A Brief History of Linux
By Annalee Newitz
Issue Date: Feb 14 2000
The operating system took 30 years to evolve into what it is today. Here are some key
events that led to its development.
1971 The first edition of the Unix server operating system emerges from Bell Labs.
Although Linux does not include any Unix code, it is a Unix clone, which means it shares
a number of technical features with Unix, which might be considered the forerunner of
the open-source operating system. During the 1970s, Unix code was distributed to people
at various universities and companies, and they created their own Unix varieties, which
ultimately evolved into Sun Microsystems' Solaris, Berkeley 's FreeBSD and Silicon
Graphics ' IRIX.
1985 Richard Stallman publishes his famous "GNU Manifesto"
(www.gnu.org/gnu/manifesto.html), one of the first documents of the open-source
revolution. Stallman began working on the GNU operating system in 1983, largely
because he wanted to create an open-source version of Unix. (GNU stands for "GNU is
Not Unix.") Stallman's Free Software Foundation later created the GNU General Public
License (www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html), the widely adopted, fully legal "anticopyright"
treatise that today allows Linux and other software to remain completely free.
1987 Professor Andrew S. Tanenbaum invents Minix, an open-source operating system
that's a clone of Unix. Young Linus Torvalds, at the time a computer science student in
Finland, is introduced to Minix, and bases his plans for Linux on the Minix example.
1991 In August, Torvalds announces his plans to create a free operating system on the
Minix users newsgroup. He modestly notes in his posting that his OS is "just a hobby. [It]
won't be big and professional like GNU." In October, Linux 0.01 is released on the
Internet under a GNU public license. In the Minix newsgroup, Torvalds asks his fellow
programmers to lend a hand in making the system more workable. He gets enough help to
release version 0.1 by December. Over the next several years, Linux developers swell
into the hundreds of thousands and work to make Linux compatible with GNU programs.
Vendors like Red Hat, Caldera and Debian create popular distributions of Linux that
bundle the operating system with useful programs and a graphical interface.
1997 Torvalds moves to Silicon Valley and goes to work at Transmeta.
1999 In August, Red Hat completes its initial public offering, making it the first Linux-
oriented company to successfully go public. In December, Andover.net, a consortium of
Web site resources largely devoted to Linux, and VA Linux, a manufacturer of Linux
hardware, have wildly successful IPOs. Linuxcare, a leading Linux service provider,
announces alliances with such industry giants as IBM , Dell , Motorola and Informix .