What is UNIX and why should you use it.
UNIX is a class of similar operating systems. Microsoft's Windows98 is a non-UNIX Operating System (or OS). Originally, UNIX was distributed with the source code (sort of like giving you the recipe for the 11 herbs and spices of KFC) and it was modified by many people. The result was several different versions (e.g. BSD, Linux, HPUX, Venix, and Solaris). Fortunately, if you're working at CERI you only have to worry about Sun Microsystem's version called Solaris. (unless of course people like Bodin and Smalley force us to support Linux which also has slightly different flavors depending on where you get it).
So why should you want to use it? If you have keyboard phobia, you don't. Stop reading and go home. If you want to be able to interface with other seismologists, or if you want to work on a truly networked OS, or if you want to do anything slightly different from what the manufacturers of non-UNIX OS's thought you might want to do, hang in there. Many non-UNIX OS's are sort of like giving you a toolbox full of all sorts of really useful tools. UNIX doesn't give you any of the tools, it just gives you what you need to build your own tools. Fortunately, many people smarter than me have been building tools so all you really need to do is go shopping.