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In 1991, Linus Benedict Torvalds was a second year student of Computer Science at the University of Helsinki and a self-taught hacker. The 21 year old sandy haired soft-spoken Finn loved to tinker with the power of the computers and the limits to which the system can be pushed. But all that was lacking was an operating system that could meet the demands of the professionals. MINIX was good, but still it was simply an operating system for the students, designed as a teaching tool rather than an industry strength one.

At that time, programmers worldwide were greatly inspired by the GNU project by Richard Stallman, a software movement to provide free and quality software. Revered as a cult hero in the realm of computing, Stallman started his awesome career in the famous Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT, and during the mid and late seventies, created the Emacs editor. In the early eighties, commercial software companies lured away much of the brilliant programmers of the AI lab, and negotiated stringent nondisclosure agreements to protect their secrets. But Stallman had a different vision. His idea was that unlike other products, software should be free from restrictions against copying or modification in order to make better and efficient computer programs. With his famous 1983 manifesto that declared the beginnings of the GNU project, he started a movement to create and distribute softwares that conveyed his philosophy (Incidentally, the name GNU is a recursive acronym which actually stands for 'GNU is Not Unix'). But to achieve this dream of ultimately creating a free operating system, he needed to create the tools first. So, beginning in 1984, Stallman started writing the GNU C Compiler(GCC), an amazing feat for an individual programmer. With his legendary technical wizardry, he alone outclassed entire groups of programmers from commercial software vendors in creating GCC, considered as one of the most efficient and robust compilers ever created.


By 1991, the GNU project created a lot of the tools. The much awaited Gnu C compiler was available by then, but there was still no operating system. Even MINIX had to be licensed.(Later, in April 2000, Tanenbaum released Minix under the BSD License.) Work was going the GNU kernel HURD, but that was not supposed to come out within a few years.

That was too much of a delay for Linus.

In August 25, 1991 the historic post was sent to the MINIX news group by Linus .....

 As it is apparent from the posting, Linus himself didn't believe that his creation was going to be big enough to change computing forever. Linux version 0.01 was released by mid September 1991, and was put on the net. Enthusiasm gathered around this new kid on the block, and codes were downloaded, tested, tweaked, and returned to Linus. 0.02 came on October 5th, along with this famous declaration from Linus:  Linux version 0.03 came in a few weeks. By December came version 0.10. Still Linux was little more than in skeletal form. It had only support for AT hard disks, had no login ( booted directly to bash). version 0.11 was much better with support for multilingual keyboards, floppy disk drivers, support for VGA,EGA, Hercules etc. The version numbers went directly from 0.12 to 0.95 and 0.96 and so on. Soon the code went worldwide via ftp sites at Finland and elsewhere.


Timeline of Linux History



Date Event
January 1984 Richard Stallman quits his job at MIT and starts working on the GNU Project.
Month unknown Free Software Foundation, an organization for creating and promoting free software, is founded by Richard Stallman.
March 1985 The GNU manifesto, a statement by Richard Stallman advocating the cause of free software movement, is published in the March 1985 issue of Dr. Dobb's Journal
August 25 1991 Linus conceives the idea of Linux and announces the project in a Usenet Post
September 1991 Version 0.01 is released on the Net
January 1992 First Linux Newsgroup: alt.os.linux founded in the UseNet
April 1992 Ari Lemmke starts the popular Linux newsgroup comp.os.linux in the UseNet
November 1992 Adam Richter announces the release of the first Linux Distribution from his company: Yggdrasil
June 1993 Slackware, the famous Linux distribution is released by Peter Volkerding
August 1993 Matt Welsh releases Linux Installation and getting started: version 1
March 1994 Linux kernel version 1.0 is released

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