Minix is one of a number of 'Unix-like' operating systems that includes Idris, Coherent and Uniflex. These were written because AT&Ts initial licencing of Unix precluded it being sold to commercial organisations. These operating systems were written from scratch without any AT&T code.
Minix was written by Andrew Tanenbaum from Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands as an appendix or example in the book "Operating Systems: Design and Implementation", ISBN 0-13-637331-3. An abridged 12000 lines of source code of the kernel, memory manager, and file system is printed in the book; it is mostly written in C.
Minix ran on IBM PC and IBM PC/AT computers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Later versions ran on Motorola 68000 based machines (such as the Atari ST and early Apple Macintosh) and SPARC based machines (such as Sun Workstations).
Linux was influenced by Minix. At the time of its development, the license for Minix was considered very liberal, with licensing fee that was very small in comparison to other competing operating systems. However, because it was not fully open source, development effort went into Linux and the FreeBSD kernels. In the late 1990s, the license for Minix was converted to open source, but by this time it had only a small developer and user base.
Minix distributions have the following ISBN numbers. They all contain all the source:
- A set of disks for IBM PC with 640K RAM, which can be used with 512K computers if you adjust some program sizes. Available as ISBN 0-13-583873-8.
- A set of disks for IBM PC with 256K RAM, which does not include the C compiler since it is not runnable. Available as ISBN 0-13-583881-9.
- A set of disks for IBM PC/AT with at least 512K RAM; 1.2M diskettes are used instead of 360K diskettes. Available as ISBN 0-13-583865-7.
- Nine-track, industry standard 1600 bpi magnetic tape in UNIX tar format. Includes an IBM PC simulator and some libraries and programs that make it possible to run the MINIX file system on a VAX or other minicomputer running UNIX. Available as ISBN 0-13-583899-1.
There is also a file system called Minix. This is the default file system type used when installing Minix. It is also used by some Linux distributions as the format for bootable disks or other situations where a low-overhead filesystem is needed.