Friday, August 26, 2016

Whatever Happened to the Hurd?

Gavin Thomas (2012) (via Hacker News):

Richard Stallman had announced his intention to write a complete UNIX-like operating system to be known as GNU, ‘GNU’s Not Unix!’, in September 1983. The years between 1983 and the inception of the Hurd were spent writing the operating system and tools that made the development of a kernel possible, the editors and compilers, Bash, Make, Autoconf, Emacs, GCC, sed, gawk and the command-line tools.


From a user perspective, the Hurd was going to be a long time coming, and the Linux developers had slotted Linux into the space that was meant to be occupied by the Hurd at the heart of the GNU operating system. Stallman was initially [skeptical]. Early versions of Linux were exclusive to the IBM 386, and according to Stallman: “We heard that Linux was not at all portable (this may not be true today, but that’s what we heard then). And we heard that Linux was architecturally on a par with the UNIX kernel; our work was leading to something much more powerful.”


Stallman later admitted, “I take full responsibility for the technical decision to develop the GNU kernel based on Mach, a decision which seems to have been responsible for the slowness of the development. I thought using Mach would speed the work by saving us a large part of the job, but I was wrong.” In latter years the Hurd has been ported to a variety of microkernels, from L4 to Coyotos and to Viengoos, but has never had the community and resources that went the way of Linux.

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