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X Window System Turns 30 Years Old

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the wax-nostalgic-below dept.

X 204

An anonymous reader writes "One of the oldest pieces of the Linux desktop stack still widely in use today is the X Window System that today is commonly referred to as X11 or in recent years the X.Org Server. The X Window System predates the Linux kernel, the Free Software Foundation, GCC, and other key pieces of the Linux infrastructure — or most software widely-used in general. Today marks 30 years since the announcement of X at MIT when it was introduced to Project Athena." X wasn't new when I first saw it, on Sun workstations the summer before I started college. When did you first encounter it?

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DECwindows ;) (3, Interesting)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 3 months ago | (#47271255)

that's where I first saw X. at DEC we had DECwindows on ultrix (bsd like unix) and vax/vmx.

motif was the toolkit we developed guis in. and we used UIL to describe the UI, which was data that was read in and could change the look/feel of the widgets or their layout without rebuilding from source.

instead of node:1 for a display it was node::1 for the display (double colon meant decnet instead of that newfangled thing called IP)

Re:DECwindows ;) (2)

Archtech (159117) | about 3 months ago | (#47271399)

Likewise: VAX/VMS over DECnet. I still remember vividly the sudden paradigm shift I experienced at the time: one day I was used to "green screen" alphanumeric terminals, the next I suddenly understood the immense power and flexibility of a large bitmapped colour monitor. Previously I had thought that such workstations were only for graphic designers, people using CAD/CAM packages, or poncey pretentious managers who just wanted to have the latest hardware. After the first couple of hours on a training course, I grasped how useful it was to have several terminal windows open simultaneously - optionally on different computers.

As an afterthought, I might point out that no PC I have used since 1985 has offered any fundamental improvement over the VAXstation I had then. Processor frequency, RAM, and hard drive capacity have all increased vastly; but response time and basic capability have hardly improved.

Re:DECwindows ;) (5, Interesting)

Archtech (159117) | about 3 months ago | (#47271427)

We spent an inordinate amount of time and effort explaining (often to people with considerable software experience) why "client" and "server" were the wrong way round.

Re:DECwindows ;) (1)

bigwheel (2238516) | about 3 months ago | (#47271767)

I remember when Sun made the switch from SunTools to X-Windows. 1987'ish I thought they were nuts using a (slow) client-server architecture when we were fighting for graphics performance. As usual, it turned out to be another smart technical decision by Sun.

Re:DECwindows ;) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272069)

Sometimes I wish all these projectors installed in conf rooms were acting like display servers. Possibly over a network connection. The current status quo with attaching/detaching cables and fixing bent pins can be a pain in the neck. Not that having yet another server to secure isn't a pain...

Re:DECwindows ;) (5, Informative)

gman003 (1693318) | about 3 months ago | (#47272613)

The best way to explain it, that I've found, is this:

A server lets clients access a shared resource. On a file server, it's storage. On a web server, it's documents. On a compute server, it's processing. On an X server, the shared resource is the display, and clients are given access to it.

Re:DECwindows ;) (1)

TWX (665546) | about 3 months ago | (#47272709)

While it is technically correct that the X-terminal is the display server in that client applications connect to it, it's so counter-intuitive from a user perspective that the entire terminology should have been replaced. "Application Host" or "apphost" for the box running the program, and something like "Display Host" or "User Host" for the thin device doing the displaying.

It is very, very hard to find good information on the Internet because of the terminology used. Newbies and those that don't understand will use the terms in the intuitive-from-the-user perspective and thus incorrectly swapped far, far more often than the correct terms are, so trying to find good information on somewhat unique or specific configurations is very difficult.

Ultrix (was: Re:DECwindows ;) ) (2)

erikscott (1360245) | about 3 months ago | (#47271463)

Mine would be as a first-year EE student, NC State U. 1987. OSF wouldn't ship Motif for another year and half, so it was Athena Widgets and TWM all the way.

God, I miss the screaming. :-)

Re:DECwindows ;) (1)

Kiaser Zohsay (20134) | about 3 months ago | (#47272133)

At NCSU, over the summer of 1989, the CSC department replaced a crapload of 68000-based four-terminal boxes running the UCSD p-system with DEC workstations running Ultrix and X11R4 with massive (for the time) 21 inch monochrome monitors and three button meeces. The basement of Leazar hall was filled with these things, and they showed up in other labs and other departments as well. Your home dir was NFS mounted so you could log in to anyone of them. There had previously been various other unix boxen for more advanced classes, but you logged in to those using a dumb-ish VT100 terminal or similar, so it wasn't my first encounter with unix (If you could dial in from home with a terminal emulator and a 1200 baud modem, you were pretty lucky).

Goodies like xinfest and neko were available, and I remember finding an .xbm of Calvin and Hobbes that became my first desktop wallpaper. The widget toolkit was Motif, so when Windows 3.0 rolled around it was already old school for me.

Damn. Now I feel old.

