I'm curious why this special device is needed to fork the command and run it asynchronously in the minimal Busybox shell.

BusyBox v1.30.1 (Debian 1:1.30.1-4) built-in shell (ash)
Enter 'help' for a list of built-in commands.

/bin/sh: can't access tty; job control turned off
/ #
/ # echo Hello && sleep 2s && echo World &
/bin/sh: / # can't open '/dev/null': No such file or directory

/ #
/ # mknod /dev/null c 1 3 && chmod 666 /dev/null
/ # echo Hello && sleep 2s && echo World &
/ # Hello

/ #
  • /dev/null is the location you direct output to if you don’t want to see it. Can you explain what you are trying to do
    – PonJar
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 13:46
  • @PonJar They are using the busybox tools on a system with no or few devices in /dev.
    – Kusalananda
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 13:47

1 Answer 1


From the implementation of the shell in busybox:

 * Fork off a subshell.  If we are doing job control, give the subshell its
 * own process group.  Jp is a job structure that the job is to be added to.
 * N is the command that will be evaluated by the child.  Both jp and n may
 * be NULL.  The mode parameter can be one of the following:
 *      FORK_FG - Fork off a foreground process.
 *      FORK_BG - Fork off a background process.
 *      FORK_NOJOB - Like FORK_FG, but don't give the process its own
 *                   process group even if job control is on.
 * When job control is turned off, background processes have their standard
 * input redirected to /dev/null (except for the second and later processes
 * in a pipeline).
 * Called with interrupts off.

Note "input redirected to /dev/null". Since subshells have their standard input redirected from /dev/null (and it will be, since job control is turned off, which it will be because /dev/tty is also not accessible), you'd get an error if that device file is not accessible.

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