Santa Cruz Operation

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".[1] Prior to this, some prominent Unix vendors had been computer hardware manufacturers and telephone companies.

Santa Cruz Operation, Inc.
Fate2001, sold off Unix assets and renamed as Tarantella, Inc.
SuccessorTarantella, Inc.
FounderDoug Michels
Larry Michels
HeadquartersSanta Cruz, California, United States
ProductsXenix, SCO UNIX or SCO OpenServer, UnixWare

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.[2] 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[3]). 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.[4]


Early years

SCO was founded in 1979, by Doug Michels and his father, Larry, as a Unix porting and consulting company.[5] 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.[6][7][8] SCO Xenix for the PC (XT) shipped sometime in 1984 and contained some enhancement from 4.2BSD.[9] 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.[10][11]

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.[12] HCR was Canada's leading commercial Unix platform developer.[13]

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. Just prior to going public, then CEO Larry Michels resigned in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment, and Lars Turndahl, head of European operations for SCO, took over as President and CEO in March 1993. A month later, the harassment suit against Michels was settled.[14]

In 1994, SCO MPX was released, 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."[15]

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.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18]

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.

Asset sale

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.

Company culture

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.

SCO Forum

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.[5] The conference was later called SCO Forum. After the Caldera Systems acquisition, the conference moved to Las Vegas, Nevada.[19]

Featured speakers over the years have included Douglas Adams,[20] Scott Adams, Dave Barry,[21] Clifford Stoll, John Perry Barlow, Linus Torvalds, Andy Grove (Intel), Michael Swavely (Compaq), Steve Ballmer (Microsoft), and Scott McNealy (Sun Microsystems).[22] Musical entertainment included concerts by Jefferson Starship, Tower of Power, Roger McGuinn, Jan & Dean, The Kingsmen, The Surfaris, and Deth Specula.[23]

SCO broadcasts first live music concert over the Internet

On August 23, 1994, SCO broadcast a live music concert from the University of California, Santa Cruz'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.[24][25][26][27]

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". Deth Specula sang "We Are An Internet Band" with lyrics like:

   "We're comin' to your town
    To bring your network down
    We are an Internet band."

Palookaville webcasts

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.[28]

SCO Follies

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.[29] 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.

1985Star TrekScripts in hand, early SCO employees go where no company has gone before.
1988CheersSometimes you want to go where no-one knows your login name.
1989Larry Wants an AdExasperated with Bruce Steinberg's hairbrained ideas, Larry Michels asks employees to submit concepts for a new ad campaign.
1990Late Night with Doug MichelsSCO Licenses the "Late Night" format from GE with Doug as host. Guests include the XENIX Colonel, Michael J. Foxplus (promoting "Backup to the Future II", guitarist Tracy Parker, and (direct from the mail room) "Elvis."
1991KODTSCO launches a cable television channel that requires a telethon to raise funds for the equally cash-strapped organization (operating under the banner of "almost" public television).
1992Archaeological DigThe year is 2100 and the world has only recently recovered from a catastrophic era known as "The Corporate Wars." Drs. Dave Loman and Jane Greenleaf are recovering artifacts from the original SCO site in New Santa Cruz. The archaeologists are working under the supervision of an overbearing AI known as the NED 9.0.1 Project Management System, and Michelle Michels, descendant of the founders of SCO. With a little hacking, a kinder, wackier NED makes for a much less stressful work environment.
1993How to Succeed in the Software BusinessJob applicant Grace Hopper joins the company via social engineering. With the help of a book on the software business, Grace hopscotches across the SCO org chart with stints in Manufacturing, Support, Engineering, Sales, and Marketing. Meanwhile, VP and co-founder Doug Michels is rescued from a car crash and imprisoned by a deranged ex-SCO employee named Annie Wilkes. Grace is ultimately made CEO, but turns it down for a better job. This show includes the infamous "Die Hard" video by late Follies action director Peter (Israel) Rosencrantz. In the current climate, it's hard to picture a CEO giving permission for employees to parade through the building carrying automatic weapons, let alone appearing in the video himself. But Swedish-born Lars Turndal sat for an hour with guns trained on him by some wacky Americans as if he'd been doing it all his life.
1994The Phantom of the OperationSoftware engineer Eric T. Claudin runs afoul of evil VP Edwin Vincent Leach, who is bent on SCO's destruction. Disfigured in a hot tub "accident" arranged by Leach, Eric becomes the Phantom, a dark figure obsessed with saving the firm. Once again, then-CEO Lars Turndal proved he was a real sport and consented to appear in his second (and last) video, one that roasted the executive team for trying to censor the Usenet feed. Brian Moffet produced the stained-glass style panorama that opens the show.
1995FCS Can WaitFor the uninitiated, FCS is "First Customer Ship," the magic goal of the product development cycle. Based on the films "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" and Heaven Can Wait," Engineering manager Jo Pendleton is hurled into the great void ahead of schedule. Bodies must be swapped and Heaven & Earth must be moved so that Jo can complete her project of a lifetime, "SCO DoomBugger."
1996UNIX Won't DieAfter a series of high-profile incidents involving glitches in the UNIX operating system (namely Apollo 13, Three Mile Island, and the Exxon Valdez), James Bond tracks the SPECTRE of his nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld into the hallways of SCO. Along for the ride is the mysterious Tilly Masterson (sister of the woman who was suffocated in paint by the nefarious Goldfinger). Software engineer Fox Mulder and Dana Sculley ("a schmuck from Legal") have stumbled onto the UNIX plot and are suspicious of Bond's presence. This show was the first to include digital compositing (a couple of laser beams and explosions). These early steps were taken on a Miro DC20 video card and Adobe Premiere purchased with pooled funds. Bill Welch created these effects and Mike Almond provided the opening Star Wars animation using Caligari TrueSpace. Thereafter, nearly all the effects for Follies were created digitally.
1997Taming of the CEOA Shakespearean romp where Viola Murch, a top female director who despairs of ever becoming a VP, decides to disguise herself as a man. She learns that the top floor is a far stranger place than she imagined. This show included a mock preview for a show called "Sliders" about parallel SCO universes. This marked the full use of digital effects and compositing. Mike Almond was responsible for creating such 3D items as a phalanx of Imperial Stormtroopers and a streaking Millennium Falcon.
1998A Solstice CarolThe story of Ezekiel Kludge, a crusty longtime SCO manager who re-discovers the true meaning of SCO.
1999The Wizard of OCSIBM engineering manager Dorothy Gale is transported into the wacky world of OCS, where she meets a Marketeer who wants to lose his brain, A Salesman who wants to get rid of his heart, and an Engineer who wants to get rid of his life.
2000Willy Wonka and the Software Factory

