Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD, sometimes called Berkeley Unix) is the Unix operating system derivative developed and distributed by the Computer Systems Research Group of the University of California, Berkeley, from 1977 to 1995.
Historically, BSD has been considered as a branch of UNIX — "BSD UNIX", because it shared the initial codebase and design with the original AT&T UNIX operating system. In the 1980s, BSD was widely adopted by vendors of workstation-class systems in the form of proprietary UNIX variants such as DEC ULTRIX and Sun Microsystems SunOS. This can be attributed to the ease with which it could be licensed, and the familiarity it found among the founders of many technology companies of this era.
Though these commercial BSD derivatives were largely superseded by the UNIX System V Release 4 and OSF/1 systems in the 1990s (both of which incorporated BSD code), later BSD releases provided a basis for several open source development projects which continue to this day.
Today, the term of "BSD" is often non-specifically used to refer to any of these BSD descendants, e.g. FreeBSD, NetBSD or OpenBSD, which together form a branch of the family of Unix-like operating systems.
Other universities became interested in the software at Berkeley, and so in 1977 Bill Joy, then a graduate student at Berkeley, assembled and sent out tapes of the first Berkeley Software Distribution (1BSD). 1BSD was an add-on to Sixth Edition Unix rather than a complete operating system in its own right; its main components were a Pascal compiler and Joy's ex line editor.
The Second Berkeley Software Distribution (2BSD), released in 1978, included updated versions of the 1BSD software as well as two new programs by Joy that persist on Unix systems to this day: the vi text editor (a visual version of ex) and the C shell.
Later releases of 2BSD contained ports of changes to the VAX-based releases of BSD back to the PDP-11 architecture. 2.9BSD from 1983 included code from 4.1cBSD, and was the first release that was a full OS (a modified Version 7 Unix) rather than a set of applications and patches. The most recent release, 2.11BSD, was first released in 1992, with maintenance updates from volunteers continuing until 2006 (patch 445 was released on December 26 2006).
The success of 3BSD was a major factor in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) decision to fund Berkeley's Computer Systems Research Group (CSRG), which would develop a standard Unix platform for future DARPA research in the VLSI Project. CSRG released 4BSD, containing numerous improvements to the 3BSD system, in October 1980.
4BSD (November 1980) offered a number of enhancements over 3BSD, notably job control in the previously-released csh, delivermail (the antecedent of sendmail), "reliable" signals, and the Curses programming library.
4.1BSD (June 1981) was a response to criticisms of BSD's performance relative to the dominant VAX operating system, VMS. The 4.1BSD kernel was systematically tuned up by Bill Joy until it could perform as well as VMS on several benchmarks. (The release would have been called 5BSD, but the name was changed to avoid confusion with AT&T's UNIX System V release. One early, never-released test version was in fact called 4.5BSD.)
4.2BSD would take over two years to implement and contained several major overhauls. Before its official release came three intermediate versions: 4.1a incorporated a modified version of BBN's preliminary TCP/IP implementation; 4.1b included the new Berkeley Fast File System, implemented by Marshall Kirk McKusick; and 4.1c was an interim release during the last few months of 4.2BSD's development.
To guide the design of 4.2BSD Duane Adams of DARPA formed a "steering committee" consisting of Bob Fabry, Bill Joy and Sam Leffler from UCB, Alan Nemeth and Rob Gurwitz from BBN, Dennis Ritchie from Bell Labs, Keith Lantz from Stanford, Rick Rashid from Carnegie-Mellon, Bert Halstead from MIT, Dan Lynch from ISI, and Gerald J. Popek of UCLA. The committee met from April 1981 to June 1983.
The official 4.2BSD release came in August 1983. It was notable as the first version released after the 1982 departure of Bill Joy to co-found Sun Microsystems; Mike Karels and Marshall Kirk McKusick took on leadership roles within the project from that point forward. On a lighter note, it also marked the debut of BSD's daemon mascot in a drawing by John Lasseter that appeared on the cover of the printed manuals distributed by USENIX.
After 4.3BSD, it was determined that BSD would move away from the aging VAX platform. The Power 6/32 platform (codenamed "Tahoe") developed by Computer Consoles Inc. seemed promising at the time, but was abandoned by its developers shortly thereafter. Nonetheless, the 4.3BSD-Tahoe port (June 1988) proved valuable as it led to a separation of machine-dependent and machine-independent code in BSD which would improve the system's future portability.
