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The History of Linux Software

Linux Laptop

Linux – if you’re familiar with computers, you’ve probably heard this name a time or two. Created in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, a student at the University of Helsinki in Finland, Linux is a popular open-source computer operating system currently in use today. Similar to Microsoft Windows or Mac OSX, Linux allows users to interact with computers through a Graphical User Interface (GUI) using graphic icons, rather than text commands.

Whether it’s on our laptops, smartphones, touch pad credit card machines or even the Redbox at the local grocery store, we use Linux and other GUI operating systems every day. It’s easy to take this technology for granted, especially when you consider how far we’ve come. Today, we’re going to take a look at the history of Linux to see how one of the world’s most popular operating systems came to be.

Richard Stallman becomes a programmer at MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at a time when free code sharing is considered normal.

In an effort to profit from software development, companies begin to restrict code sharing and start copyrighting their software.

After founding the Free Software Foundation on the principle that software should always be free, Stallman publishes the GNU Manifesto and begins development on a free operating system called GNU that would be compatible with UNIX. GNU is a recursive acronym for the operating system’s full name, “GNU’s not Unix.”

Also in 1985, professor Andy Tanenbaum creates the MINIX operating system for the Intel i386.

After he is barred from further improving a MINIX system he was working on, Linus Torvalds develops a new kernel based on the UNIX operating system, which would later be called Linux. He then releases Linux 0.01 onto the Internet and makes it available for free.

From here, Linux takes off as more and more people get their hands on it and contribute to the code.

Patrick Volkerding, a computer science major from Minnesota State University Moorhead, develops and releases Slackware. Slackware becomes the first stand-alone version of Linux ever created.

Los Alamos National Laboratory uses Linux to run 68 computers as a single parallel processing machine to stimulate shock waves. At its greatest speed, the supercomputer could make 19 billion calculations per minute, which made it the 315th most powerful supercomputer in the world.

Fun fact: While vacationing in Austrailia in 1996, Linus Torvalds is bitten by a penguin, which would later become the inspiration for the Linux logo.

Sun and Oracle, two of the world’s biggest private software producers at the time, announce support for the Linux operating system. Around the same time, Linux becomes the operating system of choice for most IT professionals due to new features and updates.

Red Hat Inc., an open source software company that maintains its own Linux distribution for business users, goes public. When they do, it becomes the eighth-biggest first-day gain on Wall Street.

The Linux Foundation non-profit organization is formed to sponsor the work of Linus Torvalds and the rest of the development community in making further improvements to Linux. The foundation also helps maintain the core values of freedom, collaboration and education that the original versions were based upon.

Linux Mint 1.0 is released and quickly becomes one of the most popular versions of Linux available. It satisfies the needs of inexperienced users and more avid users alike. Today, it is the fourth most popular operating system in the world.

Android, one of the most popular Linux-based operating systems ever, is released and changes the smartphone market forever. Many of today’s smartphones, including phones from HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung, rely on the Android operating system, which continues to gain market share every day.



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