Open Source

Twenty-five years of Linux overcoming hurdles and overshooting goals

Linux has reached many a milestone. This time around it turns 25 and Jack Wallen offers up his congratulations and reflections.

linux25hero.jpg
Image: Jack Wallen

It was twenty-five years ago, August 25, that a young Linus Torvalds sent out that fateful message.

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. I'd like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons)among other things).I've currently ported bash(1.08) and gcc(1.40), and things seem to work. This implies that I'll get something practical within a few months, and I'd like to know what features most people would want. Any suggestions are welcome, but I won't promise I'll implement them :-)

Linus (torv...@kruuna.helsinki.fi)PS. Yes - it's free of any minix code, and it has a multi-threaded fs. It is NOT protable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that's all I have :-(.

We've all read it, countless times. But when you compare that simple letter calling out to a small crowd of developers, to the latest report issued by the Linux Foundation that states the following:

  • Over 13,500 developers from more than 1,300 companies have contributed to the Linux kernel since the adoption of Git.
  • Top ten sponsors of Linux development include Intel, Red Hat, Linaro, Samsung, SUSE, IBM, Renesas, Google, AMD, Texas Instruments and ARM
  • The average number of changes accepted to the kernel is 7.8 per hour (which equates to 187 changes every day and nearly 1,310 per week)

Since its early beginnings as a pet project of a single student, Linux now runs the majority of the web sites on the planet, powers a great deal of enterprise computing, runs most of your smart appliances, is the basis for nearly 86% of the global smartphone market, and much, much more.

In other words, happy 25th birthday, Linux!

He overshot a bit

When Linus first sent that email out, he said his new operating system wouldn't be "Big and professional like gnu". Funny how that worked out. GNU distributions do still exist. There's blag, Dragora, GuixSD...

Haven't heard of them? I'm not surprised. Why? Because Linux overshot his goals by a few parsecs and became the flagship UNIX-like operating system on the planet. I'm fairly certain that young student had no idea that someday his work would become so important that an entire foundation would be created for his operating system, or that Microsoft would eventually release their .NET framework to run on Linux, or that a massive company would power its cloud with his project, or that Red Hat Linux would be able to target 5 billion dollars in revenue.

My start with Linux

When I first stepped onto the Linux pathway, it was all about jettisoning a Windows platform that had failed me over and over. This was back in 1996 with Caldera Open Linux 1. I quickly moved away from that distribution in 1997 with Red Hat 4.2 (Biltmore), running Linux kernel 2.0.30-2. However, it wasn't until 1999, and Red Hat 6.0 (Hedwig, running Linux kernel 2.2.5-15) that I finally settled into what would become my platform of choice. Even then, even among the doubters, I knew Linux was something special and that great things would eventually happen to this fledgling operating system. I went through periods where those above me would demand I stop using a platform that had no chance in a Windows world. I fought them at every corner, insisting they should be paying closer attention to Linux. In the end, they lost and Linux won.

During that last 20 years, Linux has helped me both professionally and personally. The following milestones would have been considerably more challenging for me, without the help of Linux:

  • 1999: I landed my first professional tech writing gig with TechRepublic. I was a member of a Linux User Group at a local university when a staff member from TechRepublic visited to recruit a writer for linux-republic.com. That writer wound up being me.
  • 2000: I attended my first Linux convention. Back then it was much smaller, not backed by corporations, and was mostly attended by developers, hackers, and fanboys. This convention opened my eyes to how passionate the Linux faithful was and further fueled my own passion for the platform.
  • 2006: My first novel was published, written completely with open source software, with a cover designed using GIMP. That kicked off my career as an author and since I've used the following tools: LibreOffice, GIMP, and Calibre.
  • 2012: I began writing for Linux.com.
  • 2012: I began Adorkable Designs, and audiobook recording service that uses all open source software (such as Audacity).

The open source platform continues to enjoy exponential growth around the globe and that pet project, that was once developed solely by volunteers and used primarily in university basements and on fanboy PCs, is now massive in scale and scope.

To Linus Torvalds, to every developer that helps to make Linux happen, to everyone who believed in the early days, and to every enterprise that saw the value in the open source platform: may you continue to power both the world and freedom.

Also see

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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