Linux Kernel Turns 28 Today
Written by Sue Gee   
Sunday, 25 August 2019

August 25th is taken to be the official birthday of the Linux. What's so special about 28? Well we managed to miss 21 and 25 so we are making sure we mark it this time around,

August 25th 1991 was when Linus Torvalds, first announced that he was working on an operating system based on MINIX. At the time Torvalds, then 21, was studying at Finland's University of Helsinki. He'd learned about MINIX from Andrew Tanenbaum's book Operating Systems: Design and Implementation and at the beginning of 1991 bought a 386-based PC clone, installed a copy of MINIX and started work on his one-man cloned operating system. He graduated in 1996 with a Masters degree having submitted a thesis titled  Linux: A Portable Operating System.

Torvald's email was sent to world/comp.os.minix newsgroup asking for suggestions for features they would like included. He wrote:

Hello everybody out there using minix-

I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready. 

So much for a hobby project - Linux is now the most ubiquitous operating system and the claim "Linux is Everywhere" is no exaggeration. Most people are using Linux without ever knowing it —  on their phones, online when using Google, Facebook, Twitter, on their GPS devices, and maybe even in their cars, or when using cloud storage.

To mark Linux's 25th anniversary three years ago, Joey Sneddon, editor of omg!ubuntu!, compiled a list of 25 Awesome Things Powered By Linux. The list included the very large - Linux runs 497 of the top 500 fastest super computers and is used by  the Large Hadron Collider to handle, process, store and distribute the petabytes of data it accrues. It is runs most of world's financial markets including NYSE, NASDAQ, London Exchange, Tokyo Stock Exchange and the e-commerce giants, Amazon, Ebay, Paypal, Walmart, and more.

At the small end its embedded in smart watches and indeed most other things with "smart" in the name, from domestic appliances to autonomous vehicles. Linux also keeps the world moving and safe - US Federal Aviation Administration switched to it in 2006, the Japanese Bullet Train uses it and so does NASA. Not only do a growing proportion of desktop computers use it, mobiles overwhelmingly do so:  Chrome OS is a Linux distribution and Android runs on the Linux kernel, as does Kindle.


The Linux Windows divide is no longer a chasm. Microsoft joined the Linux Foundation in 2016,  launch of SQL Server 2017 on Linux and recently chose Linux for its IoT initiatives, all moves that emphasize the Microsoft loves Linux theme, introduced by Satya Nadella in October 2014. 

Microsoft now contributes to Linux kernel development, which isn't surprising given Microsoft's espousal of open source and the fact that Linux is the single largest open source project. In terms of popularity as measured by the number of stars its GitHub repo has attracted, 79,414, it is ranked around 5th, see Promoting Open Source Software. In terms of activity almost certainly ranks top, as revealed by these statistics from the Linux Foundation: 

  • 13,594 developers from at least 1,340 companies have contributed to the Linux kernel since 2005
  • >1,600 developers contributed to each kernel version
  • A new major kernel release occurs every 9 –  10 weeks
  • The Linux kernel community merged changes at an average rate of 7.8 patches per hour. 

Back in 1991 the fledgling operating system didn't have a name, according to Joey Sneddon's 27 Interesting Facts about Linux:

Linux very nearly wasn’t called Linux! Linus wanted to call his “hobby” project “FreaX” (a combination of “free”, “freak” and “Unix”). Thankfully, he was persuaded otherwise by the owner of the server hosting his early code, who happened to prefer the name “Linux” (a combination of “Linus” and “Unix”).

One fact I had been unaware of is that the original version of Linux wasn't open source software. It was free but was distributed with a license forbidding commercial use or redistribution. However, for version 0.12, released in 1992, the GPL was adopted making the code freely available.

Another of these facts concerns, Tux, the Linux mascot since 1966. Why is it a penguin? This is still a matter of debate but the answer I've always accepted comes from an anecdote that Linus was bitten by an angry penguin, infecting him with a (made-up) disease called “penguinitis”.



 Image Credit: omg!ubuntu!

Happy 28th Birthday Linux, Long May You Prosper.  

More Information

25 Awesome Things Powered By Linux 

27 Interesting Facts about Linux

Related Articles 

Open Source Celebrates 20 Years

SQL Server on Linux, Love or Calculated Move?

Microsoft Chooses Linux for IoT

Linus Torvalds On Linux Past, Present and Future

Linux Journal Closes 


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Last Updated ( Sunday, 25 August 2019 )