What Is Linux and What Is Its History 1

What is Linux?


When Linus Torvalds created the Linux, certainly not I knew of the importance that this project would have for the world of computing and the Information Technology (IT). Thanks to his initiative, the Linux is present in hundreds of thousands of servers,personal computers and portable devices around the world. But, how did this happen? By that Torvalds created Linux? By which the reason the project had an acceptance so great? Effectively, what is Linux?

To obtain the answers to these and other related issues, nothing better than knowing the history of Linux. This is what the AbbreviationFinder displays the following.

What is Linux?

For a lot of people, Linux is merely an operating system. This definition is not wrong, but also it is not complete. In fact, the Linux it is part of a whole, more precisely, it is a kernel of the source code* open, which was — and is — developed- to over time thanks to the collaboration volunteer developer of various parts of the world.

* In a nutshell, the source code is a set of instructions based on a language program that, once compiled or interpreted, way a software. Having access to the source code, it is possible to know how a particular program or feature of the software was developed.

What is the kernel?

The Kernel can be understood as the core of the operating system, this is, as the essential part of this. It is up to the kernel to make the as an intermediary between the hardware and the programs run by the computer. This means that the combination of the kernel plus the software that make the computer usable (drivers, protocols communication, etc.), according to their application is that make up the operating system itself.

To understand it better, you can imagine the kernel as being the chassis of a vehicle. According to the application in question, an assembler can purchase a chassis and use it to mount a car to carry loads or, if the the need for this, build a car ride to a family.

Note that the kernel is not, necessarily, a software is it possible to manipulate by the user. That is, this is not something so simple to the point of being able to be installed and soon then be ready for use, as an application of edition of texts, for example. The kernel is a basis the complex, which serves as a structure for the system, acting on the “behind the scenes”. Thus, the user even need to know your existence to be able to use the computer.

So, Linux is a kernel?

Exactly! When looking for a program that has versions to several operating systems — such as the browser Mozilla Firefox —, we are faced with multiple links: one that points to the Windows version, another which directs you to the version of OS X, one for Linux and so forth. Note that, in situations like this, the name Linux is not employed incorrectly. On the other hand, find that Linux is the entire set of software, including applications, graphical interfaces, and others, is a vision quite limited.

But, to better understand what is Linux and what it stands for it is convenient to know its history.

The history of Linux

The history of Linux starts in 1991, by the the hands of a college student in Finnish named Linus Torvalds. Linux was created by him, and not fully from the “zero”, but rather as a variation of Minix.

The Minix is a operating system simple, created by Andrew S. Tanenbaum, a distinguished professor of computing that it is known for several books he wrote for the area.

Tanenbaum released Minix, mainly to serve aid in the teaching of computing. This is a operating system simple, requires few hardware resources and whose first version was released in 1987.

Given its academic purposes, not only the Minix was available for free, and free, as also its full source code. Thus, the students computing could — and can — study it entirely to develop skills or even to create projects derived. So it was that Linus Torvalds got into this story.

The relationship of Linux and Minix — Unix

The Minix also has not been written from “scratch”. It is, in the truth, of a project based on an operating system that has great participation in the history of the computing: the Unix.

The emergence of Unix was made in 1969, as a project of Bell Labs, the laboratory belonging to AT&T. But only in the middle of the the decade following the Unix became a system effectively available in the middle academic, which has enabled its evolution and the the emergence of variations.

The Unix, in fact, began in the mid 1960s as a project to be developed by a group of skilled programmers, between them, Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie: an operating system nameMultics.

The Multics was an ambitious project, but faced several problems, among them, lack of computational resources. Thus, in the the same year, Ken Thompson decided to create something more “realistic”, calling the new project of Unics. Later, the name was changed to Unix, a name that remains until today.

Although there are other developers involved with the creation of Unix, Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie are the names most remembered because they both, in 1973, virtually have rewritten the Unix from the c language.

C is a creation of Dennis Ritchie, hence its commitment with the work involving language and the Unix. Because of their resources, the language started to be used in various other more complex projects, including in the development of other operating systems, making the creator to be recognized worldwide as one of the great names in computing. Dennis Ritchie died eum October 2011).

