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What is the list of programs that were available in the first public version of Linux distribution (not just kernel)? I am specially concerned when this distribution was released and if diff utility was there.

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Short answer - it did.

A bit of archeology reveals that

  1. The first linux distributions were published in 1993. SLS 1.02, linked above, was the most popular at the time.
  2. GNU bulletin for Jan 1993 includes diff 2.0.

diff 2.0 GNU diff compares files showing line-by-line changes in several flexible formats. It is much faster than the traditional Unix versions. The "diff" distribution contains diff, diff3, sdiff, and cmp.

The SLS distribution, which later forked to slackware and debian included diff in it's /usr/bin, as linked above.

  • Awesome. I edited the question title to accept the answer, because the question is really about diff. – anatoly techtonik Nov 6 '15 at 14:12
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As the Wikipedia page of diff explains:

The diff utility was developed in the early 1970s on the Unix operating system which was emerging from Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey. The final version, first shipped with the 5th Edition of Unix in 1974, was entirely written by Douglas McIlroy.

The Linux kernel was first released as a hobbyist project on the 25th of August 1991. The first distributions appeared shortly after that, in 1992.

Since diff was, at that point, already 18 years old, it seems reasonable to assume that at least some of the first distributions did indeed include it. I can't find a comprehensive list of the included software, but I would be very surprised if as basic and mature a tool as diff were not included.

The release notes of Yggdrasil, one of the very first distributions, state that it included:

GNU utilities, including GNU C and C++, the GNU debugger, bison, flex, GNU make,

While the GNU diffutils are not explicitly mentioned, the relevant Wikipedia page states that:

Unified context diffs were originally developed by Wayne Davison in August 1990 (in unidiff which appeared in Volume 14 of comp.sources.misc). Richard Stallman added unified diff support to the GNU Project's diff utility one month later, and the feature debuted in GNU diff 1.15, released in January 1991.

So, the GNU diff also predates Linux and, therefore, was almost certainly included with the rest of the GNU tools in the very first distributions.

  • The reference to Unix diff is probably not relevant as that code was not free. The diff implementation generally used on Linux is the one from the GNU project (which also predates Linux). – Stéphane Chazelas Nov 5 '15 at 13:03
  • @StéphaneChazelas fair enough, I added some information on the GNU version. – terdon Nov 5 '15 at 13:10
  • That's a great answer, even if it qualifies as "probably yes". =) – anatoly techtonik Nov 6 '15 at 14:16

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