HP/UX (SGI?) for me (1)

Arker (91948) | about 3 months ago | (#47272991)

I had a shell account on a Vax earlier, but if it had X I did not have access to a Graphic Workstation to access it and never knew. The first time I saw X was in my C instructors office, she had the graphics workstation, I am thinking it was an SGI actually but I am not sure. The server was definitely HP/UX, the department had a number of them in a kind of cluster, you got a login on a particular machine but if it was busy it would just authenticate you and pass you to another.

I still didnt have a graphical workstation to access it at that point, only got to play with it a few minutes on the teachers machine. The next brush was using that account with Desqview/X to run remote apps on the same servers from my PC in my office.

This would have been during the 80s and very early 90s.

time to die... (4, Funny)

bumba2014 (3564161) | about 3 months ago | (#47271273)

30 years is long enough.... time for the ritual of "Carrousel"...

Wayne's World is here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47271309)

There's no replacement. This Wayne's World fiasco still needs 5 years until delivery.

time to die... (4, Informative)

Danzigism (881294) | about 3 months ago | (#47271485)

They are replacing X11 with Wayland. There's definitely much of X11 that is obsolete from a developer's standpoint. Pretty cool actually. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W... [wikipedia.org]

Re:time to die... (0)

reanjr (588767) | about 3 months ago | (#47271647)

I really think Wayland is a step backwards with the loss of network transparency. The story from that article (of thin clients improving the way MIT IT infrastructure operated) is basically due to the network transparency of X11.

Re:time to die... (0)

bumba2014 (3564161) | about 3 months ago | (#47271891)

there is no network transparency, that feature hasn't been used for years. Microsoft also tried something like that with clients using WPF, never heard about it again...

Re:time to die... (4, Informative)

Arker (91948) | about 3 months ago | (#47272283)

It's used every day, just not by you.

Re:time to die... (1)

TWX (665546) | about 3 months ago | (#47272765)

there is no network transparency, that feature hasn't been used for years. Microsoft also tried something like that with clients using WPF, never heard about it again...

I've used network-connected X-terms at home before, and with the advent of the connected house becoming possible I'm considering doing it on a larger scale. I can run lightweight boxes at each TV or workstation, and have them connect to a powerful box in another room. That powerful box can run multimedia applications like MythTV, and whoever logs in at any of the various terminals will get their expected desktop.

Though due to the positioning of the TVs in the two-storey house, I'm considering running a multihead setup for those, so that the native graphics card can handle the higher video framerates that I'd want.

Re:time to die... (1)

praxis (19962) | about 3 months ago | (#47272791)

I use it every day.

Re:time to die... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272051)

Another "network transparency" myth supporter.... I'm 44 yo, and was also amazed by X11 and has been a good company all this years, but NEEDS TO BE REPLACED. All X11 devs say the same, and all of them hate the useless X11 heritage and cumberstone codebase. Not to talk about graphic driver makers.

No one is using the "network transparency" of X11 as it was intended to be used anymore, and has been like this for years. (Unless you use Motif, like 0.0000001% of the X11 apps). NO ONE USES SERVER-CLIENT PAINT PRIMITIVES.

It's just image buffers sended over. Like VNC but without any optimization and using ugly paintig primitive trickeries.

We just need some rootless VNC-like something, and that's it. Trivial to do on wayland. It can even use the same "DISPLAY" method and make nostalgic oldschoolers happy.

Please wayland devels, implement this and shut "network transparency" gurus forever. They are annoying.

Hell, I'm about to start doing it myself.

Re:time to die... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272175)

It is possible to have network transparency with Wayland.

The architecture resembles PulseAudio's concept of sinks/sources: in this case, applications and compositors.

Look it up!
http://tech.slashdot.org/story/13/04/03/1219239/remote-desktop-backend-merged-into-wayland

I realize it might not be as impressive as X's way of viewing it, but I'm sure you can do per-application and per-session forwarding with RDP (and if not, it should be possible to code an interface and allow people to choose their remote method). As it stands right now, X.org is basically sending screenshots back and forth.

Re:time to die... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47273011)

Pulseaudio is not exactly the best pedigree to invoke...

Re:time to die... (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 months ago | (#47272191)

Network transparency is a very nice feature; but it's debatable how 'transparent' X still is once you try anything remotely fancy or modern.

OpenGL, in particular, wasn't really part of the plan. It's been hacking in (in a number of different ways); but it's still pretty easy to trip on a mine: If the program is running on the remote host; but using your GPU, GLX indirect rendering should work, as long as you don't hit any OpenGL extensions that expect direct hardware access; but if your application likes to throw big textures around as though it were developed for computers where the 3d card is separated from the CPU by 16 PCIe lanes, rather than a LAN(or, god help you, WAN), you'll notice.

If you want the server to do the work, so that you can use an actually-thin thin client, you end up with something like VirtualGL, which uses X11 on both ends; but actually handles slinging the image data with VNC...

Re:time to die... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272543)

but if your application likes to throw big textures around as though it were developed for computers where the 3d card is separated from the CPU by 16 PCIe lanes, rather than a LAN(or, god help you, WAN), you'll notice.

