What is the difference between Linux and Unix operating systems?

What is the difference between Linux and Unix operating systems?

The Linux operating system is very popular these days. Moreover, the latest versions of Windows 10 provide the ability to run the “Windows Subsystem for Linux” with all compatible applications, which seemed incredible until recently.

Nowadays, Linux is able to provide the basis for the normal functioning of a global network, but its founder is Unix, an idea which has been developed since the 1970s.

Although the developers of Unix themselves tried to make simple software, to tell exactly what it is, will be difficult. Originally Unix was created by the American research labs “AT&T”, but nowadays the Unix trademark is owned by Open Group. In addition, this name is also used to refer to a whole family of operating systems.

The basic concept of Unix is that each program must clearly perform a specific task. That is to say, instead of trying to combine all imaginable possibilities, the Unix tool must simply do its job by creating outputs that can be directly entered into the input of other applications.

Today, there are many Unix distributions available, both free and commercial versions.

Linux is another term which is much more difficult to describe than you can imagine. From a technical point of view the complete Linux distribution is a “Unix-like” operating system but that is not all.

Many people use Linux as an abbreviation for what would be more accurately described as “GNU/Linux”. Linux itself is just the kernel of an operating system which performs basic computations and communicates with the hardware. At the same time, the basic utilities working on top of this kernel are also essential components.

GNU is an acronym for “GNU not Unix”. The GNU Project does not contain Unix source code, but provides all the utilities that can be used in the Linux operating system. This is the key difference between Unix and Linux.

Brief History of Unix and Linux

Even the creators of Unix were not involved in its development from the beginning. Instead, Ken Thompson and Dennis Ricci drew inspiration from the earlier Multics operating system, whose source code was completely rewritten in the C programming language developed by one of these scientists.

The Unix platform was not open source software. Instead, the management of AT&T started selling commercial licenses for its product, but this company was not the only one working on the development of Unix. At the same time, academicians from Berkeley developed an add-on called “Berkeley Software Distribution”, or BSD, which later became their own full-fledged version of Unix.


In addition, since the 1980s, various companies began to sell their proprietary Unix platforms, including “IBM AIX”, “Sun Solaris” and “Xenix”, which later became known as “SCO UNIX”.

“Rapid development Linux

In addition to various Unix modifications, several Unix-like OS versions were also available. One of them was MINIX, which was intended for academic use. A software developer from Helsinki named Linus Torvalds was disappointed with the limitations of MINIX, so he wanted to create a similar kernel that could take full advantage of the latest computer systems.

Meanwhile, Richard Stallman, who has been working since 1983 on the GNU project, the goal of which was to create free analogues of various Unix utilities, was also looking for a platform to implement his ideas. As a result, Torvalds was the first to use GNU on a free kernel of his own design, after which other enthusiasts came as well.

The result was a rapid worldwide spread of Linux systems, and by the mid-1990s this software had become very popular with ordinary users thanks to the free use of both the kernel itself and the GNU toolkit. Although various other free Unix operating systems became available, the commercial nature of the distribution during the first 20 years of this project has had a very negative impact on the popularity of Unix, which continues to this day.

Where is Unix used today?

Now, one of the main differences between Linux and Unix is also their popularity, as we mentioned above. However, there are many free Unix distributions that are freely available and can run on the same software as Linux. The two best known of them are “FreeBSD” and “OpenBSD” which are based on BSD as the names suggest.

However, now any “Apple” device, including “MacBook”, “iPhone” and even “Apple Watch” runs on a Unix-like operating system. Using “iPhone” or “Apple Watch”, you will never know about it, but on computers with “MacOS” it is immediately noticeable.


Here you can simply run the “Mac Terminal” application, after which you will have access to the standard Unix utilities such as “ls”, “pwd”, and even to the editor “vim”, which is quite a powerful tool.

Use Linux

Nowadays Linux is used on many platforms but you will not be able to guess about it yourself. For example, the most popular mobile operating system in the Android world is fork Linux. Most owners of gadgets will not know about it because of the beautiful appearance of the operating system itself, under which hides a certain version of the Linux kernel, modified for use on mobile devices.



Most of the Internet nodes also run on Linux. In addition, the vast majority of servers use the Linux distribution, although server systems often have Windows or Unix installed. Much of this is due to the free nature of the Linux operating system as well as its high level of reliability and security. At the same time Unix is no less stable in every respect but the popularity of Linux means that most people will choose it.

One of the loudest improvements of Linux in the last few years is the development of the “Windows Subsystem for Linux”. This has made it possible to run Linux utilities in Windows, which is a great advantage for web programmers and software developers.


In conclusion it is worth mentioning that it is easier than ever to work with a Unix or Linux computer. Moreover, most of the working distributions of these operating systems are freely available, which makes it possible to use them even in the infrastructure of an enterprise legally, since no licenses are required for this software.

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