Once upon a time, there were three RTOSes: VRTX, pSOS and VxWorks. VRTX and pSOS were written in assembler language, for assembler language programmers, and for systems that contained nothing but assembler language. They were “real” RTOSes for “real men” who carried processor reference cards in their shirt pockets and could divide 0x53662 by 05314 in their head.

VxWorks, on the other hand, gazed off to what it thought was the future, and what it could see was “C” (pun intended). And along with “C” it also saw Unix.

But that Unix was not the Linux we know today. That Unix — Linux — would not even be born for another decade.

No, the Unix that VxWorks saw on the horizon was the process-model of BSD and SystemV Unix.

Little VxWorks knew that was the future.

And so little VxWorks wanted to be like that.

So little VxWorks clothed itself in a C language wrapper so programs written in C would want to be near it.

And little VxWorks said, “Come, look, see what I have to offer!”

And the C programs looked and saw “exit()” and “environment variables” and “printf()” and they shouted with glee!

“Here is a home for us. Here is someone who understands what we want.”

And so the C programs found a home with VxWorks.

Even so, however, VxWorks could not deny her genes. She was related to, not only in time but also in inspiration, to those other two RTOSes.

So VxWorks had “tasks” instead of “processes” and, at least in her early days, she would say, “We don’t do processes because the memory and system call overhead are just too awful with this old clunky hardware.”

And many years would pass as VxWorks grew from child to youth and then through her teen years.

Today, after several decades of dealing with the uncertainties of life, of surviving the ups and downs in her life, and of learning to adapt herself to an ever-evolving and complex world of shifting priorities, needs and economies, she is a full-fledged adult.

Today, VxWorks shifts her look and demeanor to many different environments. Sometimes she will be seen wearing a blue collar work suit and tool belt. Other times she may be costumed in a flight suit and white silk scarf that she drapes over the cockpit’s edge to flutter in the slip stream.

At other times, she may act in more of an executive role, overseeing and sometimes chastising other operating systems that come to her for a safe and secure environment.

Today, VxWorks is an adult with all the complexities and dimensions that have accrued to her over the decades. Her roots and genes come from both the RTOS and the Unix world.

She is both, and she is neither.

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