Linus Torvalds who is? Biography

1981 in the suburbs of Helsinki, a blonde eleven-year-old boy with splinters, Linus Torvalds, receives a gift from his grandfather. It's a Commodore Vic-20, an ideal game in the opinion of Professor Torvalds, of the Statistics department at the local university.linus torvalds

FINLAND IS A COUNTRY with cold all year round, if we exclude the coolness of some summer months. Little Linus enjoys the warmth of his room. There, in a library that catches the entire wall, from floor to ceiling, there is his beloved companion: Ivanois, the Forest of the Forest, Tarzan, the Island of the Treasures. Next to them, on a shell, a model of the Wasa, the Swedish sailing boat sank on 1628's maiden voyage.

All those sails, masts, ropes, detailed painting of his hull took months to create. Every detail had to be meticulous in order for Waasa to get the shape it deserved. But all this until the gift of the grandfather…

The sailboat and Tarzan were now illuminated by the bright blue light of the screen and heard the monotonous tapping of the dark brown keys of the Vic-21. Little Linus had to achieve new things. Within a few days he called his little sister, Sarah, and showed her the screen. Commodore kept repeating the phrase "Sara is the best!". A simple two-line go-to program in Basic was his first success and his first pride. This was followed by a video game, written in machine language, in which a submarine sails in a tunnel. His captain had to avoid a huge fish blocking his way. As the game progressed the tunnel became narrower and narrower and the difficulty increased. It took endless hours for Linus to perfect it, save it on a tape and take it proudly to school to play with his friends.

"I was very lucky to start with such a simple computer," Linus Torvalds will once say.

"It gave me the advantage of understanding its parts in depth, which today's children do not have," he adds.

"Today's machines are extremely complex. What child sitting in front of a Pentium could ever understand in depth how it is made ", he wonders and one will hardly disagree with his reflection.


Ten years after his grandfather's gift, Linus Torvalds bought his third computer. A 386 pc was the 1991 ideal for a student at the University of Helsinki.

This machine would begin writing its own operating system. At that time he still lived with his family. The blue light of the screen continuously illuminated his student room until dawn. Linus was constantly working and stubborn. The better he did, his own were unable to understand what he was doing.

For them, working on Linux, which was accompanied by hours of online discussions and searches, simply meant…

"How could anyone call us on the phone," says Sara Torvalds. Even today, the little sister and the rest of the family are unable to comprehend the glory that came to the blond child with the missing teeth.

Characteristic are Sarah's words:

"It is still tragically difficult for me to realize that for the rest of the world Linus is not just Linus but a real genius."

Sarah's brother, however, did not seek this characterization nor did he chase any significant distinction when 1991 began his effort. He was just in love. The object of his craving was called Unix, and Linus Torvalds wanted to be able to run his home at his 386.


The operating system created by Dennis Picci and Kenneth Thompson in Bell Labs in the 60s was for exactly the same reasons as Linus Torvalds.

"Our intention was to create a pleasant computing environment for ourselves and our hope was that others would like it as well," Pitsi said in his speech at the Taring Award.

Linus Torvalds' words about his own functional, years later, look so much like those of his father, Unix:

"I probably happened in the amazing case completely by accident," he admits.

"I wanted a different operating system and a lot of people still want the same thing," says Linus Torvalds. In 1991 the computer science student taught Unix and had access to workstations running Unix, or rather a lighter version of it, Minix.

He was really fascinated by the system and its capabilities and when he got home he fell into the "disappointment" of MS-DOS. But running a $ 5.000 system like Unix, which was set up for a $ 10.000 workstation, was almost impossible. In 1991 Unix could not run on a PC. But Linus Torvalds did not know what to say.

He began to make his own version of Minix for his 386. He was also looking for help in a newsgroup for Minix.

"Hello residents of the network country! I am working on a project and I am interested in the established definition of posix. Can anyone direct me to an address that contains its latest rules? ”

This was the first message left 3 in July at 1991 at newsgroup comp.os.minix, as was his address at that time.

He had already written some initial code and the first results were encouraging. After just two months of hard work he had reached 0.1.

He was ready for another historic message:

"Hello to those out there who use Minix. I am building a (free) operating system. It is just a hobby, it will not be something big and professional. Works on 386 AT compatible. I have been creating it since April and it is slowly starting to take shape. I would appreciate any feedback on what you all like and do not like about Minix, as my operating system looks a bit… Any suggestion is welcome.

PS: Yes, it does not contain any Minix code. It probably does not support anything other than AT hard drives. ”


Linus Torvalds Linus Torvalds Linus Torvalds Linus Torvalds Linus Torvalds

At that time the Linus Torvalds had created the kernel, the heart of the operating system that runs directly on the processor. He had called it "Freax", a pun with the words free and Unix, referring to the "hacker" freaking. But the ftp site administrator did not like the connection to the hacking, so Linus Torvalds christened the Linux website using his name.

"I did not want to use that name, because yes, I felt it was a bit selfish," he recalls. "

However, the name stuck and today I am rather happy that "Freax" did not prevail.


