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From Jargon File (4.3.1, 29 Jun 2001) :

  Unix /yoo'niks/ n. [In the authors' words, "A weak pun on Multics";
     very early on it was `UNICS'] (also `UNIX') An interactive time-sharing
     system invented in 1969 by Ken Thompson after Bell Labs left the Multics
     project, originally so he could play games on his scavenged PDP-7.
     Dennis Ritchie, the inventor of C, is considered a co-author of the
     system. The turning point in Unix's history came when it was
     reimplemented almost entirely in C during 1972-1974, making it the first
     source-portable OS. Unix subsequently underwent mutations and expansions
     at the hands of many different people, resulting in a uniquely flexible
     and developer-friendly environment. By 1991, Unix had become the most
     widely used multiuser general-purpose operating system in the world -
     and since 1996 the variant called Linux has been at the cutting edge
     of the open source movement. Many people consider the success of Unix
     the most important victory yet of hackerdom over industry opposition
     (but see Unix weenie and Unix conspiracy for an opposing point of
     view). See Version 7, BSD, Linux.
     Some people are confused over whether this word is appropriately
     `UNIX' or `Unix'; both forms are common, and used interchangeably.
     Dennis Ritchie says that the `UNIX' spelling originally happened in
     CACM's 1974 paper "The UNIX Time-Sharing System" because "we had a new
     typesetter and troff had just been invented and we were intoxicated by
     being able to produce small caps." Later, dmr tried to get the spelling
     changed to `Unix' in a couple of Bell Labs papers, on the grounds that
     the word is not acronymic. He failed, and eventually (his words) "wimped
     out" on the issue. So, while the trademark today is `UNIX', both
     capitalizations are grounded in ancient usage; the Jargon File uses
     `Unix' in deference to dmr's wishes.
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