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How Linux Logo “Tux” Came About

How Linux Logo Tux Came About

Linux is a very popular topic among computer geeks, especially FOSS enthusiast. It is a kernel that manages the computer hardware at the lowest level.

Many associates Linux as another popular Operating System like Microsoft Windows and OS X. It is invented by a Finnish computer science student Linus Torvalds on September 17, 1991, and around that time, there arose the need for creating a Linux logo in the year 1996. Here are some facts about the Linux logo:

  • The Linux logo was chosen by the inventor Linus Torvalds himself.
  • He wanted it to be a penguin specifically and there is an interesting story to that (about him been bitten by one such ferocious creature).

The competition

Open source community raised the idea of creating a logo for Linux when it was gaining popularity. Everyone had different ideas, some proposed text logos (like how UNIX represented the Unix brand). Here is a link Linux logo if you want to get a glimpse back to the history and how the logos were designed back then.

Unix is a computer Operating System developed at the Bell Labs research center in the 1970s. It was the first Operating System to be developed using C, a high-level programming language. Linux is another variation of Unix OS but not a true Unix so it’s also called as a Unix-like OS.

​While others proposed animal logos like the Eagles and Sharks. But Linus Torvalds turned around the discussion to a penguin by mentioning he was fond of it. Three competitions were then held from where the best possible Linux brand would be selected.

Darn cute story

However, before the event folded to the penguin as the Linux logo, there is an interesting story to it. Linus Torvalds and along with some Open Source community were visiting the National Zoo and Aquarium in Australia.

While admiring a small cute penguin from the zoo, Linus was chased around and bitten by one such ferocious creature. Afterward, he joked that he felt so much love towards penguins (contracting a rare Peninguitis disease) for nights. In one of the interview, he mentioned that incident happened somewhere around the year 1993.

Penguin logo concept

​Coming back to 1996, Linus Torvalds took inspiration from an image found on an FTP site, a penguin figure that looked like Creature Comforts. He wanted a penguin satisfied and contended after having a meal. And slightly overweight but not fat so it’d be sitting down. Here’s how Linus described the concept for penguin art in one of the mailing list:

“So when you think “penguin”, you should be imagining a slighly overweight penguin (*), sitting down after having gorged itself, and having just burped. It’s sitting there with a beatific smile – the world is a good place to be when you have just eaten a few gallons of raw fish and you can feel another “burp” coming. . (*) Not FAT, but you should be able to see that it’s sitting down because it’s really too stuffed to stand up. Think “bean bag” here.”

It’s named “Tux”

linux logo penguin

The above Linux logo we see every day is created by Larry Ewing in 1996. Surprising fact! His work never won any of the three competitions held during those years but it became the standard and official Linux brand that’s adopted by everyone afterward.

Next came the naming for the Linux brand. James Hughes had a very interesting name for the new Linux brand called “Tux”. He abbreviated it as (T)orvalds(U)ni(X). Everyone eventually adopted Tux as the penguin name but some were still confused with the actual meaning of Tux. They assumed Tux was short for tuxedo since the penguin body had an imagery reason to it.

Logo or Mascot

Tux is not a Linux logo rather it’s a mascot for Linux that people easily associate with. However, for many of us who are uncommon with Linux history, Tux to us is pretty much a logo for Linux since we see it on some distribution’s boot-up screen (that’s reminiscent of Microsoft Windows 90s days).

Another interesting fact: Larry Ewing with Open Source Software spirit in mind released his work Tux with Open Source license too. So that means Tux can be customized by anyone to represent different versions of Linux (an example is Slackware).

linux mascot

Innovative distribution’s logo

Imagine if every Linux distribution on earth designed their brand logo with Tux and of course customizing it as in Slackware example. We would have a very hard time falling in love with one distribution over the other. As a matter of fact, none of us Linux geeks would batter over this-Linux vs that-Linux as we do now. Anyway, that’s just an assumption from my side ?
We have various Linux distributions that we easily recognize from their brand logo. Look at some of them shown below:

​The first and second logo from left to right are the two most popular Linux distro every beginner recognize. They are Ubuntu and Linux Mint. The third, Fedora Operating System, is one used by most Linux hobbyists and chase-after-latest-tools Linux nerds. The last is Zorin OS, a Linux distro that aims to provide Windows-like experience for long-time users of Microsoft Windows veterans.

What About New Linux logo?

firefox masterbrand icon

Like Mozilla Firefox Quantum and many other FOSS technologies (GNOMEKDECinnamon, etc) that are undergoing some changes with their logo and brand icon images, you might as well be wondering what about the Linux mascot? Is it getting a new flat modern look like those technologies? The answer is No, there isn’t any discussion right now for initiating a new Linux logo or mascot at all.

Conclusion

It’s common nowadays for non-techy people to associate penguin with Linux just like those Windows and Apple logo. Linux does have a huge impact in our everyday life with companies running their servers on Linux Operating Systems, powering embedded hardware, supercomputing, and our smartphones.

Though they may not be as popular as other Operating System or have less market share in certain areas like desktop computing. It sure does provide a good solid foundation for many other technologies (like our Android phones).

Hope you enjoyed reading this article and in case you have some opinion or mistakes worth pointing out, please do let me know in the comment section below.



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