Happy Birthday Linux!August 30, 2021
Thirty years ago on August 25, 1991, Linus Torvalds posted a message in an online computer science group asking members for feedback on his new operating system. The system, which he claimed “won’t be big” changed the trajectory of technology1.
Torvalds’ system, Linux, is a fully customizable and free open-source operating system (OS) just like the influential OS it was modeled after, MINIX2,3. Like MINIX, which runs on all Intel computer chips making it the most used OS in the world, Linux is also widely used.
“From server deployments and consumer electronics like smartphones, televisions and smart speakers, to industrial applications like automobiles and elevators, you'll find Linux enhancing the everyday lives of billions of humans worldwide – quite often in unseen ways,” said Rob Gibbon, Product Manager at Canonical in a TechRadar article3.
Torvalds developed Linux as a student of the University of Helsinki and released the first version in 1991 followed by the Linux Kernel 1.0 in 1994 which incorporated utilities created by Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation for an OS called GNU3. The combination of the kernel and utilities was known as GNU/Linux, or just Linux for short3.
As shown by its early incorporation and adoption of GNU utilities, Linux is well known for its adaptability. Early in its life, Linux was adopted by developers because it was able to be shared and modified freely as an open-source OS3,4. Now, it boasts the ability to support over 12 widely used architectures such as Apple’s MacBook Pro3,4, and is loved by more than just developers because it can be personalized. Users can select from the many versions available for download, called distributions or distros for short, which sport different features allowing it to accommodate users of all skill levels and be used for a wide variety of applications3,5.
Linux has a rich history and many applications, making its nuances something best experienced and explored first-hand. Torvalds is still very involved in the OS he created three decades ago and celebrated the anniversary in his own way—with an update.
“The celebrations will go on for a few more weeks yet, but you all may just need a breather from them. And when that happens, I have just the thing for you - a new kernel release to test and enjoy,” wrote Torvalds of the 5.14 release which seeks to resolve vulnerabilities caused by the Spectre and Meltdown flaws6,7.
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- Carnegie Melon University. (2020). LINUX’s History. Retrieved from https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~awb/linux.history.html.
- Medium. (2020, April 24). Ever Heard of MINIX? It’s The World’s Most Widely Used Operating System. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@RealWorldCyberSecurity/ever-heard-of-minix-its-the-world-s-most-widely-used-operating-system-fcb6941f3db2.
- Britannica. Linux. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/technology/Linux.
- Sharma, M. (2021, August 27). Linux at 30: How a student’s hobby became a key component in the business IT stack. Retrieved from https://www.techradar.com/news/linux-at-30-how-a-students-hobby-became-a-key-component-in-the-business-it-stack.
- Linux. (2021). What Is Linux?. Retrieved from https://www.linux.com/what-is-linux/.
- Sharma, M. (2021, August 30). Linux 5.14 is here, packing boosted security protection. Retrieved from https://www.techradar.com/news/linux-514-is-here-packing-boosted-security-protection.
- Hanson, M. (2018, January 18). How to protect against the Meltdown and Spectre CPU security flaws. Retrieved from https://www.techradar.com/how-to/how-to-protect-against-the-meltdown-and-spectre-cpu-security-flaws.