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The Operating System: Should There Be One?

Kell, Stephen (2013) The Operating System: Should There Be One? In: PLOS '13 Proceedings of the Seventh Workshop on Programming Languages and Operating Systems. . 8:1-8:7. ACM/PLOS, New York, NY, USA ISBN 978-1-4503-2460-1. (doi:10.1145/2525528.2525534) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:69710)

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Operating systems and programming languages are often informally evaluated on their conduciveness towards composition. We revisit Dan Ingalls' Smalltalk-inspired position that "an operating system is a collection of things that don't fit inside a language; there shouldn't be one", discussing what it means, why it appears not to have materialised, and how we might work towards the same effect in the postmodern reality of today's systems. We argue that the trajectory of the "file" abstraction through Unix and Plan 9 culminates in a Smalltalk-style object, with other filesystem calls as a primitive metasystem. Meanwhile, the key features of Smalltalk have many analogues in the fragmented world of Unix programming (including techniques at the library, file and socket level). Based on the themes of unifying OS- and language-level mechanisms, and increasing the expressiveness of the meta-system, we identify some evolutionary approaches to a postmodern realisation of Ingalls' vision, arguing that an operating system is still necessary after all.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Proceeding)
DOI/Identification number: 10.1145/2525528.2525534
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences > School of Computing
Depositing User: Stephen Kell
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2019 13:53 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:25 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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