The story of Linux

Linux is quite possibly the most important free software achievement since the original Space War, or, more recently, Emacs. It has developed into an operating system for business, education, and personal productivity. Linux is no longer only for UNIX wizards who sit for hours in front of a glowing console (although we assure you that many users fall into this category). Linux as a single refers to the Kernel part of the OS, GNU wrappers Linux with its all Utility Programs. Hence if it the Operating System it should be GNU Linux.

So this is the story of Linux,

  • In 1964  MIT along with General Electric and Bell Labs initiated a project for building time-sharing(multi tasking) Operating System known as Multics (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service). 
    The PDP-7
  • Bell Labs ended its participation of Multics in 1969 due to failure of Multics to deliver promptly any sort of usable system.
  • Former Multics group at Bell Labs(K. Thompson, Dennis M. Ritchie,  M. D. McIlroy, J. F. Ossanna) wanted to continue system programming
  • Ken Thompson developed the game of “Space-Travel” for Multics
  • Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie rewrote Space-Travel for the  little-used PDP-7

  • Gradually they worked on it and developed an Operating System and named “Unics” as opposed to “Multics”(Eventually, Unics supported multiple simultaneous users, and it was renamed Unix).
  • In 1972, Unix was rewritten in the C programming language(Earlier it was assembly language)
  • For the first time in 1970, the Unix operating system was officially named and ran on the PDP-11/20
Ken (seated) and Dennis (standing) at a PDP-11 in 1972.

  • AT&T (the parent organization of Bell Labs) had been forbidden from entering the computer business
  • AT&T gave away UNIX to Universities charging only for media
  • Kernighan took UNIX to his University at Berkeley and released BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) version of UNIX
  • In 1984, AT&T was divested, and was allowed to sell UNIX
  • AT&T developed more versions and until they releases a commercial version, then UNIX became commercial, source code restricted
Richard Matthew Stallman(RMS) 
  • Richard Matthew Stallman(RMS) saw the potential of software vendors who can control the world in future, and left MIT AI Labs to found the GNU (GNU's Not UNIX) Project under Free Software Foundation(
  • The goal of the GNU was to create a free UNIX like operating system
  • By 1990, the GNU system was almost GNU complete but “GNU Herd”, the kernel of the GNU system was not ready
  • Linux Kernel was coded by a Finnish programmer called Linus Benedict Torvalds in 1991, when he was just 21.
  • Linus wanted to write something like minix. minix was a UNIX-like tiny, free OS extensively used for academic purposes.In his words "I wanted to write a better Minix than Minix"
  • Many GNU contributors took Linux kernel and GNU software packages wrapped them and used as a single Operating System.
Linus Torvalds
GNU & Linux

What is Linux,

  • Linux is a free Unix-type operating system originally created by Linus Torvalds with the assistance of developers around the world.
  • Linux is an independent POSIX implementation and includes true multitasking, virtual memory, shared libraries, demand loading, proper
  • memory management, TCP/IP networking, and other features consistent with Unix-type systems.
  • The source code for Linux is freely available to everyone.
  • ‘Linux' refers to the kernel part of the OS.(
  • The kernel will run on many platforms: PDP/11, Alpha, Cray,x86, PowerPC, PDAs and many more...


Rasika Perera

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