BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) has had a long and somewhat checkered history full of avarice and heartbreak. While revered (and still used) by many, BSD releases have been 1) obviated by “better” proprietary systems (e.g. SunOS to Solaris), 2) licensed to death (AT&T / USL / whoever), 3) unlicensed and released to great acclaim and even great expectations (386BSD), and 4) once some flaw is found, dispised, derived, hacked, and then poorly marketed against juggernaut Linux and Microsoft (NetBSD, FreeBSD, YourNameHereBSD,…). Unlike 386BSD, which stayed focussed on the BSD research goals and writings which are Berkeley’s best quality (see 386BSD Release 1.0 Reference CD-ROM: Essays on Kernel Design), 386BSD‘s many “commercial” derivations never achieved the kind of monetary success expected after The Fun with 386BSD we all had.
Why was this? Perhaps William Jolitz chatting with Tom Foremski of SiliconValleyWatcher (see How I learned to love Linux and profit from it — Wind River turns from Linux basher to religious zealot) may provide a bit of insight as to why the Curse of Commercial BSD continues: “Back in 2001, met with Wind River’s co-founder and board member Jerry Fiddler, along with John Fogelin at their office in Alameda, about the BSD purchase. It wasn’t a confident feel in the room, and they had no interest in putting any more “wood behind the arrow”. Just then, several B-25 Liberators flew overhead, commemorating Jimmy Dolittle’s raid on Tokyo. As they rumbled past, I recall thinking that the bomb Jerry bought was going to be bigger than the ones Jimmy dropped. Ironically, I was an executive at a Japanese company at the time. But such has been the BSD karma. You can’t say it doesn’t have its humorous side!”