From The Dorm Room To Your Smartphone: The Incredible 20-Year Story of Linux

linus torvalds

Photo: Oregon Live

Whether you use it every day or you’ve never even heard of it, Linux is undeniably important to computing history. It’s been around in one form or another since the early 90s and continues to be a relevant player in the world of computing.This year it turns 20.

It sprang into existence for a college student’s thesis project and has grown into something used in computers around the world and even in your Android smartphone.

It’s one of the greatest open-source success stories we’ve ever known.

Here’s a recap of the “little operating system that could.”

1991: Torvalds in college

22-year old Finnish computer programmer Linus Torvalds became interested in operating systems and released his own, which he called Linux (version 0.01). Opening with the message 'Hello everybody out there,' (a now-iconic phrase among Linux fans), he posted the source code online.

1992: Making Linux free

Linux is licensed under the GPL, a software licence written by Richard Stallman. This decision keeps Linux legally protected but free, and will contribute largely to its coming success.

1993: It starts to catch on

Patrick Volkerding writes and releases Slackware, the first standalone version of Linux. It caught on in a big way - it's still used and maintained today.

1996: A marketing decision is made

Torvalds goes on vacation in the southern hemisphere where he encounters a penguin. While trying to pet it, the penguin bit his hand. This led to Torvalds eventually choose to use a penguin as the Linux logo.

1998: Support from the heavyweights

Tech giants like Oracle and Sun begin to announce official support for versions of Linux. More and more people start to adopt the operating system.

1999: It's financially viable

Red Hat, a North Carolina company that maintains its own Linux distribution for enterprise users, goes public. It achieves the eighth-biggest first-day gain on Wall Street.

2003: An intriguing television ad

IBM airs the following commercial for Linux during the Superbowl:

2005: Smashing into the mainstream

Torvalds appears on the cover of an issue of BusinessWeek. The magazine hails Linux as a business success.

2007: Spreading awareness

The Linux Foundation, a non-profit organisation to foster the growth of the operating system, is founded. It offers training for Linux newbies and networking opportunities for developers.

2010: A major win

Android, the Linux-based operating system for smartphones, outships all other mobile OSes.

2011: Continued success

Linux turns 20. Today it is used in supercomputers, stock exchanges, ATMs, and all around us.

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