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Minix is one of a number of 'Unix-like' operating systems that includes Idris, Coherent and Uniflex. These were written because AT&Ts initial licencing of Unix precluded it being sold to commercial organisations. These operating systems were written from scratch without any AT&T code.

Minix was written by Andrew Tanenbaum from Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands as an appendix or example in the book "Operating Systems: Design and Implementation", ISBN 0-13-637331-3. An abridged 12000 lines of source code of the kernel, memory manager, and file system is printed in the book; it is mostly written in C.

Minix ran on IBM PC and IBM PC/AT computers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Later versions ran on Motorola 68000 based machines (such as the Atari ST and early Apple Macintosh) and SPARC based machines (such as Sun Workstations).

Linux was influenced by Minix. At the time of its development, the license for Minix was considered very liberal, with licensing fee that was very small in comparison to other competing operating systems. However, because it was not fully open source, development effort went into Linux and the FreeBSD kernels. In the late 1990s, the license for Minix was converted to open source, but by this time it had only a small developer and user base.

Minix distributions have the following ISBN numbers. They all contain all the source:

Minix version 2.0 is distributed on a CD-ROM bundled with Operating Systems Design and Implementation, 2nd ed., by Tanenbaum and Woodhull (1997, ISBN 0-13-638677-6). Later releases are available on-line.


There is also a file system called Minix. This is the default file system type used when installing Minix. It is also used by some Linux distributions as the format for bootable disks or other situations where a low-overhead filesystem is needed.