Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) was a software company based in Santa Cruz, California which was best known for selling three Unix variants for Intel x86 processors: Xenix, SCO UNIX (later known as SCO OpenServer), and UnixWare. Eric Raymond, in his book The Art of Unix Programming, calls SCO the “first Unix company”. Prior to this, some prominent Unix vendors had been computer hardware manufacturers and telephone companies. In 1993, SCO acquired two smaller companies and developed the Tarantella product line. In 2001, SCO sold its rights to Unix and the related divisions to Caldera Systems. After that the corporation retained only its Tarantella product line, and changed its name to Tarantella, Inc.
Caldera Systems becoming Caldera International subsequently changed its name to SCO then to The SCO Group (NASDAQ: SCOX; now delisted: SCOXQ.PK), which has created some confusion between the two companies. The company described here is the original Santa Cruz Operation (NASDAQ: SCOC). Although generally referred to simply as “SCO” up to 2001, it is now sometimes referred to as “old SCO”, “Santa Cruz”, or “SCO Classic” to distinguish it from “The SCO Group” to whom the U.S. trademark “SCO” was transferred.
SCO was founded in 1979 by Doug Michels and his father, Larry, as a Unix porting and consulting company. The Santa Cruz Operation, Inc. was incorporated in January, 1979.
In 1983 SCO ported Xenix to the unmapped Intel 8086 processor (earlier 8086 Xenix ports required an off-chip MMU) and licensed rights from Microsoft to be able to ship its packaged Unix System, Xenix for the IBM PC XT. SCO Xenix for the PC (XT) shipped sometime in 1984 and contained some enhancement from 4.2BSD. Somewhat in parallel with that, SCO and Microsoft also developed the 68000-based Xenix port for the Apple Lisa; this was actually the first shrink-wrapped binary product sold by SCO.
In 1986, SCO acquired the Software Products Group division of UK consultancy firm Logica to form their European headquarters. Gary Daniels, Steve Brophy, Bill Bateson, Geraint Davies, and Peter Kettle headed this group, running European development operations. The European arm of SCO grew rapidly to about 40% of SCO’s worldwide revenues.
In 1987, SCO ported Xenix to the Intel 80386 processor. The same year Microsoft transferred ownership of Xenix to SCO in an agreement that left Microsoft owning 25% of SCO.
In 1989, SCO started producing SCO UNIX from a more recent branch from the Unix family tree, System V Release 3.2.
SCO acquired Toronto based HCR Corporation in 1990. HCR was Canada’s leading commercial Unix platform developer.
The initial version of SCO UNIX, Release 3.2.0, did not include TCP/IP networking or X Window System graphics. Shortly after the release of this product, SCO shipped SCO Open Desktop, with both.
Collectively, Xenix and SCO UNIX became the most installed flavor of Unix due to the popularity of the x86 architecture.
The company went public in 1993 on the NASDAQ Stock Exchange.
1994 saw the release of SCO MPX, a supporting SMP for SCO UNIX.
PizzaNet and SCO Global Access
In August 1994 SCO and Pizza Hut announced PizzaNet, “a pilot program that enables computer users, for the first time, to electronically order pizza delivery from their local Pizza Hut restaurant via the worldwide Internet.”
PizzaNet was based on the first commercially licensed and bundled Internet Operating System, SCO Global Access. SCO was the first commercial Unix System supplier to license the powerful NCSA Mosaic hypertext, NCSA HTTPd and the first to ship these technologies from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana bundled with an OS for commercial use.
Client Integration Division / Tarantella Division
In 1993 SCO acquired IXI Limited, a software company in Cambridge, UK, best known for its X.desktop product, which formed the graphical basis of ODT. In 1994 it then bought Visionware, of Leeds, UK, developers of XVision. In 1995 it combined the two development teams to form IXI Visionware. This later became SCO’s Client Integration Division. Client Integration was relatively independent of the rest of SCO. It specialized in software to integrate Microsoft Windows and UNIX systems, It operated its own web site for some time and ported its code to all major UNIX platforms, including those of SCO’s competitors.
AT&T System V
In 1995, SCO acquired the AT&T UNIX System V source code from Novell and eventually became the licensor for UNIX. This allowed it to port System V Release 4 features into SCO UNIX. However, in 2007 a court ruled that Novell still owned the copyrights to original AT&T UNIX source code and derivatives. SCO also acquired the UnixWare operating system from Novell, at which time it renamed SCO UNIX as SCO OpenServer. They were eventually able to re-use some code from that version of UnixWare in later releases of OpenServer. SCO released several versions of UnixWare, notably version 7 starting in 1997, which merged UnixWare 2 and OpenServer 5.
By the end of the 1990s, SCO Unix systems had around 15,000 value-added resellers (VARs) around the world.
In April 2000 SCO reorganized into three divisions: Server Software, Professional Services and Tarantella.
In May, 2001, SCO completed the sale of its Server Software and Services Divisions, as well as UnixWare and OpenServer technologies, to Caldera Systems, Inc. At that time Caldera Systems changed its name to “Caldera International”, and the remaining part of SCO, the Tarantella Division, changed its name to “Tarantella, Inc.”
In August 2002 Caldera International renamed itself “The SCO Group” since the SCO UNIX products were still a strong source of revenue mainly due to the huge installed base dating back to the 1990s. That entity soon started the SCO-Linux controversies.
From its inception and founding by University of California at Santa Cruz graduate Doug Michels, the company drew upon the readily available technical talent who chose to remain in the central California coastal town of Santa Cruz after graduating.
Beginning in 1987 SCO hosted an annual Summer conference for the international Unix community. Originally called “The SCO XENIX 386 Developer Conference”, it was held on the university’s redwood-forested campus, overlooking Monterey Bay. The conference was later called “SCO Forum”. After the Caldera Systems acquisition, the conference moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. Featured speakers over the years have included Douglas Adams, Scott Adams, Dave Barry, Clifford Stoll, John Perry Barlow, Linus Torvalds, and Scott McNealy. Musical entertainment included concerts by Jefferson Starship, Tower of Power, Roger McGuinn, Jan & Dean, The Kingsmen, The Surfaris, and Deth Specula.
SCO broadcasts first live music concert over the Internet
On August 23, 1994 SCO broadcast a live music concert from the University’s Cowell Courtyard. This event, part of SCO Forum 1994, was the first time a live music concert was broadcast over the Internet utilizing the emerging World Wide Web. The band was Deth Specula, a group composed of SCO employees, and the first song parodied Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band”.
Later, SCO continued in that tradition by sponsoring and producing a series of live Internet webcasts from the popular Santa Cruz, California night club Palookaville. These webcasts demonstrated the use of UnixWare 7 as a real-time audio and video webcasting server utilizing RealAudio and RealVideo technologies from RealNetworks.
From 1985-2001, the company hosted a Winter Solstice party at the Cocoanut Grove in Santa Cruz featuring a live musical show known as “The SCO Follies.” This was a fully scripted and produced satire skewering SCO management and the high-tech industry. It featured live action, musical numbers, and videos. On September 22, 2012 the SCO Alumni Association hosted the SCOGala Reunion party at the Coconut Grove, which included the first SCO Follies since 2001. Some 500 former employees, friends, and family attended the event.