Today, 28th December is the birthday of Linus Benedict Torvalds. He is the creator of Linux Kernel and one of the most popular distributed version control system GIT.

Linus Torvalds was born in 1969 in Helsinki, the capital and largest city in Finland. He comes from a family of journalists. Nils Torvalds is a Finnish politician. He was named after Linus Pauling, a double Nobel prize winner in Chemistry and Peace.

Linus Torvalds studied at University of Helsinki between 1988 and 1996. Graduating with a master’s degree in computer science from the NODES research group. His MSc thesis was titled “Linux: A Portable Operating System“.

Linus Torvald’s interest in computer began from his grandfather’s computer Commodore VIC-20 at age of 11 in 1981. Initially programming in BASIC language. In 1987 he used his savings to buy his first computer, Sinclair QL. Sinclair QL was one of the world’s first 32-bit computers for home use. It was very difficult to get software for Sinclair QL so Linus wrote his own assembler and editor for the Sinclair QL as well as few games. In 1988 Linus Torvalds enrolled in the University of Helsinki. In 1990 he took his first class in the C programming language, the language that he would soon use to write the Linux Kernel.

In 1991 he purchased an Intel 80386-based clone of IBM PC. Linus was disappointed with MS-DOS operating system that came with it. That OS had not advanced sufficiently to even begin to take advantage of the vastly improved capabilities of the 386 chip, and he thus strongly preferred the much more powerful and stable UNIX operating system that he had become accustomed to using on the university’s computers.

Consequently, Torvalds attempted to obtain a version of UNIX for his new computer. Fortunately (for the world), he could not find even a basic system for less than US$5,000. He also considered MINIX, a small clone of UNIX that was created by operating systems expert Andrew Tanenbaum in the Netherlands to teach UNIX to university students. However, although much more powerful than MS-DOS and designed to run on Intel x86 processors, MINIX still had some serious disadvantages. They included the facts that not all of the source code was made public, it lacked some of the features and performance of UNIX.

Torvalds was decided to create a new operating system from scratch that was based on both MINIX and UNIX.

On August 25, 1991, he announced his initial creation on the MINIX newsgroup comp.os.minix as follows:

  From: torvalds@klaava.Helsinki.FI (Linus Benedict Torvalds)
  Newsgroups: comp.os.minix
  Subject: What would you like to see most in minix?
  Summary: small poll for my new operating system
  Message-ID:
  Date: 25 Aug 91 20:57:08 GMT
  Organization: University of Helsinki


  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)

On September 17 of the same year, after a period of self-imposed isolation and intense concentration, he completed a crude version (0.01) of his new operating system. Shortly thereafter, on October 5, he announced version 0.02, the first official version. It featured the ability to run both the bash shell and the GCC , two key system utilities. This now famous announcement launched the biggest collaborative project the world has ever known. It began:

  From: torvalds@klaava.Helsinki.FI (Linus Benedict Torvalds)
  Newsgroups: comp.os.minix
  Subject: Free minix-like kernel sources for 386-AT
  Message-ID:
  Date: 5 Oct 91 05:41:06 GMT
  Organization: University of Helsinki

  Do you pine for the nice days of minix-1.1, when men were men and wrote
  their own device drivers? Are you without a nice project and just dying
  to cut your teeth on a OS you can try to modify for your needs? Are you
  finding it frustrating when everything works on minix? No more all-
  nighters to get a nifty program working? Then this post might be just
  for you :-)

  As I mentioned a month(?) ago, I'm working on a free version of a
  minix-lookalike for AT-386 computers.  It has finally reached the stage
  where it's even usable (though may not be depending on what you want),
  and I am willing to put out the sources for wider distribution.  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.

  Sources for this pet project of mine can be found at nic.funet.fi
  (128.214.6.100) in the directory /pub/OS/Linux.  The directory also
  contains some README-file and a couple of binaries to work under linux
  (bash, update and gcc, what more can you ask for :-).  Full kernel
  source is provided, as no minix code has been used.  Library sources are
  only partially free, so that cannot be distributed currently.  The
  system is able to compile "as-is" and has been known to work.  Heh.
  Sources to the binaries (bash and gcc) can be found at the same place in
  /pub/gnu.

