realize that. I used it. I started with DOS and would alternately install Windows 3.1 and Wayne Gretzky Hockey 3, as they would not both fit on my 20mb hard drive. Windows XP still has command.com by the way. But cmd is way nicer, and faster.

          *you* may not have needed it.

          I said I didn't need it, I didn't say I didn't use it. :)

          Yes, but because *you* don't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there and not used.

          Again, I didn't say it wasn't there, I said Windows appeared to try to get away from it being necessary. Mac OS appeared to do the same thing.

          Windows on its own is useless. The only things that make it non-useless have more to do with 3rd party support than anything Microsoft does. That's why monopolies are bad, because, even though Windows sucks, users have little practical choice.

          Now I understand the rest of your post... you hate MS and hate W

          • by mlwmohawk (801821)

            I realize that. I used it.

            Then why did you say:

            Windows 95, 98, XP, etc., all the non-server ones, didn't need a shell. I grew up using Windows and never once needed something like that. Arguably, it would be nice on the server side, I guess... but Windows did appear to try to get AWAY from the command line.

            That paragraph absolutely tries to say that Windows does not have a shell. If it did have a shell, which you claim to know that it did, why would you say: "it would be nice on the server side, I guess."

            N

            • Agreed, it was ad hom. Attempt at figuring out a perceived slant in the post. Meh, was unnecessary though, apologies.

              why would you say: "it would be nice on the server side, I guess."

              Because it's true. I personally do not think Windows really has/had the equivalent of bash or something (I've found batch scripts to be clunky and DOS not nearly as easy as bash), but it does have a command line which can be used. I phrased it "it would be nice..." because I haven't actually done a lot on Windows Server * aside from setting up basic functionality (DHCP, ActiveDirectory, D

        • by unitron (5733)

          Windows on its own is useless.

          That's why they include Free Cell. :-)

      • by Wolfrider (856)

        --I discovered NDOS while using an old version of Norton Utilities (back when they were actually useful, and not bloated.) That led me to 4DOS and a whole world of useful stuff you could do in the extended-capability Command shell they supplied.

        --WayCool stuff, if you were an old DOS hound like meself. ;-)

        //XTree Pro Gold FTW!
        ///Midnight Commander 4 Great Justice!

      • by billcopc (196330)

        I grew up using Windows and never once needed something like that.

        Well, kiddo, most of us geeks grew up using DOS and TOS and those Basic cartridges. Windows was a cutesy little app that ran on top of DOS. I spent pretty much all of the 80's and 90's working from a command shell, and even today on my Windows XP desktop, I have a couple hundred batch files and Perl scripts that follow me wherever I go. There is a wealth of tasks that are done more concisely and efficiently with a few text commands than any GUI could ever encompass.

        Just look at the very handy things you

        • Hehe, hi gramps.

          FWIW, I actually started with DOS as well. I never used BASIC cartridges but I actually did use BASIC. I knew that Windows ran on top of DOS, and most (hey, I was young) games that I played were DOS games. I still enjoy them once in a while, in fact. I still have a copy, on 5.25" floppies, of DOS 2.1, I think.

          But I'd say I grew up using Windows, still, since I used it more than I used DOS. But I have known commands cd, rmdir, copy, etc., since I was fairly young... I think around 7?

      • by Jim Hall (2985)

        Windows 95, 98, XP, etc., all the non-server ones, didn't need a shell. I grew up using Windows and never once needed something like that. Arguably, it would be nice on the server side, I guess... but Windows did appear to try to get AWAY from the command line.

        MS-DOS had a half-decent command-line environment - don't knock it. For those of us that grew up with DOS, it was great, and moving to an all-GUI "Windows" environment was a painful shift.

        I say MS-DOS had a half-decent CLI, but DOS is much better now [freedos.org]. You're welcome, btw. :-)

    • Re:PowerShell (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tetsujin (103070) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:33PM (#27081225) Homepage Journal

      Welcome to 1975, Microsoft.

      Meh, give Powershell some credit. It exposes a lot more functionality with a lot better organization than a Unix shell would. They took the basic paradigm of the shell and made it fit the .NET environment - so users can express themselves using the same basic style as they'd use in a Unix shell, but working with a more powerful set of libraries and data types. I think it's significant, and I think the Unix world could learn a thing or two from it, about keeping what's good about the shell, but moving the basic technology out of the 1970s.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        so users can express themselves using the same basic style as they'd use in a Unix shell, but working with a more powerful set of libraries and data types.