Support specialist Charlotte Bucket dreams of visiting SCO's Software Factory and Willy Wonka, the "Chief Geek" who no-one has seen for years. It's an adventure populated with Corpa Lorpas, Waffling Precompensators, Paleoatavistic Patch Pellucidators, and Everlasting Spamstoppers. Not to mention Fizzy Linux stocks. And some arrogant, selfish, and greedy adult children get their comeuppance as well.

2001Fiddler on the 425 RoofThe "final" SCO Follies occurred shortly after Caldera Systems purchased the Santa Cruz Operation. Thus the show's theme is change, with Caldera Systems as the Cossacks. The show opens with the "Dawn of Spam" sequence adapted from Stanley Kubrick's classic odyssey. The mood of the "Linux Company" finale was overturned when the radically downsized, later-named "SCO Group" turned against Linux.
2012Raiders of the Lost ArchiveWhen two members of a secret SCO organization are murdered, the SCOllegium assigns a team of ex-SCOites to find out who is responsible.


SCO was a primary partner in several industry alliances, intended to promote SCO operating system technology as a de facto standard for emerging hardware platforms. The most notable of these were:

None of these alliances was ultimately successful.

SCO was also part of 1993's COSE initiative, a more successful and broadly supported initiative to create an open and unified UNIX standard.

SCO was a founding member of 86open (1997-1999), hosting the first meeting of the Unix on Intel standards effort.

See also

  • Interactive Systems Corporation, an early competitor of SCO in the Unix for PC market
  • SCO Group for the continuance of the Unix Server and Services Divisions after 2001
  • Xinuos (previously UnXis) for the continuance of the SCO-related Unix products after 2011
  • Tarantella, Inc. for the continuance of the Client Integration Division after 2001
  • SCO Skunkware, a collection of open source packages for SCO platforms (currently maintained by the SCO Group)
  • SCO OpenServer, a version of the Unix computer operating system developed by SCO and now maintained by the SCO Group
  • UnixWare, a version of the Unix computer operating system developed by AT&T's Unix System Laboratories, maintained by SCO from 1995 to 2001 and maintained since then by the SCO Group
  • Venix, an early PC Unix distribution made by another company (VenturCom)
  • Xenix, a version of the Unix computer operating system based on AT&T's UNIX System III, ported and distributed on the x86 PC architecture by SCO


