Review: Unix: A History and a Memoir

This is certainly a niche read. Brian Kernighan has taken the time to record his experiences at Bell Labs as they were creating Unix. He was in the thick of things, working with the primary authors and building his own set of contributions as well. I’m clearly a fan of those tools.

In addition to telling the story of the people doing the work, he tells the story of the institution that fosters it: Bell Labs department 1127. I had the great joy of interning in that department for several summers in the early 1990s and share Kernighan’s fondness and respect for the place.

Kernighan is a clear and evocative writer, who shares details and anecdotes of the people and the place as only someone who was there can. I found the book a joy from front to back, but he’s telling me stories of places, people, and tools that I’ve met and like to hear about. I think it’s equally welcoming to interested outsiders.


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