Yes you will notice, you already notice with 16 PCIe lanes. A large part of modern graphics APIs is there to store Data on the GPU and only send data when you cannot avoid it. Early OpenGL had glBegin, glEnd and could iirc only store one texture, the following standards first added display lists, then GPU side texture storage optionally - by now modern programs are expected to store data in a GPU side buffer and only send buffer ids + ranges (even these may be stored in a GPU buffer), when data changes the APIs also provide ways to reupload only what is needed.

Modern 3D graphics should actually work better over a network than old immediate mode OpenGL.

Re:time to die... (1)

Kiaser Zohsay (20134) | about 3 months ago | (#47272205)

Here, here. In the late 90's, my employer heard a sales pitch from Citrix, who was doing remote desktop on Windows NT, and I was like "Oh yeah, we did stuff like this back in the day. Windows is just now catching up?"

Re:time to die... (3, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 months ago | (#47272537)

The problem with network transparency in X11 is that it's done at completely the wrong place. With competing systems of the same era, such as NeWS, there was some code running in the display server for display updates. This meant that, for example, you could handle the visual feedback for a button press in the server, while transmitting the 'this button has been pressed' event to the client. In X11, you press the button but the server just sends a 'mouse clicked at x,y' message to the client, so you need a network round trip just to update the button. If you want to animate the button press, then you need to wait for network round trips to get the 'redraw finished' events. Wayland isn't a step backwards in this regard, but it's also not a step forwards.

In a modern X client, you don't really use much of the server's drawing functionality. You do store some images for compositing and will use XRender to composite them, but that's about it. The line drawing stuff can't handle antialiased lines, the text drawing stuff (aside from XRender) can't handle fonts provided by the client easily, so all you're really using the display server for is getting some texture memory and compositing it. With Wayland, you just get an OpenGL context and do the same thing. To be honest, if you're targeting X11 that's also what you should be doing for modern hardware: the rest of your drawing code most likely uses OpenGL (or something higher-level with an OpenGL back end), or just generates pixmaps, so doing the per-window compositing in OpenGL is a lot easier than doing it in a completely different API.

Re:time to die... (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 3 months ago | (#47272401)

... Wayland is in no way a 'replacement' for X any more than SDL is.

Re:time to die... (1)

bumba2014 (3564161) | about 3 months ago | (#47271873)

nobody saw Logon's Run here? Am I that old...?

Re:time to die... (1)

doug (926) | about 3 months ago | (#47272021)

nobody saw Logon's Run here? Am I that old...?

You might be. I certainly am. I fondly remember the movie but didn't think the spin-off TV series was all that good.

Re:time to die... (1)

ray-auch (454705) | about 3 months ago | (#47272215)

nobody saw Logon's Run here? Am I that old...?

You might be. I certainly am. I fondly remember the movie but didn't think the spin-off TV series was all that good.

Ditto. Of course the TV series didn't have Jenny Agutter minus clothing, which made it instantly much more forgettable...

Re:time to die... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272941)

nobody saw Logon's Run here? Am I that old...?

You might be. I certainly am. I fondly remember the movie but didn't think the spin-off TV series was all that good.

Ditto. Of course the TV series didn't have Jenny Agutter minus clothing, which made it instantly much more forgettable...

Neither did anyone else as it only lasted 14 episodes.

Re:time to die... (1)

Langalf (557561) | about 3 months ago | (#47272045)

Yes, I did, and yes, you are.

"Renew! Renew!"

Re:time to die... (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | about 3 months ago | (#47272049)

Yes, you are that old, citizen. Why haven't you been to Carrousel? We have a runner!

Re:time to die... (1)

Kiaser Zohsay (20134) | about 3 months ago | (#47272221)

Yes, I remember the movie. I even remember the TV spinoff. And yes, you are that old.

Re:time to die... (1)

Creepy (93888) | about 3 months ago | (#47272425)

I saw the film on TV first, but my memory of it was foggy until I saw it again on VHS many years later. They ran it as a precursor to the TV series [wikipedia.org] the first time I saw it, with the nudity edited out (which is quite significant for a PG movie). I was at an age where I had to beg my parents to let me see Star Wars because it was PG and had "Wars" in the name, so it was well before my tweens.

Re:time to die... (2)

Creepy (93888) | about 3 months ago | (#47272259)

Except Carousel is at 21 years of age :)

I know, you are referring to the film, though - they extended it to 30 so they could use "known" actors and actresses.

Re:time to die... (3, Informative)

BitZtream (692029) | about 3 months ago | (#47272391)

Ah, spoken in the true voice of slashdot ignorance.

The protocol is fine, the library isn't that horrible unless your a newbie to dev, nothing needs replaced and it was designed with extensibility to deal with modern problems in a sane way.

Just because you read some document written by someone who wants to replace it for selfish reasons like making their display system the standard doesn't mean its actually true.

