Pick a Free OS

A talk with Paul Leroux

Who is the main brain behind the QNX kernel? We heard one of the key developers passed away?

Paul Leroux

There are, in fact, several "main brains" behind the kernel. Dan Dodge and Gord Bell are the original co-authors of the QNX RTOS and both are still involved in the design of our core products. However, we now have several senior architects (in addition to Dan and Gord) dedicated to evolving the kernel and other key components. In short, the QNX kernel is the product of a closely-knit team of architects, not just one person.

We did lose one of our early architects, Dan Hildebrand, to cancer in 1998. Dan was, among other things, the brains behind the now-famous QNX demo disk, which fits a POSIX RTOS, GUI, Web browser, Web server, TCP/IP - along with various games and demos - on a self-booting 1.44M floppy! Dan Hildebrand was a wonderful influence in this company, and still is today. As we mention in a biography published on our Website, Dan "saw possibilities where other people saw only problems." That attitude continues to inspire us.

What compelled you and your team to start QNX?

Dan Dodge and Gordon Bell first became interested in OS design as students at the University of Waterloo, where they worked on Thoth, one of the first OSs to use message passing. After completing their Masters degrees, Dan and Gord joined Bell Northern Research (now Nortel) as programmers - but continued to work together on message passing technology. Then, when the IBM PC was introduced, Dan and Gord saw an enormous market opportunity to start a company centered around their own message-passing OS - now known as QNX.

In the first phase of the company's history, Dan and Gord concentrated on RTOS technology that could enable standard PC hardware to work in factory robots, medical instruments, communication systems--virtually any application where reliability and performance were the key factors. In fact, QNX was the first PC OS to use microkernel architecture (1981), to support a hard disk (1982), to run in protected mode, to provide network-transparent distributed processing (1984), to provide built-in network fault-tolerance (1992), and to support a microkernel windowing system (1994). Not surprisingly, QNX became widely recognized, even among its competitors, as the leading RTOS for the PC/x86 platforms.