Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce LCA 2011: McKusick tells of the BSD days as only he can

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The drought of those who speak without depending on slides has ended at the 12th Australian national Linux conference.


Last evening, Marshall Kirk McKusick, a well-known BSD hacker, took those assembled down a slightly different track - after all, this is a Linux conference - with his narrative history of BSD. And what a rollicking ride it was!

McKusick was, rather unfortunately, put down for the last slot of the day, 4.45pm, when many tired and footloose souls had vended their way homewards to charge their batteries for the next day. And the venue for his talk could hold only 100 people.

He based his talk on notes he had made while travelling through Australia on a train in 1986 - he was a keynote speaker at the now-defunct Australian UNIX and Open Systems User Group conference in 1986.
Marshall Kirk McKusick
And these were notes he had written down, not typed (as would have been the norm at the time), which made it even more retro.

McKusick (left) is a talented speaker, who can use words, actions and a bit of hyperbole to capture and hold an audience. While he could not deliver every bit of the material from those notes - he noted that it would take about three hours and he had been allotted a quarter of that - what he did deal with was enough to keep the crowd captivated.

What he achieved was even more praiseworthy because the topic and most of the details were known to most in the room - the UNIX story, right from the Multics days, to the 1970s when Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie created UNIX, through the 1980s development of BSD, and finally the UNIX wars of the 1990s.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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