Re:time to die... (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 months ago | (#47272585)

The protocol is fine,

Except for the fact that it has a limited set of extensions that can be supported and a load of command numbers are used for 'core protocol' stuff that no one has used for over a decade. It has no concept of security (you can easily steal input from another application, for example).

the library isn't that horrible unless your a newbie to dev

XCB is pretty nice, but xlib is a clusterfuck. It hides interfaces that need to be used asynchronously for good performance behind synchronous API calls. It's impossible to write an application that performs well over a network and does a nontrivial amount of drawing with xlib. It is with XCB, but it requires carefully designing your toolkit for asynchronous drawing, and all modern X toolkits have too much xlib heritage to easily adapt to using XCB as it's intended to be used, rather than as a lighter-weight xlib.

Re:time to die... (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 3 months ago | (#47272645)

ah, spoken with the voice of slashdotter pontificating out ass.

x11 is bloated with needless complexity, laggy because of map-expose-draw cycle, built in race conditions that can't be avoided, and has zero consideration for security

x11 is long overdue for the scrap heap

Too old. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47271313)

30 is ancient in computer years, the X system is too old for the new generation of developers. I recommend we replace it with a far more superior one written in Javascript and Rails. With AGILE development methods we can have a better system up in a week.

Re:Too old. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47271339)

No no no no NO

Python and XML

Re:Too old. (2)

itamihn (1213328) | about 3 months ago | (#47271457)

With AGILE development methods we can have something in a week. Whether it will be better or worse will depend on the features that could be developed within that sprint.

Anyway, I'd say 1 week is a very aggressive timeline, right? Do you work as a PM for Accenture?

Re:Too old. (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47271573)

Your kid, but X apis are really dumb and obtuse. About the only thing you can say in its favor is that it makes a little more sense than the old MS windows message pump.

Re:Too old. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272119)

About the only thing you can say in its favor is that it makes a little more sense than the old MS windows message pump.

Actually the MS windows message pump (or the cleaned up OS/2 model) was really quite elegant in concept. The execution was ugly but the concept is one should persist.

Re:Too old. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 months ago | (#47271639)

That doesn't seem Social enough. Can we integrate microblogging so that all windows can tweet whenever they are repainted?

Re:Too old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47271643)

Alright. I expect to see a new window system built by you by next weekend. Let's git r dun!

Re:Too old. (2)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 3 months ago | (#47271993)

Absolutely. And my view is we should make sure whatever we build embraces promising new technologies like THE CLOUD. Imagine a future where, instead of however it is X11 works now, it can display applications running on computers that could be anywhere in the world, managed by other people, with you doing no more than connecting to that remote server and launching the user interface for whatever application it is you want to use.

I bet they never thought of concepts like that when they designed X11...

Re:Too old. (1)

gtall (79522) | about 3 months ago | (#47272753)

With AGILE development methods you will wind up with a dirty snowball of a system that has zero ability to be extended without a complete rewrite.

1994-95 (3, Interesting)

wbr1 (2538558) | about 3 months ago | (#47271331)

Was in school, supposedly the first community college on the internet (ISDN to UVa across town) and we had NeXt workstations. I do not remember if they used X11, but that clued me into Unix. Later that year we wanted to get our gopher and mosaic servers on a better box, so I took an amazing 486DX2 and setup Slackware. There I know I saw X (although it was later removed from the server). IIRC I downloaded the entire set of Slackware discs directly to floppy using FTP from Sunsite the first time and NFS the second from UIUC (after searching hours for open NFS exports in the mirror lists). I did it directly to floppy as I did not have enough HDD space for the files and the currently running OS. I think that was Linux kernel 1.2.10. Am I old?

Re:1994-95 (2)

CptJeanLuc (1889586) | about 3 months ago | (#47271951)

Oh, the memories. 1994 in university, and they had a room of SGI Indy workstations, with Internet connection. Everything was utterly confusing with Unix, X11, ctwm and what not. Asking the wizards for help was pretty scary, as they would stare you down as if you were a waste of perfectly good carbon. Those were good times.

And then installing Slackware from floppy, onto a 486DX33 I think it was. Getting the X server up and running was pretty scary, which involved getting a supposedly supported graphics card, and playing around with dot clock frequencies while reading warnings about how this could fry the monitor. No manual, no search engines to turn to for help the way you can look up almost any question today and find an answer in a forum somewhere, and no internet at home.

I think it was a couple years later when Linux got initial support for multiple processors, and this was before the concept of "cores". Which was pretty cool. Got a Tyan Tomcat III motherboard with two pentium processors, and had a lot of fun figuring out how to get that to work. Those were the days when you had to compile your own kernel, at least for that type of functionality.

Actually, the Tyan Tomcat III motherboard was the only piece of hardware I owned which got ruined due to Y2K. Because I was afraid the PC would get broken, I downloaded a new BIOS and followed instructions to flash. The computer never booted again; would probably have been just fine if I had the wisdom to just leave it alone.

I saw it first in VMS... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47271347)

It was called "Decwindows", and it ran in VAXStations (my first one was a VS-2000). To have several DecTerminals in your desktop, each one connected to a different machine was something magic at that time!

