Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Minix is one of a number of "Unix-like" operating systems that includes Idris, Coherent and Uniflex . Some of these were written because AT&Ts initial licensing of Unix precluded it being sold to organisations for commercial use. The "Unix-like" OSs were written from scratch without any AT&T code.
Minix was written by Andrew S. Tanenbaum from Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands as an example in the textbook Operating Systems: Design and Implementation, ISBN 0-13-637331-3. An abridged 12,000 lines of source code of the kernel, memory manager, and file system is printed in the book; it is mostly written in C.
Minix was designed to run on IBM PC and IBM PC/AT computers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Version 1.5 was also ported to run on Motorola 68000 based machines (such as the Atari ST, Amiga, and early Apple Macintosh) and SPARC based machines (such as Sun Workstations). Version 2.0 is only available for the x86 architecture.
Linux was influenced by Minix (Linus Torvalds was familiar with it and used it as a development tool), but departs in many ways from the Minix architecture, especially its use of a monolithic kernel instead of a microkernel. At the time of its development, the license for Minix was considered very liberal, with a licensing fee that was very small in comparison to other similar operating systems. This was a compromise between Tanenbaum's intention for it to be an instructive example, and his publisher's desire to enforce its copyright in the code. Because it was not fully open source, volunteer development effort instead went into Linux and the FreeBSD kernels. In the late 1990s, the license for Minix was converted to open source, but by this time other operating systems had surpassed its capabilities, and it remained an educational tool - as Tanenbaum had intended - rather than becoming a widely-used operating system.
Minix distributions have the following ISBN numbers. They all contain all the source, but may not be available for purchase:
- A set of 5¼" disks for IBM PCs with 640K RAM, which can be used with 512K computers if you adjust some program sizes. Available as ISBN 0-13-583873-8.
- A set of disks for IBM PC with 256K RAM, which does not include the C compiler since it cannot execute in the amount of memory. Available as ISBN 0-13-583881-9.
- A set of disks for IBM PC/AT with at least 512K RAM; 1.2M 5¼" diskettes are used instead of the earlier 360K diskettes. Available as ISBN 0-13-583865-7.
- Nine-track, industry standard 1600 bpi magnetic tape in UNIX tar format. Includes an IBM PC emulator and some libraries and programs that make it possible to run the MINIX file system on a VAX or other minicomputers running UNIX. Available as ISBN 0-13-583899-1.
Minix version 2.0 is distributed on a CD-ROM bundled with Operating Systems: Design and Implementation, 2nd ed., by Tanenbaum and Woodhull (1997, ISBN 0-13-638677-6). Later releases are available on-line.
- Minix Information Sheet
- Category at ODP
- Minix on laptops and PDAs
- History of Minix from Andrew Tanenbaum
- Linus vs. Tanenbaum flame war about Minix
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