Unix has had wide acceptance not only in universities, but also in corporate environments, resulting in the emergence of various variations of the system, such as the versions BSD, and Solaris. Minix, as well as Linux, is one of them, that does not mean that both are equal to the Unix, but remarkably similar.

The emergence of Linux

Linus Torvalds, then for almost 20 years, started studying computer science at the University of Helsinki, Finland, in 1988. About two years later, taking advantage of the knowledge that I had and was acquiring about the C language, decided to create your own implementation of a terminal on your newly obtained 80386 computer, mainly to gain access to the Unix server of the the institution of education. This is because he had already tested the Minix for this purpose, but was not satisfied with their resources.

The intention of Torvalds was to do the project run specifically on your machine, the 80386, with the development being done from the Minix. The work has advanced in such a way that there came a point in which Torvalds already had a kernel functional in the hands.

In 1991, Linus Torvalds decided to openly disclose the project. To this, he published messages on the Usenet (a sort of the predecessor of the Internet-based exchange of messages) asking for suggestions and collaborations for the initiative.

Here is the full text of the the first message, in English, posted in 25 August 1991. Soon after, his translation to Portuguese:

From: [email protected] (Linus Benedict Torvalds)
Newsgroups: comp.the.Minix
Subject: What would you like to see most in Minix?
Summary: small poll for my new operating system
Keywords: 386, preferences
Message-ID: <[email protected]>
Date: 25 Aug 91 20:57:08 GMT
Organization: University of Helsinki
Lines: 20

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 ([email protected])

  1. Yes – it’s free of any Minix code, and it has a multi-threaded fs.
    It is NOT protable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never
    will support anything other than AT-harddisks, that’s all I have :-(.

Free translation for Portuguese:

Subject: what would you like to see in Minix?
Summary: Little research for my new operating system

Hello to all who use the Minix –

I’m doing a operating system (free – just as a hobby,
it will not be something big and professional like GNU) for
machines AT 386 (486). He has been working on since April, and
is starting to get ready. I would like to
views on things people like/don’t like in
Minix, as my OS resembles a little of it (same layout)
physical file system (for practical reasons),

I already portei bash (1.08) and gcc (1.40), and things seem to
work. This indicates that I will be able to something practical
within a few months, and I would like to know what features people
would most like to have. All suggestions will be
welcome, but I don’t promise to implement them 🙂

Linus ([email protected])

  1. Yes, it is free of any code from Minix, and
    has file system with multi-threading. It is NOT
    portable (uses 386, switching tasks, etc) and probably
    never will support anything other than disks
    hard AT, because it is all I have :-(.

For this message, it is possible to notice that Linus Torvalds did not expect that his project would grow so much and become so important to the advent of computing and Technology Information.

The beginning of the trajectory of Linux has not been free of problems. One of the obstacles that Torvalds had that experience were the criticisms of professor Andrew S. Tanenbaum, who in his the declarations stated that the “Linux is obsolete”, particularly for the “design a monolithic”.

Tanenbaum was not happy with the fact that Linux have been prepared specifically to run with the 80386 processor, in addition to being expensive (at the time), would your architecture be replaced in the future, which, in fact, not happened.

Linus responded to the criticism and continued his work, with the support of more and more people. With the passing of time, the Linux ended up also being ported to several other platforms, which has certainly contributed to its success.

The name Linux

The project was already a reality, but not had a name. Initially, Torvalds gave the kernel the nameFreax, a mixture of free (free) with freak (monstrous, weird) and the letter ‘x’, to remember the Unix.

The developer Ari Lemmke, after suggesting the Torvalds who put the project in a network to make it more accessible, decided to to create on the FTP server that hostel software a folder name “linux” (most likely, a mixture of Linus with Unix), already who had not enjoyed Freax. The name “Linux” just “picking up” and is, as you see, used until today.


You must have already seen in various places — even here in AbbreviationFinder — the expression GNU/Linux. What does this mean?

As you already know, the Linux, by itself, is a kernel. Alone, a kernel does not have a lot of utility. You need to “join it” to a set of software for that we have, effectively, an operating system in conditions of use. It is there that the project GNU enters the scene.

