One of the world's most important programmers works from home in his bathrobe in complete silence

Linus TorvaldsLinux FoundationLinus Torvalds

Linus Torvalds, the founder and maintainer of the incredibly popular free Linux operating system, spends his days working from home in a bathrobe in complete silence.

Torvalds revealed his work process on stage at this week’s TED conference, the BBC reports.

It’s a deceptively unassuming look for Torvalds, the man behind Linux. While not as well-known as Windows or Mac OSX, Linux is an operating system that powers the servers running the Internet. It also underlies just about every banking and market trading system and serves as the core of Google Android.

Linux is an open source operating system, meaning anyone can use it for free and customise it to their own needs. And more than 12,000 developers from more than 1,200 companies have not only done that, but have seen their work added back to the main Linux project (the “kernel” in geek-speak), according to a recent report from the Linux Foundation.

It’s a real badge of honour for a developer to contribute to the Linux kernel.

To do that, however, they have got to go through Torvalds. He has the ultimate say over what code gets added to the Linux kernel and what doesn’t. And he manages the whole thing from home.

As his casual bathrobe look might suggest, Torvalds is not one to put on airs — in that same TED talk, Torvalds says “I am not a visionary. I’m an engineer. I’m happy with the people who are wandering around looking at the stars but I am looking at the ground and I want to fix the pothole before I fall in.”

Linus Torvalds deskPlay GIFYouTube/Linux FoundationLinus Torvalds at his home office’s standing desk.

But Torvalds is also notoriously demanding (and foul-mouthed) when it comes to contributions to Linux.

In January 2015, he infamously remarked “I’m not a nice person, and I don’t care about you. I care about the technology and the kernel — that’s what’s important to me.” In his TED talk, Torvalds confirms “I am not a people person.”

That abrasive style of management, and his lack of any sense of decorum, has turned away many would-be contributors to Linux over the years. Yet, Linux remains an incredibly critical piece of software to the entire world.

Even Microsoft, which once hated Linux with the burning passion of a million exploding suns, has gotten in on the Linux love-fest with its Azure cloud platform. Great things come from humble beginnings, it seems.

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