Welcome to the Party

Welcome to the Party

© ©Julianna Funk, 123RF

© ©Julianna Funk, 123RF

Article from Issue 192/2016

This issue celebrates 25 years of Linux, and 25 years is a remarkable run for an operating system that began as a college student's hobby, but the story of Linux is a truly remarkable story.

Dear Linux Pro Reader,

This issue celebrates 25 years of Linux, and 25 years is a remarkable run for an operating system that began as a college student's hobby, but the story of Linux is a truly remarkable story.

Linux creator Linus Torvalds (who we are privileged and excited to interview in this issue) had a lot of help along the way. The help started at the very beginning of the project, with curious developers around the world pitching in with ideas and code. The community even pitched in at one point with an online collection to help Linus pay off his Intel 386 computer.

Companies like Red Hat and SUSE joined up fairly early in Linux history, as did community distros such as Slackware and Debian. IBM invested $1  billion in Linux in 2001 – an incredibly insightful act for a massive company with much to lose in the IT industry – and since then, other companies have poured billions more into developing and maintaining Linux. But it wasn't just developers who helped make Linux what it is. Thousands of volunteers tested and documented Linux and its flotilla of accompanying applications. And, what might surprise you if you just tuned in (but not if you've been watching for a while), Linux also got plenty of help from lawyers, with trademarks, patent defenses, and licenses.

Speaking of licenses, the biggest boost of all for Linux was from the legendary GNU project and its iconic leader, Richard Stallman. From GNU, Linux inherited an able compiler, lots of utilities and applications, and, of course, a revolutionary license that keeps the Linux community open, accountable, and united.

I have to say, as someone who's watched this story for a while, I'm pleasantly surprised that the underlying legal systems of the world's governments have stood by Linux. Not that they shouldn't have, but, as we all know, governments don't always do what they're supposed to do. It hasn't been all perfect. In the area of software patents, for instance, things didn't always work out, and much work remains. But several years ago, when it seemed like some very powerful companies were trying very hard to make Linux go away, it seemed ill-advised to bet more than your lunch money on Linux surviving a daunting succession of legal challenges, and for the most part, the courts did the right thing. The plucky penguin survived its battles with SCO, the seemingly endless barrage of challenges from Microsoft, and lots of skirmishes with random programmers and entrepreneurs who thought they didn't have to take the GPL seriously.

How do you get to age 25? You survive your teenage years, then you wake up one day, and you notice that the world has moved over to make a place for you. Happy birthday Linux!

Joe Casad, Editor in Chief

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