Unix & Linux Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for users of Linux, FreeBSD and other Un*x-like operating systems. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I am writing a paper on my project, the goal of which is to write a new implementation of the apropos(1) command. While I realize that apropos was written in the early days of Unix when computing resources were scarce and hence its designers kept it simple. I am looking for a concrete source of information on this to back my point.

Is there any historical document or artifact that describes when and why these commands were introduced into Unix? My Google searches have not returned anything useful so I was wondering whether perhaps those of you who have been involved with Unix since the early days might have some knowledge about it.

share|improve this question
Would it be appropriate to post a link to your final results on your goal of a new apropos command? – Mark Stewart Jun 2 at 18:56
up vote 6 down vote accepted

According to research by an OpenBSD committer, the apropos command appeared in 2BSD and was written by Bill Joy, like the rest of the man implementation. There's a theory floating around that apropos started out as an alias to man -k, but man in 2BSD didn't have a -k option, so it was presumably the other way round (ATT Research Unix had no apropos and a different meaning for man -k). So 2BSD apropos.c would be the earliest implementation of apropos.

share|improve this answer
February 1979... wow! – Simeon Fitch Feb 18 '15 at 19:59

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.