Linux was initially developed as a free operating system for personal computers which were based on the Intel x86 architecture. It has been 25 years since then and has infused life into different machines including promoting the free culture among operating systems such as MacOS, Windows, Unix and others.
25 years have passed by since Linus Benedict Torvalds began working on a part-time project as a hobby. Well, it was not a normal hobby like a normal person. He did not take up travel, working time, hacking, learning music or anything typical. He started on an ‘Operating System’.
The story goes back to the year 1991 when Linux came into existence. Linus Torvalds started this project when he was frustrated with the licensing issues of Minix (Unix-based operating system) started to write his own code. Torvalds was attending the University of Helsinki at that time. He stated that if the GNU kernel (a huge code for OSes) had been available in the year 1991 he would not have decided to write his own.
Kernel is the part of the software layer which talks to the physical hardware and acts as a mediator between user input and hardware response. Above the kernel sits the software which we interact with. This software is what a layman would call ‘Operating System’.
Linux got its life from something that was already there at the time. This was the GNU project (not Unix), attempting to rewrite Unix, the predecessor of all the operating systems which was created by the former Dennis Ritchie, Ken Thompson, Brian Kernighan, Douglas McIlroy along with Joe Ossanna.
Unix’s problem was it was owned by AT&T and its availability was restricted to very high end equipment dedicated for industrial use. The operating system was expensive and unsuitable for day-to-day use and AT&T was not interested in bringing Unix to daily usage on cheaper hardware either. This made it impossible for usage on smaller machines by developers or programmers.
This urgent need to have an operating system to perform very basic computing tasks prompted Richard Stallman to start the GNU Project in 1983. Just to provide perspective, Microsoft Windows 1.0 was launched on 20th November, 1985, while the first version of the Classic Mac OS was launched on 24th January, 1984. Keeping this in mind, it was a brave initiative on Richard Stallman’s part that started this race of Operating Systems, fan-boy debates and discussions on which is the greatest operating system of them all.
The absence of a GNU Kernel made Torvalds commence his work on the Linux Kernel in the year 1991, and the rest is history.
Soon after Torvalds released the Kernel, developers were drawn towards it like bess to honey; they started working on the OS, modifying (modding) the code according to their work requirements and (porting) the code of the kernel to work on their respective devices devices.
The developers started their work on the Linux Kernel made by Torvalds and also started distributing their operating systems from the software collection. These applications of the Linux distributions vary massively, ranging from a pocket assistant to supercomputers in the contemporary world. Linux gained its popularity, in general, giving birth to Linux distros like Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu, Red Hat, Oracle Linux, PCLinuxOS, among the latest, ChromeOS.
Over a long time developers and users have been divided over the debate of Windows Vs Linux but the fact that both cater to users with their specific set of needs and both strive to be better with time even after 26 and 25 years is a testament to the entire community of geeks.