In 1991, a new direction for the advancement of computer science had been established, as powerful hardware had pushed the boundaries of computers beyond what was commonly imagined. Despite this, the absence of operating systems was considered a major deficiency in this field. Dos was still the ruler of the personal computer system empire; The operating system that Bill Gates bought from a hacker from Seattle for $50,000 and used a clever advertising method to infiltrate the world. PC customers had no other choice. The Mac was a better option, but its astronomical price put it out of the reach of most people.

Unix was also a good alternative, but it was very expensive. Unix vendors were looking for higher profits, and their pricing kept many PC customers away. Unix source code, which was taught in universities thanks to Bell Labs, was no longer publicly available. The big players in the software market also did not offer any solution to the frustration of PC users around the world.

Minix seemed to be able to solve the problem to some extent. This operating system was developed from the ground up by Andrew S. It was written by Andrew S. Tanenbaum, an American-Dutch professor who wanted to teach his students the inner workings of a real system.

the inner workings of a real system.

The Minix was designed to run on Intel’s 8086 microprocessors, which had created a buzz in the market. It wasn’t the best operating system, but it had the advantage that its source code was publicly available. Everyone who read Tannenbaum’s book, Operating Systems: Design and Implementation, had 12,000 lines of code written in Assembly and C. At a time when software developers heavily guarded source codes, for the first time an aspiring programmer or hacker could examine the source code of a running system.

Tannenbaum was an excellent writer and attracted the attention of well-known experts in the field of computer science with a fascinating discussion of “The Art of Building an Operating System”. College students of technology around the world studied his book and code to understand what exactly drives computers. One of these students was Linus Torvalds.

In 1991, Linus was a second-year computer science student at the University of Helsinki and a self-taught hacker. This 21-year-old and well-spoken Finnish young man was very interested in computer systems and removing the limitations of computer systems. One of these limitations was the lack of an operating system that could meet the demands of professionals. Minix was very accurate. However, this operating system was designed as an educational tool for students and not a powerful business tool.

At that time, programmers around the world were encouraged by Richard Stallman’s GNU project to provide free and high-quality software. Stallman was considered a hero in the field of computers. He started his career at a famous artificial intelligence lab at MIT and in the mid-to-late 1970s he invented the Emacs editor.

In the early 1980s, commercial software companies lured many of the great AI lab programmers into strict agreements with them under the guise of protecting their techniques and secrets. But Stallman had good imagination and foresight. In his opinion, software should not be like other products, but it should be free from copy or modification laws so that computer applications can improve and grow.

At the same time as he introduced GNU in 1983, he announced that this project is aimed at creating and developing software that follows his philosophy. However, to achieve this dream in the long run, he first had to build the tools for it. So Stallman started writing the GNU Compiler (GCC) in 1984, a feat for an independent programmer. With his magical talent, he surpassed all programmers in commercial software companies by creating GCC, one of the most powerful compilers ever invented.

Richard Stallman, the father of GNU, created many tools until 1991. GCC became available to users at that time, but there was still no free operating system. Even Minix was to be licensed (later in April 2000, Tannenbaum released Minix under the BSD license). Work continued on the GNU kernel (HURD), however, the result was not expected to be released for several years.

Finally, on August 25, 1991, this historic post was sent by Linus to the Minix newsgroup:

))I’m working on an open source operating system (as a hobby and not meant to be a huge, professional system like GNU) that can be used for 386 and 486 AT clones. It started in April and is almost ready. I’d love to get any feedback and comments, good or bad, that people have about Minix, because my OS is somewhat similar to Minix; including file system layout (for practical reasons) and more. So far, I’ve been able to port bash v1.08 and gcc v1.40 and everything seems to be working fine. That means I’m going to have something functional in the next few months, and I’d love to know what features people like the most. I welcome all suggestions, but I don’t promise to implement them all((

As this post makes clear, Linus himself had no idea that what he created was going to be so big as to change the world of computing forever. Linux version 0.01 was released in mid-September 1991 and was placed on the Internet. Linus’ creation was enthusiastically received. The codes were downloaded, tested and optimized and sent back to Linus.

Before long, Linus faced opposition from Andrew Tannenbaum, the mastermind behind Minix. In a post addressed to Linus, Tannenbaum wrote:

I maintain that the design of a single core in 1991 was a fundamental mistake. Thank God that you are not my student, otherwise you would not have received a high grade for such a project.

Andrew Tannenbaum to Linus Torvalds

Tannenbaum was definitely a famous professor and everything he said mattered a lot. However, he was wrong about Linux. Linus was too stubborn to accept defeat. Tannenbaum also stated that “Linux is obsolete”. This statement was the impetus for the production of a new generation of Linux. Backed by the powerful Linux community, Linus responded to Tannenbaum:

Your job is to be a university professor and researcher, and that’s a good excuse for some Minix brain damage.

Linus Torvalds to Andrew Tannenbaum

The number of Linux fans increased rapidly. Gradually, hundreds and thousands of people joined it. Linux was no longer a toy for hackers, and with the support of a large number of programs from the GNU project, it was preparing for a real race.

Later, Linux was placed under the GNU General Public License. So everyone had access to the source code and could test and modify it. Quickly, programmers and students started using it. Commercial companies also entered this field. Linux itself was and is free. What these companies did was collect diverse software and present them in a distributable layout; Just like other operating systems that ordinary people were more familiar with and could use more easily. Although these ventures were commercial, the programmers created their own voluntary distribution system called Debian.

Linux’s first-class feature is the steady increase in people working passionately to improve Linux’s capabilities. Linux’s popularity has now grown from a handful of enthusiasts in 1991-1992 to millions of mainstream users. Big organizations like IBM have also switched to using Linux and spend hundreds and thousands of dollars for its development. In the end, it was finally proven that not only the effort to improve is not associated with chaos, as many closed source fans claim, but also the idea of ​​Linux being anti-business was not more than an illusion.

Linus Torvalds’ boundless passion to remove limitations became the starting point of Linux. Since then, hundreds of people from all over the world have nurtured it to its glorious place in computer history. Today, Linux is not just a hacking project of a student, but has become an international phenomenon that has brought large companies like IBM and thousands of users into the open source software movement. In the history of the computer field, this project will always be remembered as one of the most outstanding successful human efforts.


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