Bourne Shell

Definition of Bourne Shell

The Bourne Shell, also known as “sh,” is a Unix shell, which is a command-line interpreter for the Unix operating system. It was developed in 1979 by Stephen Bourne at Bell Labs. The Bourne Shell allows users to interact with the system, execute scripts, and control processes by providing a simple, text-based user interface.


The phonetics of the keyword “Bourne Shell” would be: Bourne: /bɔrn/Shell: /ʃɛl/Together: /bɔrn ʃɛl/

Key Takeaways

  1. Bourne Shell is the original Unix shell, created by Stephen Bourne in 1979 as a script processing language and command interpreter for Unix operating systems.
  2. Bourne Shell offers essential features like variables, flow control structures, and extensive file redirection capabilities to manage input and output streams, making it a versatile language for scripting and automation.
  3. Although other modern shells like Bash and Zsh have largely taken over, Bourne Shell remains a vital part of Unix and Linux history, acting as the foundation for these scripting language successors and maintaining compatibility with older scripts and systems.

Importance of Bourne Shell

The Bourne Shell, also known as “sh,” is a significant technology term as it is one of the original and most widely used Unix command-line interpreters.

Developed by Stephen Bourne in 1979 at AT&T Bell Labs, the Bourne Shell serves as the foundation for scripting languages and shell programming.

Its importance extends from offering users an interface for executing commands, automating tasks, and managing system processes, to being the basis for several other shells like Bash and Zsh.

Overall, the Bourne Shell’s influence on Unix-based systems, extensive capabilities, and contributions to the evolution of shell scripting emphasize its importance in the technology domain.


The Bourne Shell serves as a pivotal component within the realm of computing, specifically in the context of Unix-based operating systems. As a command-line interface, its primary purpose is to enable user interaction with the system by interpreting and executing various commands or instructions.

Devised by Stephen Bourne at Bell Labs in the early 1970s, this tool allows users to effectively communicate with their operating system, automating processes and performing a wide range of tasks like file management, text manipulation, and system administration. Moreover, Bourne Shell’s relatively straightforward syntax paved the way for scripting, empowering users to write reusable and complex automation scripts for improved system management and productivity.

Over the years, Bourne Shell has laid the foundation for a multitude of shell variants – notably Bash, or the Bourne-Again Shell – which have been incorporated into diverse Unix and Linux systems. By facilitating efficient command execution, Bourne Shell encourages a profound understanding of these operating systems’ inner workings, thereby helping users leverage their capabilities to the fullest extent.

In fields like system administration, software development, and data analysis, this command-line interpreter embodies a valuable tool ingrained in day-to-day professional activities, streamlining processes and bolstering overall productivity.

Examples of Bourne Shell

The Bourne Shell, also known as “sh,” is a popular Unix shell developed by Stephen Bourne at AT&T’s Bell Labs in the 1970s. It is widely used as a command-line interface (CLI) for many Unix-based operating systems. Here are three real-world examples of the Bourne Shell’s use:

System Administration: Shell scripts written in the Bourne Shell language are commonly used by system administrators to automate routine tasks such as backups, user account creation, and monitoring processes. For instance, a system administrator might write a script to automatically back up important files from a server to an external storage device daily.

Web Servers: The Bourne Shell is often incorporated as part of a web server’s CGI (Common Gateway Interface) solution. Using CGI, scripts written in the Bourne Shell can be executed when a web page is loaded, allowing for dynamic content such as displaying date and time or processing form inputs. For example, in a contact form on a website, a web server can use the Bourne Shell to process the submitted information and send an email to the designated contact.

Software Development and Automation: Developers may use the Bourne Shell during the development process, especially in situations where they need to automate repetitive tasks like code compilation and testing. Shell scripts can be used to automate the build process, running tests, and even deploying the software to servers or other devices. This can help reduce errors and save time during the development and deployment stages.

FAQ: Bourne Shell

What is Bourne Shell?

The Bourne Shell, also known as ‘sh’, is a command-line shell and scripting language interpreter for Unix-based operating systems. It was developed by Stephen Bourne in 1979 at Bell Labs and serves as the original UNIX shell, setting the groundwork for many modern shell alternatives.

What are some features of Bourne Shell?

Bourne Shell offers numerous features, including command pipelines, shell scripts, background job management, I/O redirection, and the incorporation of environment variables to manage settings across different programs and sessions.

What is the difference between Bourne Shell and Bash?

The Bourne Again Shell (Bash) is an upgraded version of the Bourne Shell, created by Brian Fox in 1989. Bash includes enhancements, such as command-line editing, command history, and improved scripting features like conditional expressions and more advanced function support. Although there is considerable overlap in the functionality of Bourne Shell and Bash, Bash offers a more feature-rich environment.

How do I create a script in Bourne Shell?

To create a Bourne Shell script, follow these steps:
1. Open any text editor and write your script commands. Start the script with the “shebang” line, which indicates the interpreter location: #!/bin/sh
2. Save the file with a .sh extension, such as “”
3. Make the script executable by running the command: chmod +x
4. Run the script by typing: ./

What is the primary purpose of Bourne Shell?

The primary purpose of Bourne Shell is to allow users to interact with the Unix-based operating system by entering commands or executing shell scripts. It provides an interface to execute command-line utilities, manage processes, and automate tasks using shell scripts.

Related Technology Terms

  • Unix Operating System
  • Shell Scripting
  • Command Interpreter
  • Stephen Bourne
  • sh Command

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