SUMMARY: SunOS 5.0 Rumors: The Demise of the C Compiler?

From: Mike Jipping (
Date: Mon Nov 25 1991 - 17:19:08 CST

Many thanks to those who responded. Here's my original query:

> The rumors are flying that in SunOS 5.0 the C compiler will no longer be
> present. The description is that the C compiler will be "unbundled".
> For us -- an academic institution that uses C and Sun's "bundled" C
> compiler -- this is a big management issue that we should be "proactive"
> on. That is, if it's true, I've gotta take some action by next summer!
> There's come conflicting reports here. My Sun sales guy says "as far as
> I know, the OS will always come with a C compiler." He points out the
> compiler is unbundled already. Also: how the heck are we going to
> customize a kernel without a C compiler? Yet, the executive panel at
> SUG '91 is not going on in part because the Sun execs were afraid of the
> heat of the C compiler unbundling.

I already have 26 responses, many of which are either from Sun or from
knowledgeable sources (read this "just attended a seminar on SunOS
5.0/Solaris 2.0"). Summarizable, I guess.

First, some facts:
  (1) The C compiler is already unbundled. Since SunOS 4.1, the C
      compiler that comes with the OS is one of older technology, and a
      fully supported, SPARC-tuned product is only available at cost.

  (2) In SunOS 5.0, the kernel will not need to be customized -- at least
      not from recompilation standpoint. The kernel will be made of
      loadable modules and dynamic tables. Settable parameters will be
      configured by setting them in a system file (I was told
      "/etc/system"). This is apparently standard SVR4.

  (3) This is a PSEUDO-FACT: Some folks stated that Sun has not made up
      its corporate mind on this issue. One Sun response stated:
      "Anything anyone tells you at this point is speculation, plain &
      simple". However, folks that have attended 5.0 seminars disagree
      with this point. They say the compiler will NOT be present.

Next, some marketing hype:
  ** Several folks noted that Sun is headed down the SVR4 marketing
      road. This is a "people want an application-based product, and not
      a development-oriented one" type of thinking. Sun will continue to
      tailor the base, bundled product toward the application-oriented
      user. One response put it well: "Users want applications, not
      compilers". And they don't want to pay for what they don't use.

So -- THE BOTTOM LINE: While it still may seem to be up in the air, you
can bet the C compiler will disappear completely from the SunOS at or
shortly after the 5.0 release. And if you are breaking out your flame
throwers NOW, note that GNU C will not be out in a SVR4 ELF format for a
while (I have heard "not ever" to 1 year at the earliest). SunOS 5.0
will require this format as opposed to the a.out/COFF format that GCC
produces now. So there will be a "C gap" for many/most users who think
they are going to use GNU C to get by.

One saving grace: rumor has it that /usr/include will remain intact (at
least for the near future). This means 3rd parties and the FSF can use

And two cynical notes. First, don't look for the price of SunOS/Solaris
to drop because of the absence of the compiler. Second, I'm being washed
over by the same feelings voiced by a respondent:

     This is a very disheartening rumour. I've been trying my best to
     say good things about Sun, but if this is true then this is the last
     straw and I'm going to start activly NOT recommending Sun. The ONE
     thing that has kept the UNIX systems unified is the guarenteed
     presence of the C-compiler. When it goes I will abandon UNIX to the
     hungry hoards of in-fighting fools and move on to something with
     more promise.

Thanks to all who responded -- especially those with seminar-information
to give. You know who you are!

      Mike Jipping
      Hope College Department of Computer Science (BITNET: JIPPING@HOPE)

      "I was going to change my shirt, then I changed my mind
                                  -- Winnie the Pooh

P.S. Continued discussions about this are going on on the alt.sys.sun
      newsgroup. There's where you can try to keep abreast.

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