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Fuzz and the NeXT Computer

For some reason I have been hearing a lot of reminiscing lately about the NeXT Computer. Perhaps it is the unfortunate passing of Steve Jobs at an early age that has led people to have fond memories of his various projects and companies.

Two things stand out in my mind when I think of NeXT.

First, my college chemistry department had a lab of them but they were rarely used. For those who owned their own Amiga, far more powerful and capable computers, there was no comparison. BeOS (also started by an ex-Apple executive, Jean-Louis Gassee) was a better comparison to the Amiga due to more advanced multi-media that has become the hallmark of Apple. It lost out to NeXT in an acquisition decision by Apple and then seemed to disappear, but I digress.

The donated NeXT Slabs sat in the lab, more aesthetically pleasing than everything else, much like Apple products are today, but that did not make them popular. They were fine as network terminals but the physical looks of a terminal back then did not compensate enough to draw anyone to them.

NeXT Slab

And that’s a good segue to the second thing I remember. The fuzz analysis done by Barton Miller roasted the security of NeXT Computer.

Here’s a slide from his presentation called Fuzz Revisited in 1995, a follow-up to a 1990 fuzzing test, that shows up to 43% of utilities crashed on commercial UNIX.

43% is actually the NeXT. Ouch, now that’s what I call fuzzy memories. The other flavors you see listed in the slide above averaged about half as many security failures.

Posted in History, Security.


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