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

Liam Proven lproven at
Tue May 3 08:01:10 CDT 2016

On 29 April 2016 at 16:51, Brian L. Stuart <blstuart at> wrote:
> 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.


I *think* I understand the motivations for wanting Plan 9 over
Inferno, for example retaining fondness for native CPU compilation
over VMs -- but TBH, given the relatively small influence of either
platform on the wider world, and the close relationship between them,
I don't see there being sufficient differentiation to keep both alive.

But I do not understand the OSes, the communities and so on well
enough; mine is an outsider's perspective.

>   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.

Well, yes, but Java won that war, ISTM. And now that Java is losing
that niche too, it's time to strike out for new ground, IMHO.

> 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.

I am sure you're right but as a non-programmer myself, I'm not very
interested in new languages for the traditional Unix stack. It's the
OS stuff that interests me personally.

Liam Proven • Profile:
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