Non-hierarchical file system

Long ago, as the design of the Unix file system was being worked out, the entries . and .. appeared, to make navigation easier. I’m not sure but I believe .. went in during the Version 2 rewrite, when the file system became hierarchical (it had a very different structure early on).

Rob Pike —

Emphasis added. Intriguing!

Published by jasonsackey

Systems humanist, web development

3 thoughts on “Non-hierarchical file system

  1. “We don’t need no steenking files

    The file system is an artifact of the limitations of early processors that had no memory virtualization capabilities and had an insufficient memory address word size. Programs and data had to be marshalled out of and back into a logically distinct store because 64K can only hold so much information. Modern 32 and 64 bit processors with memory management units can treat storage as large, slow, persistent memory obviating the contortions required in conventional operating systems to keep data from going away when the computer is shut down.

    A heirarchical name space is still required for users to keep track of where they put things but virtual memory can hold that tree structure just as well as inodes can and the judicious use of separate memory spaces can side-step a 4 gigabyte limitation for storage on 32-bit machines.”

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  2. “The Nightmare of Hierarchical Directories

    Hierarchical directories were invented around 1947– I should check this– when somebody said, “How are we going to keep track of all these files? “Gee, why don’t we make a file that’s a list of filenames?” And that was the directory. It’s a temporary fix that doesn’t scale up.

    Real projects for ordinary people tend to overlap, interpenetrate, and constantly change. The software requirement of their staying in one place with a fixed name is inane. The problem is much harder.”


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