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Unix's durability and its technical culture are certainly of interest to people who already like Unix, and perhaps to historians of technology. But Unix's original application as a general-purpose timesharing system for mid-sized and larger computers is rapidly receding into the mists of history, killed off by personal workstations. And there is certainly room for doubt that it will ever achieve success in the mainstream business-desktop market now dominated by Microsoft.
Outsiders have frequently dismissed Unix as an academic toy or a hacker's sandbox. One well-known polemic, the Unix Hater's Handbook [Garfinkel], follows an antagonistic line nearly as old as Unix itself in writing its devotees off as a cult religion of freaks and losers. Certainly the colossal and repeated blunders of AT&T, Sun, Novell, and other commercial vendors and standards consortia in mispositioning and mismarketing Unix have become legendary.
Even from within the Unix world, Unix has seemed to be teetering on the brink of universality for so long as to raise the suspicion that it will never actually get there. A skeptical outside observer's conclusion might be that Unix is too useful to die but too awkward to break out of the back room; a perpetual niche operating═system.
What confounds the skeptics' case is, more than anything else, the rise of Linux and other open-source Unixes (such as the modern BSD variants). Unix's culture proved too vital to be smothered even by a decade of vendor mismanagement. Today the Unix community itself has taken control of the technology and marketing, and is rapidly and visibly solving Unix's problems (in ways we'll examine in more detail in Chapter═20).