Unix (officially trademarked as UNIX, sometimes also written as Unix in small caps) is a multitasking, multi-user computer operating system originally developed in 1969 by a group of AT&T employees at Bell Labs, including Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Brian Kernighan, Douglas McIlroy, Michael Lesk and Joe Ossanna.
First developed in assembly language, by 1973 it had been almost entirely recoded in C, greatly facilitating its further development and porting to other hardware.
In 1974, UNIX was first licensed to an outside institution, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, by Greg Chesson and Donald B. Gillies. Today’s Unix system evolution is split into various branches, developed over time by AT&T as well as various commercial vendors, universities (such as University of California, Berkeley’s BSD), and non-profit organizations.
The Open Group, an industry standards consortium, now owns the UNIX trademark. Only systems fully compliant with and certified according to the Single UNIX Specification are qualified to use the trademark; others might be called Unix system-like or Unix-like, although the Open Group disapproves of this term. However, the term Unix is often used informally to denote any operating system that closely resembles the trademarked system.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the influence of Unix in academic circles led to large-scale adoption of Unix (particularly of the BSD variant, originating from the University of California, Berkeley) by commercial startups, the most notable of which are Sequent, HP-UX, Solaris, and AIX, Xenix, as well as Darwin, which forms the core set of components upon which Apple’s OS X and iOS are based.
Today, in addition to certified Unix systems such as those already mentioned, Unix-like operating systems such as MINIX, Linux, and BSD descendants (FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, and DragonFly BSD) are commonly encountered. The term traditional Unix may be used to describe an operating system that has the characteristics of either Version 7 Unix or UNIX System V.