GNU vs Unix: Difference and Comparison

We need an operating system to instruct our computer and get results. Besides MS Windows, the operating system is MSDOS, Unix, and GNU / Linux. In our daily life, we are used to Microsoft Windows due to its simple GUI usage.

This article delves into the key differences between GNU and Unix.

Key Takeaways

  1. GNU is a free and open-source operating system compatible with UNIX, while UNIX is a proprietary operating system that various companies own.
  2. GNU gives users more freedom and control over their operating system, while UNIX has stricter licensing requirements and limits what users can do with the system.
  3. GNU includes many of the same utilities and commands as UNIX, but it is not fully compatible with all UNIX systems.

GNU vs Unix

The difference between GNU and Unix is ​​that GNU is a free source code, while Unix is ​​a trademark. GNU can be used by anyone, while Unix is ​​paid. If you want to use Unix, you have to pay. GNU was developed during the software movement, a collection of software that can run an operating system. Unix, on the other hand, is considered the basic operating system that was developed a long time ago.

GNU vs

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GNU was developed as a project during the software movement. Richard Stallman began developing GNU in 1984  in a 1983 initiative. GNU is also known as GNU’s Not Unix, which means that it is not a derivative of Unix.

GNU has a completely different code set that is inconsistent with Unix. It is a combination of a large amount of free software that is freely accessible to the public.

Unix was introduced as an operating system in the 1960s. Since then, it has been adopted by several companies that modified the version and started their own operating system.

It is considered the father of many of these operating systems. Other features of Unix include its multitasking capabilities and multiple users can use it at the same time.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonGNUUnix
Function Requires a kernel to function.It already has a kernel and a shell and thus functions on its own.
shell and kernelIt uses its own shell but uses a Unix-like kernel.It consists of its own kernel and shell.
Source code openclosed
Origin Richard Stallman developed it.Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie developed it for bell labs.
Logo Penguin or dark antelopeLetters of its name

What is GNU?

During the software movement, Richard Stallman began developing GNU in 1984. It is compiled with several free programs. It was designed with the idea that it would be available to everyone.

Therefore, the source code was kept open. Inspiration came from Unix, the basic operating system.

Unix may inspire Gnu, but its code is completely different from  Unix. GNU provides us with a free source code. We don’t have to pay to use it. A brand like Unix does not own it.

GNU was a project work licensed under the General Public License or GPL. Also, GNU cannot operate on its own because it lacks the kernel; the kernel is the medium through which the software interprets its code to the hardware.

GNU is compiled with open-source software that anyone can use as needed. But it does need an operating system to run on a computer. In this way, GNU is combined with the Linux kernel to create the GNU / Linux operating system.

Etienne Suvasa designed the GNU logo, and later it was modified by Aurelio Heckert. The Free Software Foundation published the logo in 2013. It is a penguin or dark antelope. The most popular is the penguin logo known as Tux.

What is Unix?

Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie designed Unix at bell labs. It evolved in the 60s. Various companies and organizations have modified Unix and created their own operating system that implements and modifies Unix codes.

In addition to being the basic operating system, Unix can be used by one or more users at the same time. The operating system is also capable of multitasking.

Unix comprises a kernel and shell. The kernel basically encompasses file storage, time, memory space, and so on, whereas the shell converts our commands into a binary number that the computer reads.

The Unix logo is just normal plain text showing its letters. 

Other features of Unix include communication, providing security in three layers: passwords, encryption, and permission to read, write or execute files.

In addition, its characteristics also describe its portability, which means it can be moved from one machine to another.

Some Unix extensions are IBM AIX, SUN Solaris, Mac OS, and HPUX. These companies implemented  Unix code, modified it, and produced their own operating systems.

During that time, they priced this OS up to $5000, and they were not freely accessible. Unix is ​​also a trademark. Unix is written in C language.

Main Differences Between GNU and Unix

  1. GNU requires a kernel to function, whereas Unix could function on its own.
  2. GNU uses its own shell and a Unix-like kernel, while Unix has its own kernel and shell.
  3. GNU is licensed under General Public License and is openly available to all. Unix, on the other hand, is owned by bell labs.
  4. Richard Stallman developed GNU in 1984, and Unix was designed in the 1960s.
  5. GNU uses either a penguin or a dark antelope as its logo, and Unix uses its name in plaintext.  

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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