Back in 1998 (actually more like from summer 1997 until summer 1998,
i.e., the 1997-98 school year), before I started Quasijarus Project,
I was searching the World high and low for a copy of the 4.3BSD tape
set. That was before PUPS got its momentum with getting the $100
"Ancient UNIX" license deal from SCO, and more importantly, getting
people interested in preserving and working with Original UNIX, and
at that time the entire world was basically in a conspiracy of
anathema against original Bell/Berkeley UNIX, everyone just wanted
it to stay buried in its grave and not come up.
Getting a copy of the 4.3BSD tape set seemed next to impossible.
was shockingly silent about the fact that Berkeley
UNIX aka BSD, UC Berkeley's greatest accomplishment in all of its
history, ever existed, much less saying how to order a tape. Finally
I found a phone number and a couple of E-mail addresses for some
office at UCB that was apparently kept for sending out tapes after
CSRG itself was gutted. The office was basically a voice mailbox and
a couple of E-mail addresses, with the two people who were actually
supposed to get those E-mail and voice messages being away somewhere
in San Francisco and taking a few weeks to answer inquiries.
Finally they got back to me and told me to send a check for $2400 for
4.4BSD and $1000 for 4.3BSD. Ouch! And of course some murky business
At that time, however, I attended Case Western Reserve University (CWRU)
and had a semi-staff relationship with their computer science department.
I realised that the university must have had a UNIX source license from
back in The Days, and most probably had the actual 4.3BSD tapes at some
point as well, especially given that the old-timers told me that they
were indeed running 11/780s before. But again the conspiracy of anathema
was working: everyone had completely forgotten about it, and no one on
the entire campus even knew that the university had a UNIX source license
(and old-timers confirmed that indeed there was one).
When spring 1998 came around, PUPS was making its debut with the $100
license deal from SCO. I didn't care so much about license stuff, but
it meant a resurgence of interest in Original UNIX and a community of
people involved with it, something that was completely lacking only a
few months prior. I wanted access to the PUPS archive, and I wanted to
use the university's license rather than fork over $100 for a personal
one. The only issue was *finding* that license. Then I got a bright
idea: since the license agreement was between CWRU and AT&T, there must
have been copies of it on both sides. If CWRU had chosen to forget
about the license they once paid big money for, how about if I dig up a
copy of the license agreement from AT&T side? So I asked SCO's Dion
Johnson about it, and lo and behold, a few days later a copy of CWRU's
original UNIX license agreement shows up in my box in the computer science
department mail room! Warren Toomey got another copy and soon I got an
overseas fax from him with passwords for his PUPS Archive! Whoo-hoo!
But I still needed 4.3BSD. It wasn't in Warren's archive since they
were still PDP-only at that time, and me holding a copy of my school's
AT&T UNIX license agreement didn't help convince anyone I knew who
might have had 4.3BSD tapes to share them with me.
In late 1997 I got myself an office at CWRU, it was the CES department's
computer junkyard room. I was quite happy, a room full of classic
computers was the best office I could get. It was actually two rooms,
411 and 412. Only 411 was accessible from the hallway, the entrance to
412 was inside 411. Both rooms were filled with classic computer gear,
but 411 was a little less full and actually had some room for a desk and
was usable as an office. 412, on the other hand, was *completely* filled
with classic computer gear (mostly Sun 3) and it was difficult for a
person to make it through to the end of the room. At the very end of
room 412 (the end opposite the entrance door from 411) there was
something that looked like a plastic curtain or plastic window blinds.
The architecture of that building was really intriguing, the kind one
finds only on good old university campuses, and I couldn't really tell
if there was supposed to be a window there or not. I just never gave
it much thought, and it was too difficult to climb over all that Sun 3
gear in the way to see exactly what it was.
On a shelf in room 411 there were some magtape reels, and I thought
that if they ever had 4.3BSD tapes, they ought to be there. But I
looked through all the tapes I could see and 4.3BSD wasn't there. Bummer.
Then one day in summer 1998 I came to work in the morning, went up
the stairs to my beloved Computer Engineering and Science department
4th floor, went to the end of the hallway to my office, and got in.
I turned on the lights and per my usual habit, peeked all over the
room to make sure all the fun classic computers were still there.
And lo and behold, at the very end of room 412, where I previously
saw those plastic curtains or window blinds or whatever, I now saw
two racks full of magtapes! It turned out that the plastic "curtains"
were actually vertically sliding doors (kinda like garage doors) of
two huge magtape cabinets! Another staff member must have had a need
to get some old magtape and didn't close the cabinet after he was done.
With trembling hands, I raced there and started looking through all
the tapes. And sure enough, in a few minutes I found all 3 tapes of
the 4.3BSD 1600 BPI distribution.
I spent pretty much the whole year prior to that moment searching the
World high and low for 4.3BSD tapes when they were sitting the whole
time in my own office! Now that's a "Duh!" moment.