In October 1991, Linus Torvalds released version 0.2, the first operating system. He invited the developers working on Unix to "download" his software and use it on their PCs.

"Do you miss the beautiful days of Minix 1.1, when men were men writing their own drivers for their devices?" challenged the newsgroup subscribers Linus.

"Do you miss a beautiful project and are you dying to get your hands dirty with an operating system that you can configure for your needs?", He continued.

"Come and get it, if you are a man enough!", He concluded in his message. Of course, in order to protect the commercial exploitation of its operating system by any expert, it hastened to secure it with a general public license of the free software institute.

Then came the version 0.95, indicating that soon there will be the first official. Olinus, however, had learned to be patient and persistent since assembling the Wassa sailboat. The bugs had to be removed and the software "cleaned". Months passed and version 1.0 was delayed. Instead, a 0.99 version came to increase the anxiety. But now Linus Torvalds was not alone.

It had the largest programming company in the world, as it relied on the entire global village. The beauty of Linux was that it could do what Unix did, but it did it on cheap machines. But the most important thing was that whoever wanted could download the first 50.000 lines of code and correct them, test them, enrich them, move them forward…


H first surprise for 22 then Finnish came when it received the first messages from users who ran the Linux on their computer. "O It was a source code that excited people, "says Linus Torvalds.

"Those who used it were the ones who wanted to play with it," he continues. Within a few weeks, Linus Torvalds had amassed over 100 e-mails by users of its operating system.

"Post I stopped being surprised by that! ” will say.

AWhat happened next is really impressive and is a definition of virtual world co-operation: Linus Torvalds distributed it kernel and its source code Linux, while developers from around the world were working on it.

Soon, the creator of the operating system began to receive "patch”With corrections and suggestions from all over the world. Developers exchanged lines of code, they said bugs, and malfunctions and brought it kernel on various computing platforms beyond 386.

In a short time, the Linux became the functional one he could run into PC, Mac, Female friend, Sun, Silicon Graphics and whatever else existed.

O space of education immediately embraced the new functional. Tuniversities have begun to run and teach Linux. They supported this server and very quickly companies started to imitate the phenomenon. H stability and the potential offered by it Linux, coupled with its versatility and versatility, have led to the selection of those known from around the world. Tthe operating system began to acquire an installed base and dozens of companies began to think about their possible involvement. They were released the first commercial distributions, with present and free source code. In essence, companies have the right to sell only packaging and support.

Kbut his success is so great that the Red Hat, a major distribution, is today one of the biggest expectations Wall Street, after its first hours of listing on the stock market rose 300%.


As was normal after such a success, Linus Torvalds left behind Finland's cold nights, lakes and forests, picked up his Wasa, his books and other favorite items, and carefully placed them in black boxes.

He waited until his wife, Touve, gave birth to their daughter, took them together and left for the sun in California. When some say that he was crazy who did not try to give birth to his daughter in the United States Linus Torvalds responds disarmingly:

"It simply came to our notice then. "Medicine in Finland is so much better."

The $ 20.000 salary at Transmeta, in the Santa Clara area, however, was a major incentive to leave Helsinki. After all, from Silicon Valley, you can probably "manage" a movement better, because that's what Linux looks like. His current home is very similar to the one in Helsinki, at least internally Scandinavian class, large libraries with Tarzan of the time science fiction.

In the office of Linus Torvalds, next to the daughter's room, a DEC Alpha. On it a hacker sticker that paraphrases the Intel advertisement: "Linux Inside". Although he rarely plays games anymore, where and when he has fun with the famous XBill.

This is a game where the player must stop a caricature of Bill Gates from filling the machines with Windows. If the player loses, the machines that Bill has managed are turned into toasters… "Your computer is done!" closes the game.

Microsoft has begun to be concerned about the excellent spread of Linux, studying its defense against a free operating system. Some internal reports that came out publicly protested. The main issue is that Linus Torvalds has at his disposal the largest programming team that no Microsoft can pay. His decision to distribute his system free of charge shields him from any competition. Above all, however, it keeps it clean.

"Yes, I had some suggestions that could corrupt me, but if I wanted to, I could do nothing!"

So he enjoys the appreciation and respect of the Linux community that accepts him as a spiritual and natural leader.


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At a conference for Unix users recently held at Anaheim, the opening speech was by James Gosling, father of Java. When it was time for Linus Torvalds to talk and he went up to the microphone, the conference just stopped and moved to an open space to fit the crowd.

"It is very pleasant under certain circumstances to accept the appreciation of the people," he admits.

"Fortunately, in my daily life, young girls do not come to throw their underwear at me or make such hysteria. I think my wife would be very upset if it started to happen "he concludes.

Linus Torvalds really keeps a low-profile profile.

He often explains how small his invention is compared to what all other developers have done for Linux. "I'm a good programmer," he admits, "but it's absolutely crazy to claim that you can be the best in the world at something."

(from Ram, issue 165)

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