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Accounting for less than 7% of desktop operating systems combined, both UNIX and Linux operating systems are fairly niche products today. UNIX and Linux are both generally used by those within the tech and programming industry; they are specialized tools intended to make development and programming easier for experts. To those who are new to the computer industry, differentiating UNIX and Linux may be a challenge. And that is understandable, given that one arose from the other.

The History of UNIX and Linux

UNIX was first released in 1971 as a non-graphical user interface. It was always intended primarily as a tool for a programmers but it eventually was developed into a fully-fledged operating system by the 80s. UNIX was often used in tandem with the C programming language. The simple design and accessibility to hardware features made UNIX an ideal platform to develop on, after which programs could then be ported to other systems. Because of the “no frills” design and development of UNIX, it was also remarkably stable compared to other options. UNIX was also not configurable or modifiable because its source code was not released. Consequently, it also came with a fairly high barrier-to-entry. This confirmed its status as an advanced system and tool.

In 1991, two decades after the introduction of UNIX, Linux was introduced. Linux was designed to be “UNIX-like” and was intended as a lightweight, free, and open source product to be used on virtually any hardware platform. For many years, Linux was the operating system of choice for servers and other serious architecture, as it was both stable and open source. Today, Linux only accounts for about 2.3% of desktop installations. Because Linux is an open source and free product, it has been split into hundreds upon hundreds of different distributions. Some of the most popular are Ubunto, openSUSE, Red Hat, and Debian.

The Difference Between UNIX and Linux

UNIX has been designed with specific goals in mind. In many ways, the UNIX operating system is far more commercial than Linux. UNIX is designed to be used on a fairly narrow spectrum of hardware and for specific applications. Linux is the most adaptable operating system and can be used for virtually anything. At the same time, this also means that Linux can be fairly unpredictable from distribution to distribution, with one distro being markedly different from another. UNIX is not able to be modified on a source-level. But that also makes it more stable and reliable for the applications that it does support.

UNIX and Linux are similar technologies that have very different philosophies. The older UNIX systems are designed to be used for very specific commercial applications, though they similarly provide a solid platform for programmers. Linux, on the other hand, is a less consistent but more diverse operating system. Because it can be (and has been) modified by virtually any programmer, Linux offers a variety of options for just about any application.

Either way, both UNIX and Linux use are skills that have been slowly fading away. Programmers and developers who are well-versed in UNIX and Linux usage may very well find themselves high in demand, even with the reduced usage of the operating systems today. And though UNIX is fairly deprecated in many circles (beyond highly commercial and government applications), Linux usage has been growing with the advent of the Internet of Things. For more information about jobs related to UNIX and Linux, check out the job listings at Software Specialists.