WABI (3, Interesting)

just_another_sean (919159) | about 3 months ago | (#47271405)

First time I saw it was also on a Sun. Lowly kids like me (data entry clerk) had to use DOS on the job but the cool guys (engineers) had Sun workstations running WABI*. I was blown away by how much more advanced their stuff was than what we were stuck with. First time actually using it was when I finally managed to get Slackware installed along side Windows 95.

* Sun's Windows Application Binary Interface [wikipedia.org] which allowed a full blown Windows 3.1 installation to run on their "desktop".

Sun Lab in '87 (4, Interesting)

Greyfox (87712) | about 3 months ago | (#47271417)

I saw it in a Sun lab at RPI in '87. It was running some clunky-ass version of CDE. Or maybe it was just plan CDE.

It's funny, I'm working on a project for which a lot of the components were coded back in the mid '90s. The state of the art really hasn't advanced since then. The basic API (Xlib/Motif/Xcb) are nominally well documented -- you can find books and the library calls have man pages. Newer libraries and X extensions are a hodge-podge of largely-undocumented and generally incompatible API calls that take more work to integrate than they do to program in (Assuming you can find an example to work from.) The actual frameworks typically require you to drink all their kool-aid in order to use the framework. So I could go GTK+ or QT, learn their idioms and framework implementation details and that's great assuming I never want to change frameworks again and am willing to accept their quirks. And outside of QT, everyone (including motif/xlib) re-invent C++ badly with home-rolled type systems which often involve pushing strings around. Brilliant.

Somehow despite all this it still does what it does better than anything else I've seen. I'm not sure how this is possible, but there you go.

Re:Sun Lab in '87 (1)

jonwil (467024) | about 3 months ago | (#47271745)

The abomination that is the glib type system (used by GTK and others) is the perfect example of why reinventing the wheel is bad.

QT is a much nicer library to program for (and I say this as someone who has used both)

Re:Sun Lab in '87 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272157)

QT's callback system is the worst thing on the planet.

Re:Sun Lab in '87 (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 3 months ago | (#47272435)

I remember the good old PAWL lab. Telnetting via NIM to one of the PAWLs so you could play TinyMUD, get on Connect or maybe even do school work. Bozing out on a snowy Sunday afternoon. Good times.

Re:Sun Lab in '87 (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 months ago | (#47272601)

And outside of QT, everyone (including motif/xlib) re-invent C++ badly with home-rolled type systems which often involve pushing strings around

Funny, I always felt that the signals and slots mechanism in Qt was reinventing Objective-C badly...

Comparison to Windows (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47271431)

Back in the day the repaint strategy of XFree86 was terrible and windows flickered a lot when their contents were updated. Windows did not have this problem. X got rid of the flicker it when we moved to composited desktops, although tearing still occurs on many setups. The GNOME2 / KDE3 era was kind of a sweet spot when we had relatively good performance and nice composited desktop. After that the big Linux desktops have gotten quite sluggish and animations get sometimes choppy. The composited desktop of Windows is much smoother and more responsive. Waiting for the angry replies for saying the truth.

Re:Comparison to Windows (1)

fisted (2295862) | about 3 months ago | (#47271701)

I think you misunderstand what kind of statements people tend to get flamed for. This is pretty spot on, windows does have the better GUI, after all, a huge amount of money has been thrown at it.
That being said, i'd still not use it because a nice GUI is useless when the rest is crap.

Re:Comparison to Windows (2)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 3 months ago | (#47271777)

Back in the day the repaint strategy of XFree86 was terrible and windows flickered a lot when their contents were updated. Windows did not have this problem. X got rid of the flicker it when we moved

You are confusing an implementation XFree86 with the general case (X). As it happens, X supported BackingStore on windows for a long time, which meant flicker-free updates in the 90s. I think XSGI had that on by default and it looked amazing.

Whichm, on-topic is how I first encountered it. Something on an Apollo (by that stage a rebranded diskless HP workstation running CDE) and an SGI of some sort, in 1994. Holy fuck the SGI was amazing.

Re:Comparison to Windows (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 months ago | (#47272635)

There are four different protocols that permit double-buffering on X. These days, pretty much everyone has converged on using XRender and manually doing the buffer management. For most of the history of X, different vendors supported different double buffering APIs and writing code that would detect which one was available and using it was painful. Double buffering isn't part of the core specification, because the RAM requirements for two copies of the frame buffer were too big for a lot of early implementations.

X11 is the best (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47271477)

Happy Birthday X11. Still the best piece of software ever written !!!
Any Linux or Mac still runs X11 (or XQuartz)

Re:X11 is the best (1)

Movi (1005625) | about 3 months ago | (#47272281)

Macs don’t ship Xquartz by default anymore (since 10.5 if memory serves right)

Re:X11 is the best (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 3 months ago | (#47272451)

He didn't say ship, he said runs on.

Of course, it also runs on Windows and pretty much every other OS of any size as well.

Re:X11 is the best (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 months ago | (#47272665)

They don't, but the do some clever tricks with launchd so that the first time you try to run a program that tries to connect to an X server they'll pop up a thing asking if you want to install XQuartz. Oh, and XQuartz never shipped with OS X, Apple's X11.app did, which was a fork and rebranding of XQuartz and usually an old version by the time it shipped. The reason that they stopped bundling it was that all of the people who actually cared about X11 were installing XQuartz instead.

