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[ih] Ping Eduardo A. Suárez (was Re: What is the origin of the root account?)

On Fri, 12 Apr 2013 17:23:42 -0500, Larry Sheldon wrote:
> On 4/12/2013 4:43 PM, Eduardo A. Su?rez wrote:
>> I was reviewing a large number of documents on the origins of Unix, and
>> the different versions that I found on this site
>> http://bitsavers.informatik.uni-stuttgart.de/ and the only manual that
>> calls the super user "root" is SunOS 1.1 manual from 1984. Since SunOS
>> it's based on 4.1BSD and the manual of that version and the latter
>> (4.3BSD, etc.) does not refer to a "root" account, I could imagine that
>> "root" is the brainchild of Sun.
>> But it's just my intuition because I have no internal document from Sun
>> to support this assumption.
> That is really interesting.  I did not discover the unix world until 
> the late 1980's but I thought the name "root" was ubiquitous.


The website is "the unix tree"; a lot of the early materials are 
contributions from Dennis Ritchie (r.i.p.). Unfortunately, I'm 
hopelessly incapable of handling the assembler in first to third 
editions. Fourth edition has the kernel in (pre-K&R) C that doesn't 
help me figure anything out (though others might do better, certainly). 
Fifth edition has the /etc dir, containing /etc/passwd, which is quite 


(I posted /etc/passwd to a public mailing list! I'm a 1337 h4xx0rz!) 

This is dated June 1974 on the website. That's ten years before the Sun 
documentation mentioned above. Others might be able to find more 
information in the source trees.

FWIW, there are 12 occurrences of 'root' in the v6 source tree, nine of 
them in pwd.c. None refer to the user. There are 30 occurrences in 
Lions Commentary, and again, none refer to the root user. But the root 
user does appear in /etc/passwd for v6 as well (the trio above were 
clearly established conventions at this point).

If you can find a working first edition (heh ... and a working pdp-7?), 
you could check for root there. Once verified, you'd presumably look to 
unix's roots (errr ... sorry), most likely multics, as others have 
already suggested.

Amelia A. Lewis                    amyzing {at} talsever.com
Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability.
                -- Edsger Dijkstra