I am and was reading https://lwn.net/Articles/773342/ where the current move of migrating whole lot of filesystem from /usr/$something to simply /usr . Some of the comments again and again comment on the fact that /usr/bin was created because /bin became full but it doesn't go in any details as to why /bin used to become full? Where there any real or artificial limits to /bin then? Also I'm not able to co-relate or find out when these events happened in some sort of chronological order. The only assumption I can make is we had too small hard disks or tapes (which were and are still expensive to run and maintain.) If anybody can throw light on this obscure history.

In today's world, I usually recommend newbies something like /boot - say something like 200 MBish, / for 15-20% of the hdd and the rest for /home with swap at around 1:1 . Having this new structure should, at least in theory simplify maintenance quite a bit although have no clue from a security viewpoint.

Anyways, if somebody can share some of the history it might give people like me a bit more how things are, the way they are.

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    Was feeling your thinking until the /boot comment....some glue lacking? In my template vms I did away with /boot, one less partition to care, and one less being too small when after 2-5 Debian versions in the future, the kernel becomes significantly bigger. Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 23:26
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    I had bad experience with bootups couple of times and had to resort to external hacks which took lot of time and wasn't able to even know why they didn't boot properly. Was it some sort of boot-sector file corruption or something else. With /boot I never have had a problem yet, touch wood. I have corrupted my installs in other ways but once I'm on a shell things can be fixed 99.99% of the time.
    – shirish
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 0:10

1 Answer 1


Bell Labs bought the PDP-11/20 with a RK11 controller (supporting up to EIGHT hard drives), and initially fitted it with two RK05 hard drives. Each of these drives had a MASSIVE 2.5 megabytes of storage!


So disk 1 contained /bin and other files, and disk 2 was /usr. All the users now had NEARLY INFINITE SPACE and everything was great. Until they ran out of space on disk 1.


The above retelling includes pictures. It cites a mailing list post by Rob Landley:



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