17 Years Now: Linus Torvalds Introduces Linux

Oct 07, 2008

Exactly 17 years ago, on October 5, 1991, Linus Torvalds sent an email to the comp.os.minix newsgroup.

It began with the words "Do you pine for the nice days of minix-1.1, when men were men and wrote their own device drivers? [...] Then this post might be just for you :-)" The message ended with Torvald's proposal to make a MINIX-like kernel for AT-386 computers available.

The early kernel version of Linux ran at first under MINIX. As Torvalds wrote, "It is just version 0.02 (+1 (very small) patch already), but I've successfully run bash/gcc/gnu-make/gnu-sed/compress etc under it." He announced the very first kernel version in August of 1991 to a handful of developers who had already shown a considerable interest in Linux, but did not release it at that time.

The need for a free operating system existed because MINIX consisted largely of patches. There was as good as no support for the system that Andrew S. Tanenbaum developed as a teaching tool. Tanenbaum did not allow modifications and only now and then integrated patches that other developers had sent him.

Hobbyists began downloading the experimental Linux from the Finnish server and developing it further. As it turns out, the name Linux came from Ari Lemmke, administrator of the FTP server; Torvalds himself preferred the name Freakx or Buggix for his baby.

The kernel became free in the sense of free software only after Torvalds and his comrades-in-arms put it under Richard Stallman's GPL license in 1992. Stallman needed a kernel for his free GNU platform, because work on Hurd, the original GNU kernel, was moving at a snail's pace. The Linux kernel and the countless GNU tools enabled a successful installation of a free platform, and the GPL licensing gave Linux development that extra kick.

The full discussion on the comp.os.linux mailing list is available in Google archives that contain around 21,000 entries.

Related content

  • Minix 3

    Minix is often viewed as the spiritual predecessor of Linux, but these two Unix cousins could never agree on the kernel design. Now a new Minix with a BSD-style free license is poised to attract a new generation of users.

  • Video: Andrew Tanenbaum on Bugs and Minix' Reincarnation Server

    Linux Pro Magazine met the author of numerous standard works in informatics and the most famous Linux critic at the Fosdem in Brussels.

  • FOSDEM 2010: Andrew Tanenbaum Sets Reliability Before Performance

    Computer science veteran Andrew Tanenbaum presented the third version of his Minix operating system at the FOSDEM 2010 conference on February 6-7 in Brussels, Belgium.

  • Why Can't Computers Just Work All the Time?

    The feud between Minix inventor and operating system czar Andrew W. Tanenbaum and Linux Torvalds is legendary in the OS world. Before Linux there was Minix. Torvalds used to be a Minix user who set up his first Linux version in 1991 on Professor Tanenbaum’s operating system. Mr. Tanenbaum has now agreed to write a guest editorial for Linux Magazine. His opinion has not changed over the years: Linux (and Windows) are “unreliable.”

  • Kernel News

    Chronicler Zack Brown reports on the latest news, views, dilemmas, and developments within the Linux kernel community.

comments powered by Disqus

Issue 180/2015

Buy this issue as a PDF

Digital Issue: Price $9.99
(incl. VAT)


njobs Europe
Njobs Netherlands Njobs Deutschland Njobs United Kingdom Njobs Italia Njobs France Njobs Espana Njobs Poland
Njobs Austria Njobs Denmark Njobs Belgium Njobs Czech Republic Njobs Mexico Njobs India Njobs Colombia