        Like a Unix user would be calling Perl or Python?

        The nice thing about Unix isn't about the shell, or the utilities (awk, sed, etc.), or the scripting languages: it's the fact that they can be all link together via pipes. As long as you move your data around as text, you can send it to anything on a Unix system.

        • by Tetsujin (103070) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @06:04PM (#27083343) Homepage Journal

          so users can express themselves using the same basic style as they'd use in a Unix shell, but working with a more powerful set of libraries and data types.

          Like a Unix user would be calling Perl or Python?

          Not quite... The shell user can call Perl or Python to access libraries or datatypes - but these concepts are meaningless within the framework of the shell itself. In Powershell, a commandlet returning an object yields something you can work with in the shell - see what object methods or data fields it provides, run methods, pass the object to another commandlet, etc.

          Powershell provides a powerful set of baseline assumptions for the format of data over the pipe - and so both the shell itself and commandlets running in the shell can take advantage of these assumptions. In Unix, the typical approach is to "roll your own format" each time - which is trivial for trivial problems, but substantially harder as you start worrying about questions like, what happens when my data fields contain the character I want to use as a delimiter?

          This is further complicated by the fact that existing Unix programs, outputting text, typically format that text for human consumption. The exact format of a program's input or output may change from release to release with no coherent strategy for establishing any kind of compatibility. In comparison, in Powershell a piece of data passed from one process to another has a predictable underlying structure - it's formatted for consumption by another process rather than for display at the terminal. But since the shell itself also recognizes this format, it has a reasonable default behavior for displaying a command output - or if necessary you can pipe through a command whose job is to make nicely formatted output of selected columns of another program's result.

          Now, what are the benefits of serializing to text format? You can look at it, printed on-screen, and know what it represents and how to parse it, right? The problem is this becomes less and less true as the data format becomes more intricate, more comprehensive - which is bound to happen as you start doing things like handling more complex problems, implementing data formats that account for future upgrades, and so on. The strength of PowerShell's approach (the same approach, basically, as you'd find in any other capable, interactive programming language) is that it knows enough about the format of data it handles that it can make that format easy to view and work with - easier, in fact, than plain text, because you see a representation of the data's meaning rather than of its underlying structure.

          As another example, consider what it would take to provide any kind of higher-order programming in the shell. There's a limited degree of this available already, of course: if you want to pass a "function" to something, you form it into a shell script, put it in a directory somewhere, and provide the full pathname to that function as an argument to your higher-order program - which will then use something like "system()", "popen()" or "exec()" to invoke it.

          Now, what if you want to include a set of data, representing the state of an "object" with that "function"? You can do that, too - you can write out a data file representing the current state, and pass both the script and the data file names to your higher-order program. Or you could have a program running in the background, communicating via some form of IPC - maybe over a named pipe or listening to a particular network socket or hosted by an object broker, and pass the necessary reference to the higher-order function. Or, about the nicest you can manage in the shell (though decidedly not a clean solution IMO) - start a process in the background which maintains the state you're working with, and have a second executable which communicates with the background process, passing on commands and bringing back results.

          The problem is, none of those me

  • by Sir Groane (1226610) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:27PM (#27079307) Homepage

    it allows you to get strings back from commands and use them as the text of the script as if you had typed it directly. I think this was a new idea that I, at least, had not seen in scripting languages, except perhaps LISP,

    Greenspun's Tenth Rule: "Any sufficiently complicated C or Fortran program contains an ad hoc, informally-specified, bug-ridden, slow implementation of half of Common Lisp"

    • I always wondered, why one would implement yet another language, when one can simply use dynamic libraries or include the JIT compiler functionality of one's preferred language in it. (And then calling that module with only that as parameters, which it is allowed to have access to.)

      If one needs a real sandbox, one could still run the compiled module in it, instead of creating yet another sandbox implementation.

      • by Sir Groane (1226610) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:00PM (#27079797) Homepage
        Because Steve Bourne was doing this work back in 1975! About that time people had only just got beyond programming by biting holes in paper-tape with their teeth!

