Korn Shell Story

From a slashdot interview with David Korn: http://slashdot.org/articles/01/02/06/2030205.shtml

''It was at a USENIX Windows NT conference and Microsoft was presenting their future directions for NT. One of their speakers said that they would release a UNIX integration package for NT that would contain the Korn Shell.

I knew that Microsoft had licensed a number of tools from MKS so I came to the microphone to tell the speaker that this was not the "real" Korn Shell and that MKS was not even compatible with ksh88. I had no intention of embarrassing him and thought that he would explain the compromises that Microsoft had to make in choosing MKS Korn Shell. Instead, he insisted that I was wrong and that Microsoft had indeed chosen a "real" Korn Shell. After a couple of exchanges, I shut up and let him dig himself in deeper. Finally someone in the audience stood up and told him what almost everyone in the audience knew, that I had written the 'real' Korn Shell. I think that this is symbolic about the way the company works.


This is a story, often assumed to be an UrbanLegend but confirmed and corroborated by people who know DavidKorn, that is similar to the AlanKay story on HeInventedTheTerm. In fact, when I first read the AlanKay story I started wondering if it might be the same tale, reworked for an OO context, but it appears that both stories are factual. The "I" in the story is not me, but the original author of the much-forwarded email. -- MichaelIvey

The original author remains obscure, but the earliest copies of the message available (from August 1998, when it seems to have originally circulated) show Jon "maddog" Hall forwarding it.

I've been attending the USENIX NT and LISA NT (Large Installation Systems Administration for NT) conference in downtown Seattle this week. One of those magical Microsoft moments(tm) happened yesterday and I thought that I'd share. Non-geeks may not find this funny at all, but those in geekdom (particularly UNIX geekdom) will appreciate it.

Greg Sullivan, a MicroSoft product manager (henceforth MPM), was holding forth on a forthcoming product that will provide Unix style scripting and shell services on NT for compatibility and to leverage UNIX expertise that moves to the NT platform. The product suite includes the MKS (Mortise Kern Systems) windowing Korn shell, a windowing Perl, and lots of goodies like awk, sed and grep. It actually fills a nice niche for which other products (like the MKS suite) have either been too highly priced or not well enough integrated.

An older man, probably mid-50s, stands up in the back of the room and asserts that Microsoft could have done better with their choice of Korn shell. He asks if they had considered others that are more compatible with existing UNIX versions of KSH.

The MPM said that the MKS shell was pretty compatible and should be able to run all UNIX scripts.

The questioner again asserted that the MKS shell was not very compatible and didn't do a lot of things right that are defined in the KSH language spec. The MPM asserted again that the shell was pretty compatible and should work quite well.

This assertion and counter assertion went back and forth for a bit, when another fellow member of the audience announced to the MPM that the questioner was, in fact David Korn of AT&T (now Lucent) Bell Labs. (DavidKorn is the author of the KornShell).

Uproarious laughter burst forth from the audience, and it was one of the only times that I have seen a (by then pink cheeked) MPM lost for words or momentarily lacking the usual unflappable confidence. So, what's a body to do when Microsoft reality collides with everyone else's?

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