Happy 29th anniversary, Linux, and a heartfelt thank you to Linus Torvalds

Jack Wallen, who has been using Linux for more than 20 years, has a special message for the creator of Linux on the 29th anniversary of its humble beginnings.

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Image: Jack Wallen

Remember this message from Linus Torvalds?

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 (torvalds@kruuna.helsinki.fi)

That was Torvalds' first announcement that he was going to start creating a new operating system. That message, posted in the usenet newsgroup comp.os.minix, came out August 25, 1991--that is 29 years ago. 

A single student, studying computer science at the University of Helsinki, couldn't afford to purchase the Minix operating system for school. So, like any good compsci student, he did what he did best: Create a solution for a problem.

Since then, that's exactly what Linux has been doing--creating solutions.

SEE: Linus Torvalds' greatest hits: A retrospective of the Linux kernel founder's impact on technology (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

However, I don't think Torvalds had any idea that his project would wind up being the darling of businesses across the globe. Or did he? Truth be told, even us early adopters (I started using Linux back in 1997) had an inkling that Linux was something special. 

Like most new Linux users, I'd been working with the Windows operating system (back then it was Windows 95) and had grown tired of the crashes and the inability to get the operating system to do what I wanted it to do. Sure, most people were happy with what Microsoft had to offer, but to those who were of a more curious nature, those inclined to dive down rabbit holes to find out how the sausage is made, Windows was too restrictive and problematic. So when we discovered Linux, it was like a whole new world opened up before our eyes.

We could finally be productive in heretofore unheard of ways and do so exactly how we wanted. We could have an exciting desktop, we could install software without having to deal with associated costs and limitations, we could experience freedom on the desktop. That alone was worth the steep learning curve of those early releases.

In the 20+ years I've been using Linux, I've wished the platform a "happy birthday" almost every year. But this year seems a bit different. Why?

Because I nearly forgot it was the anniversary of Linux. 

How did such a thing happen? I'll tell you how.

Indirectly, Linux is responsible for my livelihood. Had it not been for Linus' creation, I wouldn't have become a tech writer. That happened back in 1999, when I wrote my first article for TechRepublic about Linux. Since then, I cannot imagine how many words I've written about the Linux operating system, but I'm certain it numbers in the millions. 

So one would think there's no way I'd forget such an anniversary. However, let me pose it to you this way.

Linux has become such an integral part of my life, I find it almost blends into the background now. It's so second nature I don't even think about it. Unlike when I'm using macOS or on the very rare occasion that I have to use Windows, I actually have to stop and think. Linux, on the other hand, is almost like an extension of thought and action.

With such constant and steady use for over twenty years, it's very easy to take something for granted. I know my desktop will work. I know my operating system won't crash. I know I'm (relatively) safe from malicious software. I know the software I use will simply work. I know I can be productive without the interruptions that plague users of other platforms. 

I know, I know, I know.

Because of that, Linux just sits there, doing its job day in and day out, almost thanklessly. I don't think about it. I don't have to stop and fix it. I simply don't. Because of this, it's been years since I've taken a pause to say a heartfelt "thank you" to Linus Torvalds, for creating the platform that would enable me (and so many others) to do what I do.

SEE: Linux turns 29: The biggest events in its history so far (ZDNet)

So on this 29th birthday of the Linux platform, I don't feel the need to celebrate the birthday of an operating system. I do, however, feel it necessary to take a moment and appreciate what a young student, at the University of Helsinki, unwittingly did for people like me. Mr. Torvalds, what you've done made it possible for thousands upon thousands of people to have careers. You opened up doors that would have otherwise been walls. You ushered in possibility on a level that might not have existed otherwise. Had it not been for your university project, we wouldn't have the cloud, social networking, containers, IoT, edge computing, Android, AI, the Hadron Collider, smart TVs, the Amazon Kindle, and so many other things. 

Linus Torvalds, you made possible possible. So instead of wishing Linux a happy anniversary, I want to wish you a heartfelt "thank you." The operating system you began working on 29 years ago changed the trajectory of my life and it changed the world. 

The day August 25th should belong to Torvalds.

Bravo. Well done. And huzzah.

Also see

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....