X11 is the best (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272407)

Two reasons I went with OS X was for java and X11. Neither one is included by default anymore and I can't say I miss them. I have run X11 programs under OS X in the past but they're just so ugly and awkward I delete them immediately. Maybe if all you run is X11 then it would be ok.

college in the early 90s (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47271483)

A roomful of IBM XTerminals with Motif.

Long-lived. (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 3 months ago | (#47271501)

X11 is long-lived, not because it's the best, but because it's good enough and that there are a huge amount of applications depending on it. Changing to something else will just cause pain.

Re:Long-lived. (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | about 3 months ago | (#47271735)

Much like Windows XP. But try telling the geniuses around here who think it's just a matter of buying everyone a new PC.

Re:Long-lived. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272173)

Well, Wayland and Mir should have X11 compatibility (XWayland and XMir), so I guess it will not be a big problem.

xtank (1)

undulato (2146486) | about 3 months ago | (#47271533)

First time I saw it was on Sun 3s and Sun Sparcs I think in 1991 - might be too early for Sparcs? X11 blew me away right after I'd got used to terminal sessions - having a graphical interface and being able to send windows anywhere was just.. well.. futuristic. It still is. Played a lot of xtank, perpetually fiddled with the .XDefaults.

Slackware 2.0.12 (2)

Dishwasha (125561) | about 3 months ago | (#47271541)

Back when REAL Linux distros were named by the kernel version.

Re:Slackware 2.0.12 (1)

simonbp (412489) | about 3 months ago | (#47271825)

You mean back before the 20-odd years of kernel 2.6?

Also, you gotta love the Slackware package management system: "Here's a tarball. Just untar it (as root) in the root directory and hope it doesn't clobber anything you care about."

Re:Slackware 2.0.12 (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 months ago | (#47271963)

Slackware 2.0.12 (Score:3)
by Dishwasha (125561) Alter Relationship on 06-19-14 6:57 (#47271541)

Back when REAL Linux distros were named by the kernel version.

No, no they weren't. Because when I began using Slackware 2.0, the latest kernel that was provided for it was 1.1.47

Grad school. 1990. (3, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 3 months ago | (#47271545)

Sun diskless workstations. Knew motif window manager inside out. Had taught a unix course using a strange Sony workstation that had a TV card in it displaying live TV in X windows. Eventually became the root (of all evil, according to my students) of the lab.

Employer morphed from being a Unix shop (1990-2000) to Microsoft + Mainwin (2000-2010) shop, then slowly coming back to display agnostic (2011 - till date) (but limited to X11+OpenGL or MSWin) shop.

X on HP-UX in 1988 (1)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | about 3 months ago | (#47271599)

Worked OK then (more than a few memory leaks). Works much better now.

Kind of amusing the people who want to get rid of it just because it's old. Especially amusing are the people who seem to think they could re-write it in a week. Delusional but amusing.

Cheers,
Dave

Paul Asente's Stanford masters project (3, Informative)

peter303 (12292) | about 3 months ago | (#47271653)

Paul and his adviser, whom I forget, wrote it in the early 1980s at Stanford. MIT liked it and decided to manage its development. It was after Xerox Parc and Apollos distributed graphics system, but before Sun, Apple and MicroSoft. Following Unix's minimalist toolkit naming convention "X" was the command stream and "W" the display api. Our Stanford computer joined in at version #5 on a VAX. It was commercially supperted around version 10 by DEC and Sun. And "froze" at version 11, going into 2nd and 3rd digit numbering after that.

There was always the intent to make it objected-oriented, hence the tootlkit kludge called Motif. The early 80s was in flux over OO languages Xerox MESA, way-to-slow Smalltalk, ObjectPascal, etc. C++ and ObjectiveC wouldnt be around for a few more years.

Somewhere at MIT, maybe Media Lab (2)

weav (158099) | about 3 months ago | (#47271677)

I was still working at Symbolics back then. We thought it a little silly that the input focus followed the mouse.
Now I sort of prefer it that way...

June, 1997 (3, Interesting)

tsqr (808554) | about 3 months ago | (#47271709)

On a re-purposed Win NT 4.0 box running OpenCaldera 1.0. That was when I first dipped my toes into the Linux pool, and I've been swimming happily ever since.

HPUX BABY! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47271931)

University days. 20 years ago. HP-UX terminals.

1989 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47271933)

I compiled and ran it on my Sun 3/50 in 1989. SunView was better at the time. Fantastic machines. Still the best feeling keyboard I have ever used. It also ran on DecStations in our lab. Those were great days.

First time was X11 r 2. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47271935)

1989? could have been. It was about 3 months before X11r3 was released.

It was and still is the best remote graphics/display system around.

Nothing has surpassed it.

It is time for a new protocol (as that is what the 11 is referring to).

Time for an X12r0. And the protocol doesn't have to be fully compatible with its predecessor, but a compatible plugin should be available.

