Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Sun loses Joy; IBM ad mocks departure

Bill Joy has resigned from Sun Microsystems. In the Washington Post, the IBM banner ad that comes with the story accidentally mocks the end of Joy at Sun:

The layers of irony abound:

-- Bill Joy almost singlehandedly took Unix from the university and minicomputer realms and put it on small boxes. This (along with the PC revolution) eventually killed DEC, and it did huge harm to IBM. Sun's proprietary Unix stole billions in business from IBM's proprietary mainframes. It's deliciously ironic to see IBM advertise open-source Linux next to Joy's epitaph.

-- IBM's new ad campaign personifies the Linux as a 9 year old boy. Bill Joy was the real, breathing brilliant 22 year old graduate student at Berkeley who knew BSD Unix deeply enough to translate it into a commercial product.

-- There is a real "Linux", Linus Torvalds, who was himself a Finnish grad student when he created Linux. In 1982, Joy worked to create a proprietary Unix. Less than a decade later, the real Linus worked to create an open source version of Unix.

-- IBM markets Linux on servers that are descendants of its mainframes the ran VM, or Virtual Machine, operating system. IBM nearly killed VM in 1983 when it foolishly implemented an "object code only" policy. Now IBM uses VM technology to run multiple virtual copies of its open source Linux distribution.

-- The "Edison of the Internet" label is especially ironic, given that Sun rose and fell with the best of 'em on the Internet bubble -- and that Linux (made possible by the Internet) is now eating Sun for lunch.

The Post quotes others in tagging Joy as the Edison of the Internet. That title is wildly excessive. Bill Joy will be remembered for commercializing Unix on small boxes, and for inventing Java. Please, many brilliant minds (e.g. Vint Cerf and Bob Metcalfe) contributed to building the Internet.