I've looked online but couldn't get a straight answer. Plus, there are no mentions of package managers on the Unix books that I've read.

One would imagine that someone/something needed to manage the installation/update/removal of programs; like we have today. But did the people at Bell Labs have a package manager? Did they have a centralized repository with a bunch of programs? Or was it like Slackware today where each person manages their own packages?

Thanks in advance

2 Answers 2



The package manager requires a repository to be useful. Some storage space where packages wait to be installed.

A repository requires network. Or some other kind of external storage.

The earliest "package manager" (which was not called "package manager") was an "installation manager" which was a part of install CD. And that was 90s already... Not sure which distributive had that feature first, I met it in the middle of 90s in FreeBSD. It was a set of four CDs with an OS on the first, necessary tools on the second and last two had a lot of user-level applications (text and graphic editors, games, etc). A user could re-start the installation utility at any time (on a working OS) and install an app from these CDs, it felt very weird, but was useful.

The internet-based repository and package managers for them I first met only in this century.

Before that: get an app.tar.gz file, unpack it, run configure; make; make install - if failed, take your favorite text editor, look for a problem, try to fix, compile again.

  • How interesting! Thanks! Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 14:52
  • “The internet-based repository and package managers for them I first met only in this century.” — I’m not sure whether you were restricting this analysis to strict Unix descendants (including BSD), but some Linux distributions have been using Internet-based repositories since the mid-nineties. Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 9:57
  • @StephenKitt it is possible... After all, someone had to be first, somewhere the technology had to be tested.
    – White Owl
    Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 12:07

Early unix did not have a package manager, but some of the commercial distributions added package managers. All of them were proprietary and non-standard.

For example, SunOS (aka Solaris), HPUX, and IRIX all had package managers. Early versions of these were designed to install packages from distribution media or pre-downloaded packages given on the command line. Most of these predated internet, so did not have support for downloading. (Instead, you would feed them packages likely pulled from magnetic tape, and later cdrom or dvd.) Later, some versions were able to download from internet or they were wrapped in meta package managers that could.

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