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UNIX first appeared as a system, that is, as a program which runs the computer hardware in the sixties. The first version of system that later was called UNIX dates back to 1969 and was created by scientists at Bell Laboratories, a division of AT&T. The first edition of the "UNIX PROGRAMMER'S MANUAL [by] K. Thompson [and] D. M. Ritchie" is dated "November 3, 1971". The Computer Science Department at the University of California, Berkeley, began to use UNIX in 1974. And some Berkley graduate student put together the first Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) version of UNIX in 1977.
Already at an early stage the University of Berkley started developing programs working along with the system and when the system was delivered these programs were delivered among with the system making the system an effective tool at once it was installed. The UNIX system later came to establish itself as a kind of standard for University and research.
Once you start learning about UNIX, you'll discover that there are two main versions: UNIX System V, which is available from AT&T, and has been adopted by many computer vendors selling to the commercial marketplace, and Berkeley UNIX (BSD 4.3).
More information according to UNIX histroy can be found at different web-pages and in the book:A Quarter Century of Unix (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1994) by Peter H. Salus