David Korn

From Academic Kids

David Korn is a computer programmer, who is probably best known for creating the Korn shell, a command line shell interface/programming language for UNIX-like systems.

David Korn received his undergraduate degree in mathematics from RPI in 1965 and his Ph.D. in applied mathematics from NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences in 1969. After working on computer simulations of transsonic air foils, he switched fields to computer science and became a member of technical staff at Bell Laboratories in 1976. He developed Korn shell in response to problems he and his colleagues had with the most commonly used shells at the time, Bourne shell and C shell. Korn shell is backwards compatible with Bourne shell, but takes a lot of ideas from C shell, such as history viewing and vi-like command like editing.

Korn shell and Microsoft

Due to Korn shell being one of the more popular shells written for the UNIX Operating System, Microsoft decided to include a version of it produced by Mortice Kern Systems in a UNIX integration package for Windows NT. This version was not compatible with ksh88 (a Korn shell specification), and Korn mentioned this during a question and answer period of a Microsoft presentation during a USENIX NT conference in Seattle in 1997. Greg Sullivan, a Microsoft product manager who was participating in the presentation, not knowing who the commenter was, insisted that Microsoft had indeed chosen a "real" Korn shell. A polite debate ensued, with Sullivan continuing to insist that the man giving the criticisms was mistaken about the compatibility issues. Sullivan only backed down when an audience member stood up and mentioned that man making the comments was David Korn.

Other software projects

Along with Korn shell, he is also known as the creator of UWIN, an X/Open library for Win32 systems, similar to Cygwin. Korn also developed sfio, a library for managing I/O streams.

Korn became a Bell Labs fellow in 1984. He currently lives in New York City and works for AT&T Research in Florham Park, New Jersey.

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