And Wayland isn't it. No remote protocol whatsoever.

First time was X11 r 2. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272431)

To this day I am puzzled by hacks like Citrix. They actually make money selling it. We've had a nice remote display capability for 30 years and no one has ever paid attention. The thing I admired about X was the high quality documentation they had since day one. A class job.

Amiga - SIGGRAPH `89 (1)

Stele (9443) | about 3 months ago | (#47271989)

I was a senior in high school and wound up at SIGGRAPH in Boston in 1989. I was doing graphic design and programming for a small company that did medical imaging on the Amiga and we were in the Amiga pavilion. Nearby were some guys who had developed an X11 server and tools to build common X11 programs, with an optical three-button mouse. I think it was Dale Luck's company - I found a relevant announcement:
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/comp.sys.amiga/ks3jiuCT5oQ

In 1992 I went to work for a company doing graphics software for the film industry. I was supposed to be writing Amiga software, but when I showed up they pointed to a $30K SGI 3000 system they had just bought and said "learn that". That began my crash course all things UNIX, X11, Motif, and gl. One of the cool things about SGIs was their gl api (the precursor to OpenGL) that integrated with the X server, so you could log into another SGI box and run 3D graphics programs with amazing speed remotely.

'89 or '90 (1)

Enry (630) | about 3 months ago | (#47272065)

My campus had some Sparc systems and more DEC systems, but it wasn't until '91 when my campus got a boatload of AIX systems that we really got into it and then shortly after that I got into Linux.

1994 (1)

bytor4232 (304582) | about 3 months ago | (#47272093)

In college. I interned for a startup internet service provider in Niagara Falls called Macronet. It was located on my college. They had a BSD/OS server, on the console startx, into twm, using Mosaic. I still use TWM

1989 (freshman in college) (1)

danlip (737336) | about 3 months ago | (#47272223)

Undergrad CS lab had SGI and HP machines, and another lab had some Suns. Also 3 button mice and a scroll wheel that was a separate unit from the mouse.

The fun of making things pop-up on other people's screens on the lab. Nothing was locked down by default so unless you changed the permissions anyone could launch a process to display on your screen.

Neko was fun too.

1997 and badly disappointed (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | about 3 months ago | (#47272279)

I heard so much about Linux, and how it blew Windows away, in terms of performance.

At the time, Windows 1995 ran acceptably well on a 386. Linux, with Gnome, was so slow, I could practically count the pixels as they appeared on my screen.

These days, I use Linux, nearly exclusively. On modern hardware, I think Linux does just fine. But on 1990s era hardware, not so much.

Re:1997 and badly disappointed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272513)

you weren't using gnome in 1997...

Re:1997 and badly disappointed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272999)

Back then it was Athena or commercial Motif. I called Athena widgets the 'spinless GUI' because of all teh Xresources hacking it took to make programs look decent.

X in the house (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272321)

I'm supporting X to this day, for some niche publishing applications still in active development. Whee!

Network transparency of X has always impressed me (0)

Admiral_Bob2000 (1222180) | about 3 months ago | (#47272395)

I've been using Linux/UNIXes for 15yrs now. One of the beauties of X11 has been the fact that the application programmer typically does not even have to /plan/ for network transparency - it's built in right from the start (in the various graphics toolkits), no special APIs to . This means that whenever the users have a need for displaying X11 apps remotely (e.g. needing to deploy new thin clients at short notice to accommodate new staff in a corporate environment - very quick setup time), you just simply set $DISPLAY and away you go. I've long come to count on this feature and I value having that option kept open all the time. I believe in the future fibre optic LAN equipment will come down in price and will offer much lower-latency and higher-throughput than today's copper-wired Ethernet. It may even get to the point where transmit times of sending bitmapped real-time graphics over fibre may be as fast as a CPU writing to a reasonably modest PCI/AGP graphics card. I think the Wayland project is making a SERIOUS mistake in treating network transparency as a second-class citizen, and will likely see the project relegated to a toy-like status (useful only for gaming and entertainment, or apps that need extremely low video latency like video editing suites) and shunned by the corporate world. If the current X11 protocol makes it hard to do anti-aliased text, glossy/brushed GUIs, zooming fading menus, wobbly exploding windows and the like, then what we need is a new set of core drawing primitives, much like Apple's Display Quartz system (IIRC). Call it X12 if you will, but keep the network transparency in and that decision will pay off many times over. I personally have no need for such resource-hogging eye-candy - I turn all of that off and prefer a minimalistic slick-but-functional snappy inteface. I am perfectly happy with X11, and all the current-version applications I use work well with it. It has its quirks and faults, but I believe they can be reasoned with and there is certainly room for improvement: http://www.x.org/wiki/Developm... [x.org] I also think the Wayland proposals of polling (pixel-scraping) window buffers and sending them over rdesktop for remoting is only going to lead to massive CPU overhead on shared application servers, for one thing. At the very least, I'd like to see the major graphics toolkit groups (Qt, GTK, WxWindows et. al.) collaborate on designing a standard remote drawing protocol that has similar transparency to X11 - then I might have more respect for Wayland attempting to replace X11.

