Linus Torvalds Receives IEEE Computer Pioneer Award
Written by Sue Gee   
Thursday, 01 May 2014

Linus Torvalds, the principal force behind development of Linux is the 2014 recipient of the IEEE Computer Society's Computer Pioneer Award

 

 

This award, a bronze medal, was established in 1981

"to recognize and honor the vision of those whose efforts resulted in the creation and continued vitality of the computer industry "

and is presented annually to individuals whose main contribution was made at least 15 years earlier.

The 2014 Computer Pioneer Award goes to Linus Torvalds:

"For pioneering development of the Linux kernel using the open-source approach".

Torvalds, who was born in Helsinki in 1969 is now a Finnish American who is being recognized as the principal force behind development of the Linux kernel and overseer of open source development for the Linux operating system. He became enthusiastic about programming by writing games for a Commodore VIC-20 and by modifying the operating system of a Sinclair QL.

Later he worked on an Intel 386 CPU, using Minix, an Unix-inspired operating system created by Andrew Tanenbaum for use as a teaching tool. Torvalds formed a team of volunteers to work on the Linux kernel, V1.0 was released in the spring of 1994.

According to Wikipedia, Torvalds had wanted to call the kernel he developed Freax (a combination of "free", "freak", and the letter X to indicate that it is a Unix-like system), but his friend Ari Lemmke, who administered the FTP server it was first hosted for download, named Torvalds' directory linux.

 linustorvalds

 

In 1996 Linus Torvalds joined Transmeta, a California-based startup that was designing an energy-saving CPU. He continued to oversee kernel development for Linux, and in 2003 left Transmeta to focus exclusively on the Linux kernel as a Fellow at The Linux Foundation (known at the time as Open Source Development Labs) and today remains the ultimate authority on what new code is incorporated into the standard Linux kernel.

Although Torvalds believes "open source is the only right way to do software", he also has said that he uses the "best tool for the job", even if that includes proprietary software. He came in for criticism for his use of the proprietary BitKeeper software for version control in the Linux kernel. Torvalds subsequently wrote GIT as a free-software distributed version control and source code management package that become widely adopted, partly thanks to GitHub.

In some ways Git can be seen as his more important contribution - but as it dates from 2005 it is outside he remit of the IEEE Computer Pioneer award.

This award isn't the first for Torvalds. He was awarded the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award in 1998; the  British Computer Society's Lovelace Medal in 2000 and Finland's Millennium Technology Prize in 2012. He was inducted into the Computer History Museum's Hall of Fellows in 2008 and into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2012. 

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