GNU is the acronym for a name curious: “GNU is Not Unix(GNU Is not Unix)”. This is a project that had beginning in 1984 by the hands of Richard Stallman, that I wanted to create a system compatible with Unix, but without using the code for this.

With the passing of the years, the project has been gaining features, such as compilers and text editors. But, they were missing an element important: a kernel. Stallman and his collaborators were working on a kernel named Hurd, but given the delay in to complete it, many of those who needed or wanted to use GNU software decided to resort to something that they knew to be able to meet the need that had: the Linux.

So, basically, the Linux that we have today is known by working in conjunction with the GNU software. For this reason, many members and supporters of movements linked to free software they defend the idea that, when there is reference to the system operating as a whole, the name GNU/Linux must be used. Happens which, for convenience, or simply lack of knowledge, many people have created the habit of calling the entire set of Linux not just the kernel.

Linux Distributions

You already know that Linux, unlike other Unix-based systems or even this, is not a operating system as a whole. But, being a kernel available for free and open-source, any person or organization can join it to a set of software to create an operating system custom-designed.

Over the last few years, it was precisely this that happened. Various groups or even companies organized themselves and created their own operating system based on Linux. Each one of them receives the name of “Linux distribution” (or “GNU/Linux distribution”).

There are several Linux distributions for there, for the most diverse purposes. Many even are part of profitable business in which the company provides, for example, the operating system for free, but you get the recipe to from support services. Of course, those distributions that are intended for the segment of home users are the most popular.

For the general public, the distribution is more famous currently is the Ubuntu, the company Canonical. By default, new versions are released of the Ubuntu in all of the months of April and October of each year. There is a numbering scheme that helps to identify the release time: the release 15.10 of Ubuntu, by example, was launched in the year 2015, in the month of October. Is possible to know this because the indication of the year appears first (15) and, after the point, comes the indication the number of the month (10).

Versions of the kernel

Periodically, new versions of the Linux kernel are released. Updates are natural for any software and occur to assign improvements to certain features, to correct defects (bugs) and, in the case of systems operating, to add important features to the kernel, mainly compatibility with new hardware.

Typically, each version of the kernel is represented by three distinct numbers separated by dots, for example: 2.6.24. The first number indicates the version of the kernel. The the second number indicates the last revision made to until the moment of that version. The third number, in turn, it indicates a minor revision, as if it were a “revision of the last revision of the kernel. A room number can be used to indicate a important update in that version.

It is valid to highlight that prior to the 2.6 series.x, the numbering of the kernel had to the following scheme: if the the second number representation was odd, it meant that that series was still on development, namely, it was an unstable version and in testing phase or improvements. If the number is pair, it meant that that series already had stability to be made available for use.

The numbering has undergone another change in July 2011, when it was launched the version 3.0 of the Linux kernel. Of versions 1.x to 2.x there have been significant changes in the kernel. However, of the 2.x to the 3.x there was nothing so important as well, so much so that, by scheme, this version should be 2.6.40.

Everything indicates that the change happened as a matter of convenience and “aesthetics”. There are also those who argue that the numbering 3.0 was given as a way to celebrate the anniversary of Linux, which has completed 20 years of existence in 2011.

The license of the Linux

A license is, in a nutshell, a document that explains how certain software can be used. With regard the programs are open source, there are several types of licenses available. Linux uses the GPL(GNU Public License).

Worth mentioning that, initially, Linus Torvalds was applied to the Linux one the license itself, which had restrictions for commercial use. The GPL was only adopted in 1992, the same because the Linux was already used with GNU software.

The GPL is a license created by Free Software Foundation (the organization founded by Richard Stallman) based on the freedoms that the entity advocates:

  • freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom zero);
  • freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1), and access to the the source code is a precondition for this aspect;
  • freedom to distribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2);
  • freedom to improve the program and release your improvements, so that the whole community benefits (freedom three). Again, here the access to the source code it is a pre-requisite.

A software can not use GPL if it does not match all of these requirements.

The GPL appeared in 1989, but was revised in 1991 to meet the certain needs, resulting in the GPLv2 (GPL version two). In 2007 came the GPLv3 (GPL version three).

What Is Linux and What Is Its History 1