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Is there any historical document or artifact that describes when and why these commands were introduced into Unix?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.

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    Would it be appropriate to post a link to your final results on your goal of a new apropos command? Jun 2, 2016 at 18:56

1 Answer 1


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.

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    February 1979... wow! Feb 18, 2015 at 19:59

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