[svlug] *nix command names
ikluft at thunder.sbay.org
Tue Sep 3 10:35:29 PDT 2002
>From: Akbar Ahmed <akbar_svlug at yahoo.com>
>I have 2 questions about *nix names, as follows:
>1. why is grep named grep
>I may be way off, but I was thinking that maybe it
>stands for Gnu REgular Expressions? Or maybe not?
It pre-dates GNU by over a decade. The grep command comes from the original
Unix from Bell Labs. It officially stood for "general regular expression
parser". But rumors held that it's also a swear word in some foreign
language. The rumors often conflict with each other about which language
that is, which therefore qualifies it as an urban legend now. :-)
Most command names from the earliest days of Unix in the early 1970's
(including grep) were kept short and terse because teletype keyboards
were uncomfortable to use. Other terse command names since then have
followed by tradition just to save typing. :-)
>2. What does the "rc" stand for in bashrc, initrc?
It's also from the original Unix. It stands for "run command", named for
the /etc/rc shell script that was once used to run all the commands at boot
time necessary to start the system. Since then, many variants of Unix broke
up /etc/rc into directories of commands to run. The /etc/rc.d on Linux
distributions derived from Red Hat was an imitation of the method used in
Unix System V Release 4 (SVR4), though it isn't quite the same.
So as a Unix tradition, now any script used for initial setup of a program
environment is an "rc script". You may use "rc" as a suffix on the name of
the script or configuration file that sets up the environment - that will
imply on first sight its the location where that program gets its
As a footnote to this bit of history of Unix, the commercial Unix source
code is now property of Caldera, which renamed itself to SCO last month.
The Santa Cruz Operation was a company in Santa Cruz which Caldera had
earlier acquired. Nevermind that Caldera is located in Utah, not Santa
Cruz. That's their name now. The original SCO had acquired ownership
of the source code of Unix from Bell Labs and Xenix from Microsoft, back
when MS decided it wouldn't be a Unix vendor any more in the late 1980's.
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