Maybe its pervasiveness has long obscured its origins. But Unix, the operating system that in one derivative or another powers nearly all smartphones sold worldwide, was born 50 years ago from the failure of an ambitious project that involved titans like Bell Labs, GE, and MIT. Largely the brainchild of a few programmers at Bell Labs, the unlikely story of Unix begins with a meeting on the top floor of an otherwise unremarkable annex at the sprawling Bell Labs complex in Murray Hill, New Jersey…
By the late 1970s, a copy of the operating system found its way out to the University of California at Berkeley, and in the early 1980s, programmers there adapted it to run on PCs. Their version of Unix, the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD), was picked up by developers at NeXT, the company Steve Jobs founded after leaving Apple in 1985. When Apple purchased NeXT in 1996, BSD became the starting point for OS X and iOS.
The free distribution of Unix stopped in 1984, when the government broke up AT&T and an earlier settlement agreement that prohibited the company from profiting off many Bell Labs inventions expired. The Unix community had become accustomed to free software, however, so upon learning that AT&T would soon be charging for all copies of Unix and would prohibit alterations to the source code, Richard Stallman and others set about re-creating Unix using software that would be distributed to anyone free of charge—with no restrictions on modification. They called their project “GNU,” short for “GNU’s Not Unix.” In 1991, Linus Torvalds, a university student in Helsinki, Finland, used several of the GNU tools to write an operating system kernel that would run on PCs. And his software, eventually called Linux, became the basis of the Android operating system in 2004.
MacDailyNews Take: Unix via BSD, NeXTSTEP, OpenStep, etc. begot Apple’s macOS, iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS, and audioOS.
There are tons more in the full article at Ars Technica, so tech history buffs should get on over there and read it!