So how did it all happen? How did an email chain started by one man, from his bedroom end cause impacts so unprecedented on the embedded developer community. What was it about Linux that got it to stand apart from the existing and stable operating systems? What is it about Linux that every engineer worth his salt prefers Linux to Windows or other non-linux operating systems?
A 21-yer-old Linus Torvalds did not write a complete operating system. Linus did not single handedly author the giant success story we all call Linux. What he did do however, was to create a simple and completely open source operating systems with much of its features and its architecture borrowed from MINIX. Hence began the history of Linux in the year 1991. In 1991, while studying computer science at University of Helsinki, Linus began a project that evolved into the Linux kernel. What Linus Torvalds created at age 21 was actually just a kernel based on the UNIX system.
On 25 August 1991, Linus Torvalds announced this system on 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 🙂
- 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-hard-disks, as that’s all I have :-(.
— Linus Torvalds”
When he posted his code on a web newsgroup, many other hobbyist programmers contributed to his work, which paved the way for the existence of all Linux distros today. According to Torvalds, Linux began to gain attention in 1992, after Orest Zborowski ported an X Windows system into Linux after which Linux could support a GUI. However, it was not until 1993, that about one hundred developers began work on the Linux kernel. With their assistance a large spectrum of applications was opened up for Linux. During this time, The oldest currently existing Linux distribution, Slackware, is released for the first time. Later in the same year, the Debian project is established.
Today it is the largest community distribution. Linux platforms are currently powering the majority of the modern Web and the internet. This is primarily owing to the flexibility of Linux operating systems such as Debian, Cent OS, and Gentoo. Linux has therefore served as the backbone of majority of the sites we browse. Modern television manufacturers including Sony prefer the Linux operating system when creating the television user interface. Smartphones and tablets from all around the world are powered by Android which is derived from a Linux core. Several flavors of Linux, currently serve as a primary operating system for over 90% of today’s top most powerful supercomputers.
Would Linux conquer more than just the world of consumer computing? How much would an age old monolithic processing system weigh in on today’s hyper-converged environment? Can more be squeezed out of Linux?