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linux history

Linux – where did it come from?

Linux History

According to popular Linux history sources, Linux was created and developed by a talented student, Linus Torvalds, in 1991 when he was a student at Helsinki University, Finland. In early 1991 he purchased an IBM-compatible personal computer that came with the MS-DOS operating system.

Linus wasn’t satisfied with MS-DOS and wanted to use a UNIX operating system like he was accustomed to at the University.  When he set out to obtain a copy of UNIX for his personal use, he found that the least expensive UNIX he could buy was about $5,000 USD.

Driven by the desire to run a UNIX-like operating system on his personal computer, he set out to create Linux. Since then, the resulting Linux kernel has been marked by constant growth throughout its history.

Linus Torvalds had wanted to call his invention Freax, a combination of “free”, “freak”, and “x” (as an allusion to Unix). During the start of his work on the system, he stored the files under the name “Freax” for about half of a year.

Torvalds had already considered the name “Linux,” but initially dismissed it as too egotistical. Linux first published the Linux kernel under its own licence, which had a restriction on commercial activity.

The Linux Mascot

linux mascot tux

Torvalds announced in 1996 that there would be a mascot for Linux, a penguin. This was due to the fact when they were about to select the mascot, Torvalds mentioned he was bitten by a penguin on a visit to the National Zoo & Aquarium in Canberra, Australia.

The name Tux was suggested by James Hughes as derivative of Torvalds’ UniX, along with being short for tuxedo, a type of suit with a colour similar to that of a penguin.

Linux License

Linux is open source software. This means that anyone can use, copy, study and change the software in any way they chose so long as the source code is openly shared with others. To date, thousands of people have made improvements to Linux. 

With Linux being free and open source software, it has led to the rise of Linux distributions.  In every case, the source code is free, but in some cases, the distribution is not free – the binaries, the compiled code is not free.

For example, you have to pay a license in order to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux. However, Red Hat releases their source code for anyone to download.

What is Linux?

A Linux distribution is the Linux kernel and a collection of software that together, create an operating system. Each distribution has its own goals and areas of focus. Your choice of distribution will depend on what you’re trying to accomplish. 

There are distributions that are commercial. These commercial Linux distributions are backed by corporations and you can buy support from them. There are non-commercial Linux distributions. These are maintained by a community of volunteers.

You have Linux distributions that are designed for server use, others that are designed for desktop use, some that are focussed on research and science. There are others that are focused on multimedia production. There are literally hundreds of Linux distributions.

Why run it?

Linux runs on many hardware platforms from dedicated networking devices to phones to personal computers and even supercomputers. Proprietary UNIX operating systems typically only run on their hardware from their company.

For example, HPUX only runs on HP servers, AIX only runs on IBM servers. Linux can run on HP, IBM and other servers.  Linux was developed on PC hardware using Intel processors. Over time, Linux has been ported to more hardware platforms than any other operating system.

The small footprint of Linux allows it to run on older hardware or on embedded systems. Also, Linux is known for being stable, reliable and secure. This makes it a great source for servers that need to continuously run without downtime.

Linux is typically not as costly as the proprietary UNIX operating systems. Linux is also free in the sense that you can use it for any purpose and you can modify it to fit your needs if you so desire.  There are also many free software applications that run on Linux. Many of these free applications were written with Linux in mind.

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The Author

Michael O.

Michael is the founder, managing director, and CEO of HOSTAFRICA. He studied at Friedrich Schiller University Jena and was inspired by Cape Town's beauty to bring his German expertise to Africa. Before HOSTAFRICA, Michael was the Managing Director of Deutsche Börse Cloud Exchange AG, one of Germany's largest virtual server providers.

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