        These days it is quite easy to get embedded perl or lisp etc.
        • by unitron (5733)

          Some of us had to file our teeth rectangular in order to bite IBM 360 punch cards!

      • I always wondered, why one would implement yet another language, when one can simply use dynamic libraries or include the JIT compiler functionality of one's preferred language in it.

        Back then, it's because UNIX was young, and it didn't yet have a standard interpreted language, as Sir Groane pointed out.

        Nowadays, it's because you have to deploy your app on a half-dozen platforms, each with a different preferred language. For instance, XNA has C#, J2ME MIDP has Java, iPhone has Objective-C, Internet Channel has ActionScript, etc. The easiest way is to write your business logic in one language, and then write either interpreters in the deployment languages or compilers from your langua

    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:30PM (#27080277) Homepage Journal

      The parent comment was modded funny, but I think Greenspun's Tenth is still relevant today. And, applied to Unix, it's definitely true. Imagine what Unix would be like if there only were C. But there isn't only C, there is also the shell and various scripting languages. The shell's most important feature is that it's interactive, like Lisp's read-eval-print loop. Todays popular scripting languages on Unix (say, Perl and Python) implement many of the other features of Lisp, allowing programs to be expressed a lot more succinctly and conveniently than in C. But all these are part of the same universe: the shell works mostly by running other programs, and the scripting languages do some of their tasks by going through the shell or C libraries. So, with everything together, you end up with something vaguely like what Lisp offers in a single package.

      Of course, the world hasn't stood still, and the Unix universe now offers many features that aren't really present, or at least not standardized, in the Lisp universe.

      And, in the meantime, Java has come along, re-inventing and re-implementing tons of features from Lisp and Unix.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by overlordofmu (1422163)
      I use CMU Lisp as my shell.

      cat /etc/passwd | grep overlordofmu

      overlordofmu:x:1000:1000::/home/overlordofmu/:/bin/lsip

      Example ---

      mu login:
      Password:
      CMU Common Lisp 19e (19E), running on mu
      With core: /lib64/cmucl/lib/lisp.core
      Dumped on: Thu, 2008-05-01 11:56:07-05:00 on usrtc3142
      See for support information.
      Loaded subsystems:
      Python 1.1, target Intel x86
      CLOS based on Gerd's PCL 2004/04/14 03:32:47

      *

      Aren't I amusing!?!?
      • I used to use a heavily customized IPython as my login shell, but it started more slowly than bash, and some programs expected the login shell to be sh-compatible (or at least to execute programs in $PATH).
    • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:33PM (#27081239) Journal

      Greenspun's Tenth Rule: "Any sufficiently complicated C or Fortran program contains an ad hoc, informally-specified, bug-ridden, slow implementation of half of Common Lisp"

      As a corollary, we can see that any C or Fortran program that does not contain an ad hoc, informally-specified, bug-ridden slow implementation of half of Common Lisp is insufficiently complicated.

  • ...is you can't talk about Sh.

    Seriously.

    Sh!

  • Sh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by janeuner (815461) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:36PM (#27079465)

    $ Sh
    sh: Sh: command not found

  • Compiler research (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TinBromide (921574) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:17PM (#27080061)
    I'm always amazed when I read about research into compilers and whatnot. Once upon a time, building computers weren't just a matter of arranging a series of blocks into a procedure and hoping if you OR'd 2 numbers, you'd get the right one out or applying Algorithm A to Problem B and getting optimal solution C.

    I wonder if the bell labs researchers got the eureka moments when their applied research in compilers worked like the CERN physicists detect a theoretical particle.
  • I saw this article on OSnews this morning, and it inspired me to write a tiny open-source (public domain) *NIX shell, which can be seen at http://www.samiam.org/software/yash.html. I know the busybox [busybox.net] guys are looking to rewrite their *NIX shell to be more modular; this code would be a good starting point.

    - Sam

  • by TennesseeVic (653659) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:08PM (#27080847)
    He was writing an _Algol68_ compiler as part of his Ph.D. work in _astronomy_?! I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!
    • by garyebickford (222422) <gar37bic AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 05, 2009 @06:42PM (#27083957)

      And this speaks to why IMHO it was unfair (besides being stupid) to change the rules on software patents in 1986. Prior to that time, the huge amount of seminal, fundamental, wonderful work (by geniuses and people much smarter than me) in software and systems could not be patented, so it was either secret (for a while) or open. All those giants back then had no opportunity to set up a licensing toll bridge. And now, an infinite regression of trivialities are patented.