  ALERT! WARNING! NOTE! These sources still need minix-386 to be compiled
  (and gcc-1.40, possibly 1.37.1, haven't tested), and you need minix to
  set it up if you want to run it, so it is not yet a standalone system
  for those of you without minix. I'm working on it. You also need to be
  something of a hacker to set it up (?), so for those hoping for an
  alternative to minix-386, please ignore me. It is currently meant for
  hackers interested in operating systems and 386's with access to minix.

  The system needs an AT-compatible harddisk (IDE is fine) and EGA/VGA. If
  you are still interested, please ftp the README/RELNOTES, and/or mail me
  for additional info.

  I can (well, almost) hear you asking yourselves "why?".  Hurd will be
  out in a year (or two, or next month, who knows), and I've already got
  minix.  This is a program for hackers by a hacker.  I've enjouyed doing
  it, and somebody might enjoy looking at it and even modifying it for
  their own needs.  It is still small enough to understand, use and
  modify, and I'm looking forward to any comments you might have.

  I'm also interested in hearing from anybody who has written any of the
  utilities/library functions for minix. If your efforts are freely
  distributable (under copyright or even public domain), I'd like to hear
  from you, so I can add them to the system. I'm using Earl Chews estdio
  right now (thanks for a nice and working system Earl), and similar works
  will be very wellcome. Your (C)'s will of course be left intact. Drop me
  a line if you are willing to let me use your code.

                Linus

Ari Lemmke, Torvalds’ friend and the administrator for ftp.funet.fi, a provider of FTP services in Finland, encouraged him to upload his source code to a network so it would be readily available for study and refinement by other programmers, a common practice then as it is now.

Torvalds originally gave his new operating system the working name Linux (from Linus’ MINIX). However, he thought the name was too egotistical and thus planned to call it Freax (a combination of free, freak and MINIX). However, Lemmke created a directory for it called linux on his FTP server, and thus Linux became the name of the system.

In what Torvalds now admits was one of his best decisions, he decided to release Linux under the GPL (GNU General Public License) rather than under the more restrictive license that he had earlier planned. Developed by Richard Stallman, a notable programmer and a leading advocate of free software, this most popular of the free software licenses allows anyone to study, use, modify, extend and redistribute the software as long as they make the source code freely available for any modified versions that they create and then redistribute.

Torvalds is now working on the Linux kernel full-time for Open Source Development Lab (OSDL).

Only about two percent of the current Linux kernel has actually been written by Torvalds himself, which is quite understandable given its great size and complexity. However, he makes the final decisions regarding which of the many proposed modifications and additions will be incorporated into it. His criteria for adding code are that it be

  1. of high quality and clean
  2. easy to maintain
  3. beneficial to a wide range of users rather than to just a single corporate user or to any other narrow agenda.

Torvalds also owns the Linux trademark and monitors its use (and occasional abuse). The hundreds of other programs that are generally included in distributions together with the kernel (e.g., GCC, bash, the vi text editor, the X Window System and the KDE desktop environment) are developed and maintained by other groups, but there is considerable coordination with Torvalds and other developers of the kernel.

Regardless of how long Torvalds stays in Portland, he will likely continue in his roles as the head of Linux kernel development and the spiritual leader of the Linux movement for years to come, as he has shown no signs of tiring of them and wanting to take his life in a new direction. Linux is still young and poised for its greatest growth, and it still needs him.

Media recognition :-

  • In 2000, he was 17th in their Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century poll.
  • In 2004, he was named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine.
  • In 2006, the magazine’s Europe edition named him one of the revolutionary heroes of the past 60 years.

Bibliography :-

  • Just for Fun by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond

Linus Torvalds Quotes :-

  • “Bad programmers worry about the code. Good programmers worry about data structures and their relationships.”
  • “Most good programmers do programming not because they expect to get paid or get adulation by the public, but because it is fun to program.”
  • “Microsoft isn’t evil, they just make really crappy operating systems.”
  • “If Microsoft ever does applications for Linux it means I’ve won.”
  • “In real open source, you have the right to control your own destiny.”
  • “There are lots of Linux users who don’t care how the kernel works, but only want to use it. That is a tribute to how good Linux is.”
  • “Intelligence is the ability to avoid doing work, yet getting the work done.”
  • “Talk is cheap. Show me the code.”
  • “Software is like sex: It’s better when it’s free.”
  • “My name is Linus, and I am your God.”
  • “Just For Fun.”

Wish You A Many Many Happy Returns Of The Day Linus Torvalds!

Reference :-