  1. Raymond, Eric (October 3, 2003). The Art of UNIX Programming. Addison-Wesley Professional. ISBN 978-0-13-142901-7.
  2. "SCO Announces Official Closing of Sale of two Divisions to Caldera" (Press release). The Santa Cruz Operation, Inc. May 7, 2001. Archived from the original on October 1, 2007. Retrieved January 23, 2007.
  3. Jon Tarzia (August 20, 1997). "Compaq and SCO Announce Strategic Alliance for the Enterprise". Newsgroup: comp.unix.sco.announce. Usenet: Retrieved October 9, 2008.
  4. "Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS)". United States Patent and Trademark Office. July 16, 2007. Archived from the original on December 14, 2012. Retrieved May 3, 2008.
  5. "History of The SCO Group". Former web site. Archived from the original on December 4, 2003. Retrieved August 21, 2013.
  6. Hare, John Bruno; Thomas Dean Thomas (1984). "Porting Xenix to the Unmapped 8086". Proceedings of the USENIX Winter Conference. Washington, D.C.: USENIX Association.
  7. "SCO Company History". Operating System Documentation Project. Retrieved May 14, 2008.
  8. Barger, Jorn. "Timeline of GNU/Linux and Unix". Retrieved May 14, 2008.
  9. Steve D. Pate (1996). Unix Internals: A Practical Approach. Addison Wesley Professional. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-201-87721-2. SCO started porting to the 8088 but concentrated on the 8086, producing a release of SCO XENIX in 1984 which ran in 640 Kbytes with a 10 Mbyte hard disk. The release could support three or more users simultaneously, had multiscreen (virtual console) facilities, Micnet local area networking and enhancements added from 4.2BSD.
  10. Steve D. Pate (1996). Unix Internals: A Practical Approach. Addison Wesley Professional. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-201-87721-2. In 1984 a port of XENIX was made to the Apple Lisa by SCO and Microsoft, and was subsequently sold successfully by SCO as their first binary product, showing the success of the shrink-wrapped market.
  11. Can Unix ever fit personal computers?. InfoWorld. December 1983 – January 1984. p. 42. ISSN 0199-6649.
  12. "Not 'the Toronto Operations'?". Computerworld. May 14, 1990. Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  13. Dvorak, John (April 18, 1983). "Inside Track". Computerworld. Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  14. Funding Universe. "History of the Santa Cruz Operation". Retrieved November 9, 2017.
  15. SCO and Pizza Hut (August 22, 1994). "PizzaNet Press Release". SCO and Pizza Hut. Archived from the original on June 9, 2012. Retrieved March 30, 2008.
  16. "SCO Provides Real-World On-Ramp Via NCSA Mosaic". HPC Wire. March 11, 1994. Retrieved March 30, 2008. External link in |publisher= (help)
  17. SCO Information (February 26, 1993). "SCO Acquires IXI Ltd". Newsgroup: biz.sco.announce. Usenet: 9302260824.aa14833@mascot.sco.COM. Retrieved February 4, 2009.
  18. Gohring, Nancy (August 11, 2007). "Novell wins rights to Unix copyrights". Computerworld.
  19. "SCO Forum 2008 Announced by Hunsaker; Where's Darl?". Retrieved May 20, 2008.
  20. "QuoteGeek Your favorite quotations, online". Katharine Hammer. July 23, 1999. Archived from the original on December 10, 2008. Retrieved May 20, 2008. Speaking at the 1997 SCO Forum, Douglas Adams said "The difference between us and a computer is that, the computer is blindingly stupid, but it is capable of being stupid many, many million times a second."
  21. "SCO Forum98 Conference Schedule". SCO. Archived from the original on December 5, 1998. Retrieved May 20, 2008.
  22. Frazier, Belinda (November 1, 1995). "Linux at SCO Forum". Linux Journal. Retrieved May 20, 2008. External link in |publisher= (help)
  23. "SCO Forum's Legendary Social Events". VisionWare. Archived from the original on December 6, 1998. Retrieved May 20, 2008.
  24. Strauss, Neil, "Rolling Stones Live on Internet: Both a Big Deal and a Little Deal", New York Times, November 22, 1994, p. C15.
  25. Hafner, Katie, "The MBone: Can't You Hear It Knocking", Newsweek, December 5, 1994.
  26. Malcolm McCameron (August 23, 1994). "S.F. BAY AREA BAND DETH SPECULA ROCKS THE INTERNET WITH LIVE, COMPUTER NETWORK BROADCAST". Deth Specula. Retrieved March 30, 2008. External link in |publisher= (help)
  27. Jon R. Luini (August 23, 1994). "MediaCast Company Information". MediaCast. Retrieved March 30, 2008. External link in |publisher= (help)
  28. Ronald Joe Record (August 23, 1994). "Did you know that SCO broadcast the first live music on the Internet ?". SCO. Retrieved March 30, 2008.
  29. Stephen Marino. "motibloc's Playlists". YouTube. Retrieved May 14, 2008.
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