Inventor of the Week Archive
for a different Invention or Inventor
Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux Operating System, was
born December 28, 1969 in Helsinki, Finland. His grandfather
had a Commodore VIC-20 that he had the opportunity to work
with; by age ten he was already dabbling in programming. He
enrolled at the University of Helsinki in 1989, and in 1990
he took his first C programming class.
In 1991, Torvalds decided that his new MS-DOS-driven PC needed
an alternative operating system. He had enough programming
know-how under his belt to assume that he could achieve this
himself. His goal was to create a UNIX-like operating system
he could use at home. Using the Marice J. Bach book 'Design
of the Unix Operating System' as a guide, he set out to create
the system, working long, hard hours until, at age 22, he
completed a rough version. He called his system 'Linux,' a
combination of UNIX and his name, and posted the source code
free on the Internet.
Torvalds' philosophy was that if he made the software available
for free downloading, including the source code, anyone with
knowledge of and interest in computer programming could modify
the system and ultimately make it better, and/or modify it
for their own specific purposes. Linux quickly gained popularity
among hard-core computer users. Licensed under a GNU General
Public License, the system is available free to anyone who
can get, use, modify, distribute and copy it. By 1999, an
estimated seven million computers were running on Linux.
In recent years Linux has gained acceptance in business
circles as a stable operating system that rarely crashes,
and large computer corporations such as IBM, Compaq, Intel
and Dell have also begun to develop machines that support
it. Linux is expected to gain popularity in the consumer PC
market as well.
Torvalds made his personal mascot a penguin named 'Tux,'
which has since become a recognizable symbol for Linux around
the world. Torvalds spent 1988-1997 at the University of Helsinki,
coordinating development of the Linux kernel and furthering
his studies. Today, he still serves as Linux's unofficial
project coordinator. He moved to the United States in 1997
to begin working for Transmeta, where he has helped to design
the Transmeta Crusoe Processor, a power-saving CPU.
Torvalds has become internationally known, having been recognized
with such honors as the 1997 Nokia Foundation Award and the
Uniforum Pictures Lifetime Achievement Award. He currently
lives in the techno-centric San Francisco Bay area with his
wife and three daughters.