48th Birthday Tribute To Linus Torvalds, The Brain Behind The Linux


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​Placing an order through an e-commerce site, playing games on a cell phone, watching movies on a smart TV, taking water out of a refrigerator, interacting with a satellite at NASA, getting quotes from a NY stock exchange, browsing in Chromebook, putting clothes in a washing machine. Did you find one common thing in all these activities? Yes. It is Linux.  

It is just everywhere. It is worth mentioning here about the actual brain behind the Linux – Linus Torvalds.  There is no doubt that Linus is one of the most influential people who transformed the technology twice with Linux and Git.​

Linus celebrated his 48th birthday on 28th December.  A very happy belated birthday to Linus and the LinuxAndUbuntu.com wishes him for many more years of continuous technological innovations. On this occasion, let us put focus on the things that inspired Linus to create Linux along with interesting titbits.​

Linus Torvalds Childhood

Linus Torvalds was born in Helsinki, Finland to journalist parents Anna Torvalds and Nils Torvalds in 1969.  His maternal grandfather Leo Tronqvist (professor of statistics) had an influence on young Linus. Linus at 11 years of age typed some programs for him on Commodore VIC-20 computer. Linus’ father attempts to keep him in sports(basketball) did not succeed as Linus interests were on more on mathematics and computers.  

Birth of Linux

In 1988, Linus joined the University of Helsinki, Finland. There he completed mandatory military service as a Second Lieutenant.  Before joining the university, Linux had experience of BASIC, assembly language and writing games.  He attended Unix and C-programming courses. It did not take much time to Linus in realizing that Unix is stable and powerful operating system.

At that time MINIX (developed by Professor Andrew S Tanenbaum) used to teach operating systems subject to the students.  Linus started exploring MINIX on his i386 based PC.  In a way, the serious drawbacks present in MINIX and unimpressive MS-DOS inspired Linus to create an operating system from scratch with a better terminal emulator. Linus completed M.Sc. thesis with “Linux: A Portable Operating System”.In 1991, Linus announced this first prototype version of Linux armed with bash and GCC (C compiler). The first release had 10,00 lines of code including 100 lines of comments.

Linus made the historical announcement to MINIX newsgroup “comp.os.minix” as follows:​

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 or 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 want.

Any suggestions are welcome, but I won’t promise I’ll implement them.

Linus Torvalds [email protected]

​With the help, a friend named Ari Lemmke, Linus uploaded the kernel source code to a social network so that it act as a voluntary platform to software developers world over. This social group helped Linus in getting new ideas, review comments and development.  It is said that Linus wanted to have the name called “Freax” (referring free Unix). Version 1.0 of Linux was released in 1994. Rest is history.Linux moved to the US in year 1997 after getting an offer from Transmeta Corporation.  Around year 2003, Torvalds left Transmeta and joined OSDL (now The Linux Foundation) a consortium formed by a group of companies to focus exclusively on the Linux kernel development.

Linus is currently living in Oregon, US and continuing to remain as the ultimate authority on world’s biggest co-operative open-source project – The Linux kernel.

Interesting titbits about Linus Torvalds

  • ​Linus’ full name is Linus Benedict Torvalds.
  • As Finland was part of Sweden, Linus grew ups speaking Swedish language.
  • Linus interested in science fiction literature at age of 11 and that’s how he introduced to English language.
  • Linus’ parents and sister are journalists.  Linus calls himself black sheep.
  • Linus named after Linus Pauling, a noble prize winner
  • Linus initially wrote gaming programs.
  • Linux learned BASIC and assembly languages initially.
  • Linus received his M.Sc. degree in Computer science from the University of Helsinki. And received an honorary doctorate from Stockholm University.
  • Linus bought his first computer in 1998 called Sinclair QL.
  • The Andrew S Tanenbaum-Torvalds debate is famous for their argument about microkernels vs monolithic kernels.
  • When Linus is not doing anything, he still sits inform of the computer.
  • Linus said that his maths teacher in high school influenced him than the professors at the University of Helsinki.
  • Linus’ wife Tove Torvalds was a Karate expert.
  • Linus likes scuba diving.  Even he created free open-source software called Subsurface for logging planning for scuba dives!
  • In 1996, an asteroid is named with “9793 Torvalds”.
  • In 2005, Linus came up with a new distributed source code control tools called Git after facing licensing issues with BitKeeper.
  • Eric S Raymond formulated Linus’s law about software development named in honor of Linux Torvalds.
  • RedHat and VA Linux offered Linus with stock options in gratitude for this commendable work.
  • In 2012, Millennium Technology Prize (This award is widely described equivalent to Noble prize in technology
  • Linus is the recipient of 2014 IEEE Computer Society Computer Pioneer Award
  • The University of Helsinki has named an auditorium after Linus Torvalds.
  • In 2010, Linus became a US citizen.
  • Torvalds owns the Linux trademark (penguin).
  • The Linux-based Android operating system dominates the smartphone market.
  • There is a rumor that Steve Jobs tried to hire Linus to work on OS/2.
  • Linus uses Google+

About the author

​Ramakrishna Jujare is a post graduate in Computer Applications and loves to code, review Linux distros, open-source software and write how-to articles.  In free time, he enjoys nature and music.