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QNX (pronounced /ˌkjuː ˌɛn ˈɛks/ or /ˈkjuːnɨks/) is a commercial Unix-like real-time operating system, aimed primarily at the embedded systems market.



As a microkernel-based OS, QNX is based on the idea of running most of the OS in the form of a number of small tasks, known as servers. This differs from the more traditional monolithic kernel, in which the operating system is a single very large program composed of a huge number of "parts" with special abilities. In the case of QNX, the use of a microkernel allows users (developers) to turn off any functionality they do not require without having to change the OS itself; instead, those servers are simply not run.

The system is quite small, with earlier versions fitting on a single floppy disk.[1]

QNX Neutrino (2001) has been ported to a number of platforms and now runs on practically any modern CPU that is used in the embedded market. This includes the PowerPC, x86 family, MIPS, SH-4 and the closely related family of ARM, StrongARM and XScale CPUs.

As of September 12, 2007, QNX offers a license for non-commercial users.


Gordon Bell and Dan Dodge, students at the University of Waterloo in 1980, both took a standard computer science course in operating system design, in which the students constructed a basic real-time kernel. Both were convinced there was a commercial need for such a system, and moved to Kanata, Ontario, (a high-tech area in the western part of Ottawa) to start Quantum Software Systems that year. In 1982 the first version of QNX was released for the Intel 8088 CPU.

One of first widespread uses of the QNX real-time OS (RTOS) was in the non-embedded world, when it was selected as the operating system for the Ontario education system's own computer design, the Unisys ICON. Over the years QNX was used mostly for "larger" projects, as its 44k kernel was too large to fit inside the single-chip computers of the era. The system garnered a reputation for reliability and found itself in use running machinery in a number of industrial applications.

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