Unix Philosophy


The Unix philosophy [yoo-niks] is a set of cultural norms and philosophical approaches to developing software based on the experience of leading developers of the Unix operating system. Doug McIlroy, the inventor of Unix, summarized the philosophy as follows: ‘Write programs that do one thing and do it well.’ Additional credos include: ‘Write programs to work together. Write programs to handle text streams, because that is a universal interface.’

Richard P. Gabriel, an expert on the Lisp programming language, suggests that a key advantage of Unix was that it embodied a design philosophy he termed ‘worse is better,’ in which simplicity of both the interface and the implementation are more important than any other attributes of the system—including correctness, consistency, and completeness. Gabriel argues that this design style has key evolutionary advantages, though he questions the quality of some results.

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