      Imagine what progress in computing would have been if Alan Kay had been able to patent windowing GUIs, or if object-oriented programming had been patented, or paged virtual memory, timesharing, CDMA, TCP, IP, programming macros, relocatable code linkers, electronic mail, image morphing, most computer graphics and imaging techniques, ... the list goes on.

      Some of the core ideas incorporated by Berners-Lee in his WWW creation could have been patented either by him, or by NeXT Computer before he had a chance. And then where would we be?

      Hell, I personally could have gotten patents on client-server image processing nets, steganography, SAN, image paging and pre-fetch, pan-and-zoom image and map display, a whole raft of specialize raster-op (bitblit) functions, physical mapping of image files onto disk sectors, street-address interpolation, for geolocation. And that's just a sample of the bigger stuff I was involved in from 1983-1985. Oh yeah - a collaborative sketchpad over ethernet, in 1982!

      At the time (early and mid 1980's) NONE of this was patentable. And now people are getting held up for $millions for stuff we didn't even bother to document or publish, because it was so trivial. And (just for perspective) I was just a regular schmoe - not one of the lights of programming.

      rant, rant, rant... I totally agree with what you said :) I was not and am not worthy either. And certainly neither are the market- and legal-droid twits at Amazon and Microsoft and elsewhere who browbeat the software writers into signing off on the post-placental detritus that modern software patents are and will always be.

  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Thursday March 05, 2009 @07:50PM (#27084919) Homepage
    Steve was at Cambridge University (the real one in the UK), he would have used the Phoenix System [wikipedia.org], this was an on line system with a command programming language. I cut my scripting teeth on this in the 1970s. It did variable substitution and had here documents.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @11:19PM (#27086913) Homepage

    "Command substitution was something else I added because that gives you very general mechanism to do string processing; it allows you to get strings back from commands and use them as the text of the script as if you had typed it directly. I think this was a new idea that I, at least, had not seen in scripting languages, except perhaps LISP,' he says."

    Surely this feature was present in Calvin Mooer's TRAC [wikipedia.org], circa 1964 or thereabouts. I've forgotten the distinction between expanded macros by means of single or double slashes, but I believe one or the other of them substituted the macro expansion back in the stream for further processing. My recollection is that it was fundamental to the way TRAC was used in practice. My recollection is also that TRAC was moderately well-known in the community at the time, so the idea was "in the air."

    I believe it also existed in a host of "macro" capabilities in assembly languages... familiar to me in MIDAS, an assembly language for the PDP-1 circa 1965 or so. MIDAS survived into the PDP-6 and PDP-10, may have been developed earlier for the TX-0, and I think may have been patterned on advanced macro assemblers for the IBM 709.

  • My /bin/sh rules (Score:3, Informative)

    by SpaghettiPattern (609814) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:38AM (#27087761)
    As an IT pro, I recognize the significance of /bin/sh and I am very grateful for to Steve Bourne for his creation. It's the smallest (that's a good thing), consistent and standardized command set for setting up environments to run programs.

    My scripting rules on UNIX like systems:
    • Anything that can be done in /bin/sh I DO in /bin/sh.
    • Anything slightly more complex I do in Perl.
    • Anything truly complex I write in Java.
    • For writing scripts I NEVER, EVER use slightly enhanced shells like (t)csh (know for having bugs), ksh (used to be proprietary) or bash (too many features I DON'T want for simple scripts).
    • People that resort to slightly enhanced shells for scripting qualify themselves as being ... let's say ... inexperienced.
    • It pisses me off when I have to look up special csh, ksh or bash constructs in order to understand scripts.
    • Fancy variables? Reconsider or write Perl.
    • Fancy condition checking? Reconsider or write Perl.
    • Fancy arithmetic? Reconsider or write Perl.
    • Fancy system access (e.g. ipc)? Write Perl.
    • However, my favorite INTERACTIVE shell is bash. It gets the /bin/sh syntax and offers stuff that makes you extremely quick when working interactively.

A LISP programmer knows the value of everything, but the cost of nothing. -- Alan Perlis

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