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I was looking over the evolutionary history of Unix and Unix-like systems on Wikipedia and one operating system name stood out to me: OpenServer.

Judging from the image, SCO's OpenServer is completely closed sourced; so why does SCO OpenServer have the word "open" in its name if the operating system is proprietary and contains no open source code?

I suspect this is because the original Unics operating system had a mixed/shared license, but that seems like a pretty distant ancestor when the proprietary Xenix came before OpenServer as well. Can anyone shed some light on the reason for this name?

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When did SCO release OpenServer, and when did the term "open source" come into common use? If memory serves correctly, OpenServer predates "open source" by quite a bit. –  Dan Pichelman May 7 '13 at 20:45
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OpenVMS had this to say about its name: "In 1991 it was renamed again to OpenVMS to indicate its support for industry standards such as POSIX and Unix compatibility, and to drop the hardware connection as the port to DIGITAL's 64-bit Alpha RISC processor was in process" -- Similarly, OpenServer may indicate that it isn't tied to one hardware vendor. –  MichaelT May 7 '13 at 20:48
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OpenServer is called what it is because someone thought it was catchy. –  Robert Harvey May 7 '13 at 20:55
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SCO Openserver was released in 1989. The Open Software Foundation was created in 1988 "to create an open standard for an implementation of the UNIX operating system." –  MichaelT May 7 '13 at 21:15
    
OpenGL is the same. Most implementations are anything but open in the sense of open source. –  JohnB May 8 '13 at 12:21
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In the late 80's, the word "Open" was applied to many different parts of the computing world to mean different things.


The most familiar to us today is "Open Source." The concept of open source existed quite a bit before the late '80's with the BSD license (one form of what is known as open source today). This source of "open" though is late '90s:

The label "open source" was adopted by a group of people in the free software movement at a strategy session held at Palo Alto, California, in reaction to Netscape's January 1998 announcement of a source code release for Navigator.

...

In February 1998, Raymond made the first public call to the free software community to adopt the new term.

(from Wikipedia on Open Source)

Thus, this is not the source of the Open in Open Server as it predates it by a decade. Which brings us to...


Lesser known and largely not important anymore (the Unix Wars are largely over) is The Open Group which was previously known as Open Software Foundation.

The OSF (and there's a name that might stick in some people's memory - OSF/1) was founded "to create an open standard for an implementation of the UNIX operating system."

Prior to OSF, each major company had a very different flavor of Unix. There was AIX, and AUX, and Ultrix, and IRIX, and Minix, and SunOS, and SCO, and Xenix, and BSD, and...

Each of these was tied to a specific hardware platform. One couldn't run the OS of one on another hardware platform. The definition of what was Unix and what standards one needed to compile code from Ultrix on an AIX machine were still very much in flux (Posix was set down in 1988).

With the late 80's, this lock in raised in prominence and some companies renamed their software to indicate that they were not locked in to particular hardware. This is about open standards and open systems - not open software.

OpenVMS (from Wikipedia) is one such naming:

In 1991 it was renamed again to OpenVMS to indicate its support for industry standards such as POSIX and Unix compatibility, and to drop the hardware connection as the port to DIGITAL's 64-bit Alpha RISC processor was in process.

This naming would mirror the naming of OpenServer by SCO, being released in 1989.

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In the Unix Wars days, "open" didn't mean Open Source, it meant "Open Systems", a codeword for Unix that didn't infringe on AT&T's trademark for that name. Ah, the joys of lawyers in the programming world! –  Ross Patterson May 7 '13 at 22:26
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I think MichaelT is correct: it seems the word "open" here refers to the open standards compliance of the operating system.

I took at look at the SCO Open Desktop Release 2.0 - Product Overview Paper; in the section titled An Open System for Freedom of Choice, there are a number of references to "open systems standards".

Because it is based on acknowledged open systems standards, SCO Open Desktop protects and enhances the current hardware and software resources of these organizations, while freeing them from dependence on any single hardware or software vendor.

Compliance to open standards allowed OpenServer to give the user freedom in choosing which hardware to use with operating system, rather than being confined to a specific vendor or set of components.

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