A young Unix administrator asked me why a mail he was sending from one of his systems appeared to be from a strange 000-Admin user. I told him that his MUA was adding the value of the gecos field to the sender. A blank look on his face showed he knew nothing of gecos. Do young people not learn a bit of history? Even Wikipedia describes the gecos field.

some early Unix systems at Bell Labs used GCOS machines for print spooling and various other services. The field added to “/etc/passwd” to carry GCOS ID information was called the “GECOS field” and survives today as the “pw_gecos” member used for the user’s full name and other human-ID information.

I wasn’t involved in the days of GCOS machines, but I do know a bit of the history. I must be getting old…


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