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This is apparently my week off from posting and discussing open-source issues. Today, we report that Popular Mechanics has created an archive of their entire 137-year history and placed it online for free. (Thanks to Wired for the link)

Completely and utterly awesome. And (very) tangentially related to open source and embedded systems, as the gadgets shown in this venerable magazine are the forerunners of today’s technology. (How’s that for a justification?)

Happy Birthday, Internet. I know how you feel.

Yes, Unix turns 40 this week. Or this month, or whatever. No one really knows, but it was close to now.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter, because it means two important things. One is that Unix (and Linux by derivation) has been running servers for nearly as long as there has been a thing called software, and has been running embedded systems (where that includes dedicated systems like servers, network equipment, etc.) for nearly as long, although Linux didn’t become a serious market player in embedded systems or real-time operating environments until 1999 (note: that’s an important link).

The other thing it means is that Unix is…. my age. Gack. I’m not as old as computers built on tubes, but I AM as old as the Unix operating system, the C programming language, and—here we go, with no links—popular media stars Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu, Sam Rockwell, Parkey Posey, Gillian Anderson, and Brendan Fraser, who is one day younger than me.

Are these coincidences?

Andy V. O’Lay blogs this morning at what is possibly the most insightful blog around on mobile computing, VisionMobile. He is talking about the merger I referred to the other day between Wind River and Intel. Since O’Lay’s insights originate in such a different place from mine I though it would be useful to share the link. Go read his post, and then come back.

Andy says some very important things. Most notably:

“A reference design is not a half-baked breadboard; it is a scale 1:1 device, ready to ship.”

I am not certain I agree with him that TI is on the skids because of their lack of a serious software solution to their excellent lines of processors. But that is only because I don’t agree TI is on the skids at all.

“the key to hardware success is software.” …
“mobile software companies are instrumental in making silicon solutions pervasive, because they tick two major check boxes: reference design and support” …
“This is a visionary move. Hardware (HW) and software (SW) guys realising that they need each other to grow.”

I agree with it all except the last bit. This isn’t a visionary move. Sometimes it is forgotten in the heat of the market that hardware and software go hand in hand, always have, and always will, but it is never forgotten by the companies who make it happen. One reason I like embedded software is because I am constantly reminded of this unity. Making hardware and software engineers work together is certainly not new. IBM was doing this in the 1960s when the distinction between hardware and software barely existed {*}. Apple employs both hardware and software engineers, though they don’t produce their own chips (yet). Then again, there are also cases of companies spinning off one or the other, for business reasons of their own.

One thing is certain, though. This merger will continue to create opinions and counter-opinions from pundits everywhere. It remains to be seen whether it will change the landscape of mobile, embedded, Linux, open-source, or any combination of these.

{*} Historical note: the term “software” was coined in a mathematics journal in 1958 by Princeton mathematics professor John Tukey. The journal was the American Mathematical Monthly. Thanks to Ivars Peterson’s Mathtrek site for providing this valuable information.