X11 Turns 25 Years Old Today
It was 25 years ago today, on 15 September 1987, that Version 11 Release 1 of the X Window System (a.k.a. X11
) was released. X11 has evolved a long way since then, but this 25-year-old technology out of MIT remains at the heart of every Linux desktop.
It only took three years to go from X1 to X11, but 25 years later, X11 remains in widespread use today not only on Linux but also other Unix-like systems such as BSD and Solaris. Ralph Swick of MIT announced the X Version 11 release on the behalf of other Massachusetts Institute of Technology developers, including Jim Gettys, Bob Scheifler, Todd Brunhoff, and the rest involved with Project Athena as well as many other independent organizations. Among the other vendors that contributed towards X11 were DEC, Sun Microsystems, and Tektronix. MIT Project Athena was the initiative by MIT, DEC, and IBM for creating a campus-wide distributed computing environment.
X11 was a major redesign compared to earlier X versions and marked "it's graduation from the research community into the product engineering and development community." Back then X11 was advertised for its forward-looking capabilities in terms of supporting deep frame-buffers, multiple color-maps, and various levels of hardware graphics assist. Back for the initial release 25 years ago, the hardware/software that X11 was known to work with included the "Digital VS-2, VS-2/RC, VS-2/GPX and VS-2000 under Ultrix 2.0, and 4.3BSD, most Sun Microsystems workstations with bw2 and cg2/3/4/5 displays under 3.2, 3.4 and 4.0, Apollo Computer workstations under SR9.5/6/7, and the IBM RT/PC with AED and APA16 under ACIS 4.3 (Not under AIX)." But if you happen to have such hardware around still after a quarter century, good luck getting the modern X11, via X.Org, to work on such hardware considering how much the reference X11 server has changed since then and the underlying operating system support for such hardware.
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