Why UNIX is Fundamental to Modern Programming

Posted by Develop Admin
May 4, 2021

You’ve spent some time with Linux, and you’re feeling confident in your ability to navigate the command line and the vi editor. However, there are some elements about Linux and other operating systems that seem strangely familiar. You’re pretty sure something is connecting Linux, Android, and even iOS. But what is it?

The answer is UNIX. One of the very first operating systems, UNIX is a crucial piece of programming history. More than that, it’s still found in applications and services around the world. If you’re curious about UNIX and why a 50-year-old operating system is still relevant today, keep reading.

The History of UNIX

UNIX is the ancestor of almost all modern operating systems. First developed in AT&T’s Bell Labs toward the end of the sixties, the entire system was built around “the UNIX philosophy.” Programmers focused on making small applications that did one thing well. These applications were modular, so they could easily be combined to create a more extensive program.

This system was incredibly successful. Outside of Windows NT operating systems, almost every other OS can trace its functionality back to UNIX. Modern UNIX-like systems include:

  • Mac OS X
  • Android
  • iOS
  • Chrome OS
  • Orbis OS
  • Router Firmware
  • Linux

Why Use UNIX?

With that much history, UNIX effects are still felt throughout the programming world. Any system that’s descended from BSD (Berkley Software Distribution) also descends from UNIX. Understanding how UNIX works and what elements were first developed in Bell Labs can help you understand the underlying structures of many other operating systems.

Benefits of Understanding UNIX

  • UNIX systems are some of the best available if you need machines to multitask. Multiple users can sign in to the same machine at the same time and run different processes simultaneously.
  • Impressively robust, with excellent performance, reliability, and stability.
  • Many modern systems still rely on UNIX and UNIX-like programs and command lines because of how effective even early iterations are at doing their job.
  • UNIX has build-in networking and enhanced security features, so it’s a natural fit for data centers and systems administration.

Once you understand the basics, you’ll have the background to learn any other UNIX-like system more efficiently.

UNIX Applications in the Modern World

UNIX is one of the oldest systems around, but it’s still running strong. If you’re considering a career in any field where security and networking are essential, understanding UNIX will give you a leg up. Here are four of the most important areas in which you can often find this OS.

  • Cloud Services – Many offshoots of UNIX work with modern cloud infrastructure. Because of the native networking capabilities, UNIX is an obvious choice to power cloud applications.
  • Cloud Security – Cloud services require enhanced security to run safely. Using UNIX allows you to produce secure, lightweight applications without any hassle.
  • System Administration – Many large systems still run on UNIX or its direct descendants. The simplicity of using UNIX to network machines and run simultaneous programs makes keeping it a no-brainer. If you understand it, you’ll have a much easier time as a sysadmin.
  • Datacenter Applications – Finally, many data centers still run entirely on UNIX. Understanding the fundamentals of this OS will give you insight into data center infrastructure and other back-end elements. 

How To Get Started

Getting started with UNIX can be simple. If you have a Linux background, you’re already on track to learn how to implement these tools today. 

Introduction to UNIX

This course provides an overview of UNIX. You’ll learn about the different ways of getting help in UNIX, file basics, and directory structure.