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Is there any explanation/history behind the name of the command dmesg (which prints out some kernel messages)?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 38 down vote accepted

I think it stands for "diagnostic messages", as per the older man page (referenced here too).

dmesg - system diagnostic messages
Dmesg looks in a system buffer for recent kernel diagnostic messages and reproduces them on the standard output

One of the oldest references appears to be a man page revision by Kirk McKusick dating back from 1985.

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How to choose of the two the answer that will be accepted?.. I believe it should be the answer with a (verified) reference going to an earlier time in history. 1980 from the other answer is better than 1985 from this one, but it remains without a material source yet. –  imz -- Ivan Zakharyaschev May 30 '13 at 14:26
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That's how I see it: 1. OSX man page stating "The dmesg command appeared in 4.0BSD" doesn't mean OSX devs used the original dmesg description for their OSX man page. 2. Regardless of whether dmesg prints, collects or displays messages, we're still talking about kernel diagnostic messages, no matter how you phrase that. It is about what dmesg outputs, not about the meanings of output (print, display etc). Anyway, it's your question so feel free to accept the answer that you consider the best. –  don_crissti May 30 '13 at 17:10
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Also, one more reference, here is SunOS 5.11 dmesg man page (source). As you can see the first line is the BSD copyright notice (1980). –  don_crissti May 30 '13 at 17:55

I think the dmesg command just stands for display messages. The FreeBSD manpages seem to share this view:

dmesg -- display the system message buffer

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I see, tank you! The Linux manpage is not so "explanatory": "dmesg - print or control the kernel ring buffer" –  imz -- Ivan Zakharyaschev May 20 '13 at 18:12
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OS X shares this idea, with both "dmesg -- display the system message buffer" as well as "The dmesg command appeared in 4.0BSD." Unfortunately my Google-fu is failing - seems difficult to find source for 4.0 BSD these days...but that traces back to 1980, so 5 years earlier than referenced in the other answer. –  Mark Glossop May 24 '13 at 2:05
    
@MarkGlossop Thanks for mentioning these bits of history! How to choose of the two the answer that will be accepted?.. I believe it should be the answer with a (verified) reference going to an earlier time in history. 1980 from your comments is better than 1985 from the other answer, but it remains without a material source yet. –  imz -- Ivan Zakharyaschev May 30 '13 at 14:27

dmesg (display message or driver message) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Not the downvoter, but this answer would be much improved if you could cite a reference. –  Michael Kjörling May 21 '13 at 14:01

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