Re:Network transparency of X has always impressed (1)

Admiral_Bob2000 (1222180) | about 3 months ago | (#47272465)

(sorry, used wrong formatting mode - moderators, you can mod the above post down to -1, redundant if you wish).

Network transparency of X has always impressed me (4, Insightful)

Admiral_Bob2000 (1222180) | about 3 months ago | (#47272421)

I've been using Linux/UNIXes for 15yrs now. One of the beauties of X11 has been the fact that the application programmer typically does not even have to /plan/ for network transparency - it's built in right from the start (in the various graphics toolkits), no special APIs to .

This means that whenever the users have a need for displaying X11 apps remotely (e.g. needing to deploy new thin clients at short notice to accommodate new staff in a corporate environment - very quick setup time), you just simply set $DISPLAY and away you go. I've long come to count on this feature and I value having that option kept open all the time.

I believe in the future fibre optic LAN equipment will come down in price and will offer much lower-latency and higher-throughput than today's copper-wired Ethernet. It may even get to the point where transmit times of sending bitmapped real-time graphics over fibre may be as fast as a CPU writing to a reasonably modest PCI/AGP graphics card.

I think the Wayland project is making a SERIOUS mistake in treating network transparency as a second-class citizen, and will likely see the project relegated to a toy-like status (useful only for gaming and entertainment, or apps that need extremely low video latency like video editing suites) and shunned by the corporate world.

If the current X11 protocol makes it hard to do anti-aliased text, glossy/brushed GUIs, zooming fading menus, wobbly exploding windows and the like, then what we need is a new set of core drawing primitives, much like Apple's Display Quartz system (IIRC). Call it X12 if you will, but keep the network transparency in and that decision will pay off many times over.

I personally have no need for such resource-hogging eye-candy - I turn all of that off and prefer a minimalistic slick-but-functional snappy inteface. I am perfectly happy with X11, and all the current-version applications I use work well with it. It has its quirks and faults, but I believe they can be reasoned with and there is certainly room for improvement: http://www.x.org/wiki/Developm... [x.org]

I also think the Wayland proposals of polling (pixel-scraping) window buffers and sending them over rdesktop for remoting is only going to lead to massive CPU overhead on shared application servers, for one thing.

At the very least, I'd like to see the major graphics toolkit groups (Qt, GTK, WxWindows et. al.) collaborate on designing a standard remote drawing protocol that has similar transparency to X11 - then I might have more respect for Wayland attempting to replace X11.

(sorry for double post - accidentally selected wrong formatting mode. Mod my other post into oblivion if you wish).

Re:Network transparency of X has always impressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272667)

Networked cairo would be a pretty good, just nice smooth vector primitives over the net.

XNeWS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272493)

. . . on a Silicon Graphics Personal Iris - 1990

I also had a monochrome Tektronix XTerminal on my desk with 10Base2 Ethernet!

Sun Solaris 2.4 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272529)

Not sure about the version number, but I think it was v2.4 of Sun Solaris, when around 1996 LG Electronics Brazil gave me their main Brazilian server and a full stack of Sun documentation to start their operations down here.

Had heard about it since the early 1990s, as far as I can remember, mentioned in Byte magazine announcements of QuarterDeck DesqView/X. Must have been late 1991, or most probably 1992. Perhaps even earliers, as in the middle of 1991 I asked an IT manager at Siemens Brazil about some Unix advertising in Byte, and he told me it was far superior to what we had, but it was too expensive — Brazil had crazy prices back then. Still has, but it was even worse, and imports were mostly forbidden.

Its crystal is red? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272587)

30th Birthday?

Renew! Renew! RENEW!!!!!!

XFree86 broke Andrew (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47272659)

Besides Athena, CMU also had the Andrew network, some campus-wide middleware concept based on X11 and Unix, which included a bunch of GUI apps including a word processor (?!), the Andrew filesystem (now OpenAFS), and plused email addresses where, by convention, your main address was user+@andrew.cmu.edu which discouraged brokeass forms that reject + characters.

in ~1996, XFree86 rendered all the Andrew toolkit's cursors as a single pixel white dot which made their apps useless to me, and this bug persisted for years, but I was still able to see how cool the apps would've been if someone had fixed the bug because aside from that everything worked.

MIPS Computer Systems (1)

trevc (1471197) | about 3 months ago | (#47272719)

In the late 80's I was working at MIPS Computer systems and we ran X first on some NCD X-terminals (MIPS processor powered) and then on MIPS own workstations. Pre Motif, TWM I think.

AIX @ IBM (1)

smprather (941570) | about 3 months ago | (#47272731)

I was a co-op at IBM in Manassas, VA in 1992. My group was aggregating components for a submarine-based rack system with an embedded "monstrous" 19" monitor. I thought running processes on a remote system and viewing the result on a local system was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life. My mentor was tasked with finding every security leak he could in X. I was clueless then and my brain on overdrive just learning vi (not vim) and ksh. It was a mostly worthless internship, but it did imbue my soul with unix. So I have that going for me.
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