Brief History of Linux

Linus Torvalds was a student at the University of Helsinki in 1991 when he decided to create a new and different "UNIX clone." Torvalds decided the new OS would be named "Linux," a combination of his name and "UNIX."

Torvalds had two goals. First, he wanted to create a powerful, feature-rich OS that provided the same functioning of UNIX. His OS would run on almost any computer, regardless of its architecture or the type of applications it hosted. Second, the OS would be completely open; anyone could contribute to its development and adapt or change its code, as long as they made their innovations public and did not take credit for anyone else's work. As part of its openness, Linux would be available for free to anyone who wanted it, although no one would be prohibited from selling their version of Linux as long as they made their innovations public and kept the OS completely open.

To achieve these goals, Torvalds decided that Linux would be built from the ground up, without using any code from any commercial version of UNIX. To keep Linux open, Torvalds posted a message on the Internet in 1991 inviting programmers around the world to help him develop the new operating system.

The call was taken up by dozens of programmers, who immediately wanted to share Torvalds' dream. Piecing the work out among themselves, different programmers tackled different aspects of the program, sharing code and ideas over the Internet. By 1994, enough pieces had been stitched together and the first version of Linux was released to anyone who wanted to download it.

Although commercial versions of the OS now exist, Linux remains open and still attracts a community of developers interested in contributing to it. By some estimates, Linux runs on more than 10 million computers, a number that is growing rapidly. An ever-increasing number of corporate IT and database managers, Web site operators, and ISPs are using Linux as the core operating system on mission-critical computer networks.

There is probably no greater mark of Linux's acceptance, however, than the acknowledgment it has received from Microsoft. Although few people believe that Linux will ever replace Windows as the desktop operating system of choice (or replace Windows NT as the primary network OS), Microsoft executives have said that they view Linux as a legitimate competitor.

Leading hardware vendors – including Intel, IBM, Compaq, and others – have announced their support of Linux. In fact, some server-class computers are now being shipped with Linux, rather than UNIX or Windows NT, installed. In the software world, leading database companies such as Informix and Oracle have announced that their corporate database products will be tailored to run under Linux.

For computer users in the home and in most average business settings, Linux is not an issue. With its cryptic command-driven interface, Linux is not likely to become the operating system of the masses, even though developers have created a Windows-like GUI for it.


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