All About Linux 2008: Great Moments in Linux History

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The above video may or may not be an accurate depiction of the early days of Linux.

The Beginning

In Helsinki in 1991, a college student named Linus Torvalds was working on what was “initially a terminal emulator, which Torvalds used to access the large UNIX servers of the university” developed on Minix using the GNU C compiler. Linus “wrote the program specifically for the hardware he was using and independent of an operating system because he wanted to use the functions of his new PC with an 80386 processor.”

According to Wikipedia, “in his book Just for Fun, he eventually realized that he had written an operating system kernel. On 25 August 1991, he announced this system in a Usenet posting to the newsgroup “comp.os.minix.”:

Hello everybody out there using minix -

I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready. I’d like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons) among other things).

I’ve currently ported bash(1.08) and gcc(1.40), and things seem to work. This implies that I’ll get something practical within a few months, and I’d like to know what features most people would want. Any suggestions are welcome, but I won’t promise I’ll implement them :-)

Linus (torvalds@kruuna.helsinki.fi)

PS. Yes – it’s free of any minix code, and it has a multi-threaded fs. It is NOT portable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that’s all I have :-(.

Linus Torvalds

Torvalds originally wanted the name of the operating system to be called “Freax,” a combination of the words “free” and “freak” with an X added as a nod to UNIX. He thought the name “Linux” was too egotistical, but his co-worker responsible for maintain the servers where the “Freax” files were stored felt that “Linux” was a better name and “dubbed the project ‘Linux’ without consulting Torvalds,” according to Wikipedia.

“After many arguments, [Torvalds] finally admitted that Linux was simply the better name. In the source code of version 0.01 of Linux, the name ‘Freax’ was still used in the makefile. Only later was the name Linux used. Thus the name actually not planned at all became generally accepted world-wide.”

In 1992, the author of the Minix microkernal system, Andrew S. Tanenbaum, “wrote a Usenet article on the newsgroup comp.os.minix with the title ‘Linux is obsolete,’ which marked the beginning of a famous debate about the structure of the then-recent Linux kernel.” It turned out that Linux was not, in fact, obsolete, as it went on to become the popular operating system we all know and (some of us) love.

History of Linux [Wikipedia]

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