Until this point, all versions of BSD had incorporated proprietary AT&T Unix code and therefore required licenses from AT&T for their use. Source code licenses had become very expensive by this point, and several outside parties had expressed interest in a separate release of the networking code, which had been developed entirely outside AT&T and would not be subject to the licensing requirement. This led to Networking Release 1 (Net/1), which was made available to non-licensees of AT&T code and was freely redistributable under the terms of the BSD license. It was released in June 1989.
4.3BSD-Reno came in early 1990. It was an interim release during the early development of 4.4BSD, and its use was considered a "gamble", hence the naming after the gambling center of Reno, Nevada. This release was clearly moving towards POSIX compliance, and, according to some, away from the BSD philosophy (as POSIX is very much based on System V, and Reno was quite bloated compared to previous releases).
In August 2006, Information Week magazine rated 4.3BSD as the "Greatest Software Ever Written". They commented: "BSD 4.3 represents the single biggest theoretical undergirder of the Internet."
Net/2 was the basis for two separate ports of BSD to the Intel 80386 architecture: the free 386BSD by William Jolitz and the proprietary BSD/386 (later renamed BSD/OS) by Berkeley Software Design (BSDi). 386BSD itself was short-lived, but became the initial code base of the NetBSD and FreeBSD projects that were started shortly thereafter.
BSDi soon found itself in legal trouble with AT&T's Unix System Laboratories subsidiary, then the owners of the System V copyright and the Unix trademark. The USL v. BSDi lawsuit was filed in 1992 and led to an injunction on the distribution of Net/2 until the validity of USL's copyright claims on the source could be determined.
The lawsuit slowed development of the free-software descendants of BSD for nearly two years while their legal status was in question, and as a result systems based on the Linux kernel, which did not have such legal ambiguity, gained greater support. Although not released until 1992, development of 386BSD predated that of Linux, and Linus Torvalds has said that if 386BSD had been available at the time, he would probably not have created Linux.
The lawsuit was settled in January 1994, largely in Berkeley's favor. Of the 18,000 files in the Berkeley distribution, only 3 had to be removed and 70 modified to show USL copyright notices. A further condition of the settlement was that USL would not file further lawsuits against users and distributors of the Berkeley-owned code in the upcoming 4.4BSD release.
In June 1994, 4.4BSD was released in two forms: the freely distributable 4.4BSD-Lite contained no AT&T source, whereas 4.4BSD-Encumbered was available, as earlier releases had been, only to AT&T licensees.
The final release from Berkeley was 1995's 4.4BSD-Lite Release 2, after which the CSRG was dissolved and development of BSD at Berkeley ceased. Since then, several variants based directly or indirectly on 4.4BSD-Lite (such as FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD and DragonFly BSD) have been maintained.
In addition, the permissive nature of the BSD license has allowed many other operating systems, both free and proprietary, to incorporate BSD code. For example, Microsoft Windows has used BSD-derived code in its implementation of TCP/IP and bundles recompiled versions of BSD's command line networking tools with its current releases. Also Darwin, the system on which Apple's Mac OS X is built, is partly derived from 4.4BSD-Lite2 and FreeBSD. Various commercial UNIXes, such as Solaris, also contain varying amounts of BSD code.
Today, BSD continues to be used as a testbed for technology by academic organizations, as well as finding uses in a lot of commercial and free products and, increasingly, in embedded devices. The general quality of its source code, as well as its documentation (especially reference manual pages, commonly referred to as man pages), make it well-suited for many purposes.
The permissive nature of the BSD license allows companies to distribute derived products as proprietary software without exposing source code and sometimes intellectual property to competitors. Searching for strings containing "University of California, Berkeley" in the documentation of products, in the static data sections of binaries and ROMs, or as part of other information about a software program, will often show BSD code has been used. This permissiveness also makes BSD code suitable for use in open source products, and the license is compatible with many other open source licenses.
BSD operating systems can run much native software of several other operating systems on the same architecture, using a binary compatibility layer. Much simpler and faster than emulation, this allows, for instance, applications intended for Linux to be run at effectively full speed. This makes BSDs not only suitable for server environments, but also for workstation ones, given the increasing availability of commercial or closed-source software for Linux only. This also allows administrators to migrate legacy commercial applications, which may have only supported commercial Unix variants, to a more modern operating system, retaining the functionality of such applications until they can be replaced by a better alternative.
Current BSD operating system variants support many of the common IEEE, ANSI, ISO, and POSIX standards, while retaining most of the traditional BSD behavior. Like AT&T Unix, the BSD kernel is monolithic, meaning that device drivers in the kernel run in privileged mode, as part of the core of the operating system.