March 30, 2016

"The code that an irreverent Finnish college student named Linus Torvalds quietly unveiled in August 1991 has ended up touching at least as many lives as did the political upheavals of the late 20th century."

IEEE Spectrum: He kick-started the free-software revolution—a movement that much more prominent programmers had been trying to get off the ground for years. By Christopher Tozzi

'Torvalds did it “just for fun,” as he explained in his autobiography. To him, Linux was a learning exercise. He was especially keen on using it to familiarize himself with the peculiarities of the 386 PC he had recently acquired.

'Torvalds’s second motivation stemmed from the deficiencies that he found in the operating system he was running at the time—Minix. He used it because BSD’s Net/2 did not run on PC hardware and because GNU was not yet complete. Minix was yet another Unix-like operating system, released in 1987 by Andrew Tanenbaum, a professor of computer science at VU Amsterdam.

'Torvalds began writing a terminal emulator for Minix. After completing it, he added disk and file-system drivers so that he could upload and download files from remote computers through the emulator. Those steps brought him closer to producing a complete operating-system kernel.

'Torvalds didn’t release Linux 1.0, the first version he deemed of production quality, until 1994. And only gradually did others—some for fun, some in pursuit of profit—begin combining the Linux kernel with other software programs, notably the utilities that the GNU team had produced, to build complete Linux distributions.'

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