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The X Window System Turns 30 Years Old Today

X.Org

Published on 19 June 2014 05:00 AM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in X.Org
15 Comments

It was on this day 30 years ago that the X Window System was first announced.

Back on 19 June 1984, Robert Scheifler announced a window system for the VS100 that was based upon the W system at the time. The initial X performance on a VS100 was about twice as fast, the code was in development for a few weeks and already showing signs of stability, and developers at MIT were startiing to build applications to run on X. The original X window system announcement in full can be read on Wikipedia.

The X.Org Foundation today is celebrating the 30-year anniversary of X with a message from the X.Org Board of Directors that reads:
Over these 30 years, X has come to be the base for Unix desktops everywhere. With desktop environments such as GNOME, KDE, XFCE, Unity, Enlightenment, millions of users are using X as the underlying technology today.

The X developers have pushed the boundaries and moved X from a system originally written to run on the CPU of a VAX VS100 to one that runs the GUI on today's laptops with 3D rendering capabilities. Indeed, X predates the concept of a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) as we currently know it, and even the company that popularized this term in 1999, Nvidia.

X continues to see improvements and despite its long service record, it will stay with us for a while longer.

And in case you're wondering, X predates:

* Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris, Microsoft Windows
* POSIX, C89, C99, C++, Java
* the World Wide Web
* the GPL and the FSF

X was one of the first major open source software projects, years before the terms Free Software and Open Source Software were commonplace. Celebrate with us, for without X, the desktop would not be what it is today.

For most of that 30 year time, the X Window System has been at version 11, a.k.a. X11. Back in 2012 we were celebrating 25 years of X11.

The X Window System Turns 30 Years Old Today


Ideas have been expressed for an X12, but there's no firm commitment or actual development happening on an "X12" release... The X.Org Server continues to evolve as the de facto reference X11 Server implementation. The X.Org Server continues to grow new features with seeing DRI3+Present appear last year, X.Org Server 1.16 coming next month with GLAMOR support and XWayland, etc.

Continuing to gain more traction though is Wayland and then within the Canonical/Ubuntu camp, Mir. However, the X11/X.Org Server will still likely live on for years to come... The X.Org Server remains stable, there's plenty of software that won't ever be ported to native Wayland/Mir interfaces, XWayland/XMir depend upon the X.Org Server, existing enterprise Linux distributions have to maintain X support for years to come, and outside of Linux it will likely be years (if ever) before Wayland/Mir are supported under Solaris, the BSD operating systems, and other open-source platforms.

The X Window System Turns 30 Years Old Today


Cheers to all those involved since 1984! The X Window System has been around for 30 years and will remain around for years to come. The X.Org Foundation will be holding its annual developer conference as XDC2014 in Bordeaux, France this September where the foundation is no longer focusing just upon "X" but also as a steward to Mesa, Wayland, and other related open-source graphics projects.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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