Happy 24th birthday Linux!

Over the last 24 years, Linux has become the largest shared technology on earth and has popularized a revolution called open source, which is changing our world in more ways than we can imagine.

penguin cake
Credit: Ken's Oven/Flickr

It isn't an overstatement to say that the modern world runs on Linux. If you look around you, almost everything is running on Linux -- from your home router to stock exchanges. Thanks to Linux, open source has become a phenomenon that is fast becoming a norm in the enterprise and consumer segments. Fierce competitors like Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Twitter, Red Hat, SUSE are all working together to make open source software even better.

When Linus Torvalds created Linux he didn't know it would become so popular. He was quite modest about it back then (read in his first email announcing Linux below). And he is still just as modest, approachable, and friendly.

Yes, he does use colorful language on the mailing list from time to time, but we need to understand that he manages more than 1,500 people spread across the world. His software powers everything and it’s trusted by giant businesses. He is the final authority on Linux and there is no scope for error. So whenever a senior developer makes any such error Linus goes colorful.

One point worth noting is that Linus reserves this kind of language only for 'senior' developers. I have never heard him using strong words for newbies. Unlike managers in the corporate world, he can't fire people, cut their bonus or punish them in any other way that you would see in a corporate culture. His only power is to use strong words.

I believe his work has a stronger and much deeper impact on human society than the software created by either Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Torvalds is building the modern IT world by breeding a new culture where knowledge is not kept locked behind fortified walls, but is shared openly with the rest of the civilization to learn and build upon.

Here is the message Linus wrote exactly 24 years ago:

Path: gmdzi!unido!fauern!ira.uka.de!sol.ctr.columbia.edu!zaphod.mps.ohio-state.edu!wupost!uunet!mcsun!news.funet.fi!hydra!klaava!torvalds
From: torv...@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
Keywords: 386, preferences
Message-ID: <1991Aug25.205708.9541@klaava.Helsinki.FI>
Date: 25 Aug 91 20:57:08 GMT
Organization: University of Helsinki
Lines: 20
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 (torv...@kruuna.helsinki.fi)
PS. Yes - it's free of any minix code, and it has a multi-threaded fs.
It is NOT protable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never
will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that's all I have :-(.

Happy birthday Linux!

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

Download the CIO October 2016 Digital Magazine
View Comments
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies