X11 Turns 25 Years Old Today

Written by Michael Larabel in Software on 15 September 2012. Page 2 of 2. 60 Comments

Below is the original X Version 11 release announcement from 15 September 1987.

The X Window System, Version 11 Release 1 is now available. This release represents a major redesign and enhancement of X and signals it's graduation from the research community into the product engineering and development community. The X Window System version 11 is intended to be able to support virtually all known instances of raster display hardware and reasonable future hardware, including hardware supporting deep frame buffers, multiple colormaps and various levels of hardware graphics assist.

Whereas the design and implementation of the first 10 versions of X were primarily the work of three individuals, Robert Scheifler of the M.I.T. Laboratory for Computer Science and Jim Gettys of Digital Equipment Corporation and Ron Newman of M.I.T., both working at M.I.T.
Project Athena, X version 11 is the result of the efforts of literally dozens of individuals at almost as many locations and organizations. At the risk of offending some of the players by exclusion, several people deserve special credit and recognition. First, Phil Karlton
and Scott McGregor, both of DEC, for their considerable contributions to the specification of the version 11 protocol. Dave Rosenthal of Sun Microsystems also contributed to the protocol and provided the sample generic color frame buffer ddx code. Sue Angebranndt, Raymond
Drewry and Todd Newman of DEC's Western Software Laboratory, with Phil, have worked long and hard to produce the sample server implementation. Our very deepest gratitude to Todd Brunhoff who convinced his management at Tektronix to spare him for 6 months to be at Project Athena. Todd's system knowledge, his bag of tricks and never-fading smile were essential in keeping the beta test alive. Bob Scheifler remains the author, the final arbiter and the final decision maker for the X Protocol itself, a job that has consumed significantly more time with the expansion of the design community. Jim Gettys has allowed his arm to be twisted to continue to be the principal architect, arbiter and implementor of Xlib long after he wanted to move on to other tasks.

Many thanks to all the beta test sites who persevered and helped us to achieve this milestone. Our enormous gratitude to Dave Rosenthal, Erik Fortune, Raymond Drewry, Dave Gorgen and Al Mento who with us spent many late nights during the past week merging sources, testing builds and revising documentation.

The full list of contributors who made this release possible is very long. In order to avoid filling mail queue, the complete list is in the file X11/doc/contributors. It is recommended reading.

This release is unique and perhaps historic in the computer industry in that very nearly all of the code has been contributed by the workstation vendors themselves. This release will run on the Digital VS-2, VS-2/RC, VS-2/GPX and VS-2000 under Ultrix 2.0, and 4.3BSD, most Sun Microsystems workstations with bw2 and cg2/3/4/5 displays under 3.2, 3.4 and 4.0, Apollo Computer workstations under SR9.5/6/7, and the IBM RT/PC with AED and APA16 under ACIS 4.3 (Not under AIX). MIT does not "support" this distribution; however bugs and fixes and new code are gratefully accepted.

To order a distribution, send a CHECK for U.S. $150 to:

MIT Microcomputer Center
MIT 11-209
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02139
(617) 253-6325

Purchase orders will NOT be accepted. The distribution will come on a single 9 track 1600BPI tape written in Unix tar(1) format, along with a single copy of printed documentation. Other distribution media or formats are NOT available. Express mail shipment will be available at a surcharge; you should call the number above if you desire this.

Distributions are also available from "zap.mit.edu" ( (for east-coasters) and decwrl.dec.com ( (for west-coasters) on the Internet, via anonymous FTP. The east-coast distribution will be moving soon from 'zap.mit.edu' to 'athena-dist.mit.edu', so if zap is unavailable you should try there.

Bug reports should be mailed to [email protected] It would be appreciated if you used the template in doc/bugs/bug-report.

As always, in the spirit under which X was developed and is distributed, you are encouraged to write your own tools and share them if you think these clients are deficient.

Bob Scheifler
Jim Gettys
Ralph R. Swick
Todd Brunhoff
MIT Project Athena

The 25th anniversary of X11 will be formally celebrated next week at the 2012 X.Org Developers' Conference in Nürnberg where future plans for X.Org and Wayland will be laid. Phoronix is once again sponsoring the beer (compared to XDC2012 Chicago, due to the location, it will be beer for all three days rather than just one afternoon) during the developer event in Bavaria, but until then cheers (Prost!) to the developers involved with the original X11 / X Window System as well as those continuing to contribute towards the modern X Server.

Also to be celebreated next week at XDC2012 is AMD's open-source strategy is now five years old as of last week (and the modern Catalyst Linux driver is also five years of age).

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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.