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Linus Torvalds

28 December 1969, Helsinki, Finland

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Developer of Linux an Open Source Operating System that belongs to the UNIX family of OS's.


In 1991 Linus Torvalds, a 21-year-old computer science student at the University of Helsinki, Fin., having just purchased his first personal computer (PC), decided that he was not satisfied with the computer's operating system (OS). His PC used MS-DOS (the disk operating system from Microsoft Corp.), but Torvalds preferred the UNIX operating system he had used on the university's computers. He decided to create his own PC-based version of UNIX. Months of determined programming work yielded the beginnings of an operating system known as Linux that, eight years later, developed into what many observers saw as a genuine threat to mighty Microsoft and its seemingly ubiquitous Windows OS. By 1999 Torvalds becomes a cult hero to a devoted band of computer users.

Torvalds was born in 1969 and grew up in Helsinki, father Nils Torvalds(eds.). At the age of 10 he began to dabble in computer programming on his grandfather's Commodore VIC-20. By the time he reached college, Torvalds considered himself an accomplished enough programmer to take on the Herculean task of creating an alternate operating system for his new PC. Once he had completed a rough version of Linux, he posted a message on the Internet to alert other PC users to his new system. He made the software available for free downloading, and, as was a common practice among software developers at the time, he released the source code, which meant that anyone with knowledge of computer programming could modify Linux to suit their own purposes. Linux soon had a following of enthusiastic supporters who, because they had access to the source code, were able to help Torvalds retool and refine the software.

Operating Linux required a certain amount of technical acumen; it was not as easy to use as more popular operating systems such as Windows, Apple Computer Inc.'s Mac OS, or IBM's OS/2. Because its volunteer developers prided themselves on the quality of their work, however, Linux evolved into a remarkably reliable, efficient system that rarely crashed. Linux got its big break in the late 1990s when competitors of Microsoft began taking the upstart OS seriously. Netscape Communications Corp., Corel Corp., Oracle Corp., Intel Corp., and other companies announced plans to support Linux as an inexpensive alternative to Windows. As this scenario took shape, Linux devotees and the media delighted in portraying Torvalds as David out to slay the giant, Bill Gates, Microsoft's cofounder and CEO.

Torvalds said he had no qualms with Gates's or Microsoft's financial success--he simply detested poorly engineered software. By 1999 an estimated seven million computers were running on Linux, still available free of charge, and many major software companies had announced plans to support it. Meanwhile, Torvalds had taken a position with Transmeta Corp., owned by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, working on a top-secret project that many in the high-tech community assumed would involve some future assault on the Microsoft empire.(1)




Born in Helsinki, Finland.


Richard Stallman created the Free Software Foundation (GNU project).


Design of the Unix Operating System by Marice J. Bach was published. Minix period (1988-1991)


Admitted to the University . The same year Minix emerged.


Takes his first C programming class.


The start of infamous Novell vs U.C. Berkeley lawsuit
The beginning of Linux development (1991-1992)
Hermit-like work during early kernel releases

september; Using Marice J Bach book Design of the Unix Operating System and Minix released the first (0.01) version of Linux kernel (at the age of 22).

October; Announced the first "official" version of Linux, which was version 0.02. At that point, Linux was able to run bash (the GNU Bourne Again Shell) and GCC (the GNU C compiler), but not much else.


January; More or less stable version 0.12 released. License was changed to GPL. Due to stability this version was soon renamed to 0.9

March; Linux v .95 was released.

June; 386BSD 0.1 was released. A CD-ROM version of 386BSD has been announced in Dr. Dobb's Journal. All of the distributions and compilation files would fit onto 180Meg of hard drive.

Yggdrasil released the first CD-ROM distribution. "Linux wave" started
Web began Internet commercialization wave
Successful Fight with FreeBSD (1993-1997)


December; 386BSD 1.0 was released on CD ROM
FreeBSD 1.0 was released. FreeBSD, which originally started life as 386bsd 0.1 with the patch kit applied, has since evolved into an entirely separate BSD lineage in its own right and incorporates many important innovations.


Version 0.99pl15 aka v.1.0 was released via Internet. WEB revolution started with Linux as one of the major beneficiaries. At least five CD Rom distributors already exist selling ~50,000 CD ROM a month. In October Caldera was founded by Bryan Sparks as a start-up venture funded by Ray Noorda, former CEO of Novell. Still very weak networking support limited its role as a workstation.


May; A very successful FreeBSD 1.1 was released.
Novell and U.C. Berkeley settled their long-running lawsuit over the legal status of the Berkeley Net/2 tape
Digital invested money into two porting projects to bring Linux to DEC Alpha. Professionals from DEC started contributing to Linux. Quality of the kernel improved, a pretty decent Ext2 filesystem was added. Networking started to look acceptable.


January FreeBSD 2.0 was released.


Red Hat merged with ACC -- Robert Yong of ACC (former founder of Linux Journal) became a CEO.


Linus' first daughter was born. Minor disruptions of kernel development.

August; FreeBSD 2.1.5 released

December Linux 2.0 was released


Linux meets Microsoft: end of the Finland period and of the academic career (1988-1997 -- he spent 10 years as a student and researcher at the University of Helsinki, coordinating development of the kernel since 1992). Now he decided to become rich and moved to the Bay Area (Santa Clara) to work for Transmeta (Microsoft's Paul Allen is one of major investors).

Honors and awards

1997 Linus Torvalds Receives 1997 Nokia Foundation Award

March 1997 Linus Torvalds receives Lifetime Achievement Award at Uniforum



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