History of Linux operating system

Linux history

How Linux came into existence? When did it start and what is the history of Linux?
These following questions are answered here -
  • What is Unix/Linux?
  • History of Linux
  • Features Supported Under Linux
  • The future of Linux
In the 80's, Microsoft DOS was the dominated OS for PC.
Apple MACINTOSH was better, but expensive.
UNIX was much better, but even  more expensive and used only in minicomputers for commercial applications.
People were looking for a UNIX based system, which is much cheaper and can run on PC's.
DOS, MAC and UNIX were all proprietary, i.e., the source code of their kernel is protected.
No modification is possible without paying high license fees.

GNU foundation was established in 1984 by Richard Stallman, who believes that software should be free from restrictions against copying or modification in order to make better and efficient computer programs.

GNU is a recursive acronym for GNU's Not Unix.
Their aim was to develop a complete Unix-like operating system which is free for copying and modification.
Companies make their money by maintaining and distributing the software, e.g. optimally packaging the software with different tools (Redhat, Slackware, Mandrake, SuSE, etc)
Stallman built the first free GNU C Compiler in 1991. But still, an OS was yet to be developed.

A famous professor Andrew Tanenbaum developed Minix, a simplified version of UNIX that runs on PC.
Minix was used for education purposes only and not for commercial use.
In Sept 1991, Linus Torvalds, a second year student of Computer Science at the University of Helsinki, developed the preliminary kernel of Linux, known as Linux version 0.0.1.

Message from Professor Andrew Tanenbaum
"I still maintain the point that designing a monolithic kernel in 1991 is a fundamental error. Be thankful you are not my student. You would not get a high grade for such a design."
                                                              (Andrew Tanenbaum to Linus Torvalds)

Soon more than a hundred people joined the Linux camp, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands!
It was licensed under GNU General Public License, thus ensuring that the source codes will be free for all to copy, study or modify.
Linux has been used on many computing platforms like PC's, PDA's and Supercomputers.
Not only command line interface, but graphical user interface was also available.
Commercial vendors shifted to Linux to provide freely distributed code. They made their money by compiling various softwares and gathering them in a distributable format. e.g. Red Hat, Slackware, etc

Recent estimates say about 29 million people use Linux worldwide. The effects of the dot-com burst, IT slowdown and global economic recession can be clearly seen.

Free software, as defined by the FSF (Free Software Foundation), is a "matter of liberty, not price." To qualify as free software by FSF standards, you must be able to:

  • Run the program for any purpose you want to, rather than be restricted in what you can use it for.
  • View the program's source code.
  • Study the program's source code and modify it if you need to.
  • Share the program with others.
  • Improve the program and release those improvements so that others can use them.


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