Linus Torvalds to be made Fellow of the Computer History Museum


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Jun 18, 2008 GMT
Jon maddog Hall

The Computer History Museum ( in Mountain View, California is one of the largest multi-national museums in the world dedicated to the computing industry. Every year they choose technologists and entrepreneurs who have made great contributions to computer science and honor them by admiting them to "The Hall of Fellows". Past Fellows have included Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, Maurice Wilkes, John Backus, Jay Forrester, Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie and others whose contributions were of stellar calibre.
In 2007 I heard that the nominations were open, and having seen the quality of people who had been selected in the past, I submitted a nomination for one of my favorite programmers, Linus Torvalds. Then with typical "maddog" efficiency, I promptly forgot about it.
Fast forward to May of this year when a very nice lady from the Computer Museum called to tell me that Linus had been accepted for the 2008 awards and would I help them locate him? For a few moments I did not even know what she was talking about. Then a slow chill came over me, and I went back through my files to find the nomination. Oh great! Now all I had to do was convince Linus to accept the award.
This turned out to be easier than I thought because the nice lady told me that the Computer Museum recognized that most of its Fellows did not like giving speeches, so Linus would not have to do that. Great! Secondly, there is an exhibit at the Computer Museum that I though Linus would like to see, that of the Babbage Difference Engine ( The nice lady told me that Linus "could even crank the engine if he wanted". With both of these incentives, I called Linus to discuss attending the awards dinner, and he agreed.
It is good that Linus and Linux be recognized this way. This is more than just one person receiving this award, in effect it is the entire community. It will inspire other young people to move forward with their projects. Tens of thousands of people will go to the Computer History Museum every year and see the story of Linux told in the Hall of Fellows.
Additionally on the night of October 21st two other Fellows will be inducted: Bob Metcalfe, who led the invention, standardization and commercialization of ETHERNET, and Jean Bartik, who was one of the first programmers on the ENIAC. Since Jean, as a woman, was one of the first programmers, I have deferred to Rikki Kite to Blog about Jean in her "ROSE" Blog.
The night of October 21st will be a special night for me, as I see a friend and a community honored for the work that they have done.


  • Linus Torvalds in a computer museum...

    Well, at least he isn't death as most museums celebritys are. It is pity those computer museums aren't yet known to the public. It is the first time I hear of this museum. I only know one in the UK in London and that is not specific computer (the science museum), and one in Germany.
    A lot of history in computing is dissapearing fast and needs to be conserved for understanding before the computers take over blunk
    It is certainly an ideal opportunity to make some publicity for those museums. That Open Source is recognized by accepting Linus is a bonus for everyone working in this field.
  • Great!

    Great that a comunity participant will receive the fellow. Thank you maddog, you are great!
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