Plan9 and Inferno (was Re: strangest systems I've sent email from)

Brian L. Stuart blstuart at
Fri Apr 29 09:51:26 CDT 2016

On Thu, 4/28/16, Liam Proven <lproven at> wrote:
>>> The efforts to fix and improve Unix -- Plan 9, Inferno -- forgotten.
> It is, true, but it's a sideline now. And the steps made by Inferno
> seem to have had even less impact. I'd like to see the 2 merged back
> into 1.

Actually, it's best not to think of Inferno as a successor to Plan 9, but
as an offshoot.  The real story has more to do with Lucent internal
dynamics than to do with attempting to develop a better research
platform.  Plan 9 has always been a good platform for research, and
the fact that it's the most pleasant development environment I've
ever used is a nice plus.  However, Inferno was created to be a
platform for products.  The Inferno kernel was basically forked from
the 2nd Edition Plan9 kernel, and naturally there are some places
that differ from the current 4th Edition Plan 9 kernel.  However, a
number of the differences have been resolved over the years, and
the same guy does most of the maintenance of the compiler suite that's
used for native Inferno builds and for Plan 9.  Although you usually
can't just drop driver code from one kernel into the other, the differences
are not so great as to make the port difficult.  So both still exist and
both still get some development as people who care decide to make
changes, but they've never really been in a position to merge.

And BTW, if you like the objectives of the Limbo language in Inferno,
you'll find a lot of the ideas and lessons learned from it in Go.  After
all, Rob Pike and Ken Thompson were two of the main people behind
Go and, of course, they had been at the labs, primarily working on
Plan 9, before moving to Google.


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