A Short History of Linux

Linux was developed by Linus Torvalds in 1991 as a personal project. His goal was to create a new free operating system kernel.

Let’s take a trip back in time though.

The Origins

In 1970 the first version of the Unix Operating System (OS) was released. The Unix OS was developed by Kenneth Thompson and Dennis Ritchie while at AT&T Bell Labs. A couple of years later they created the C programming language which made it possible to extended the functionality of the Unix OS. The C programming language continued to grow in popularity even though AT&T owned the Unix copyrights. If you were a programmer in the 70s chances are you would’ve been a C programmer.

Fast forward to 1990, the GNU project started by Richard Stallman was close to creating a Unix-like OS but it still wasn’t quite there yet. The popular GPL (GNU General Public License) was developed as part of the GNU project.

Intel’s 386 Personal Computers (PCs) became very popular in the late 80s but at the same time it was becoming more and more expensive for private users to run Unix on these computers. This is exactly the gap Linus Torvalds filled with his new free Linux.

Tux. The Linux Mascot

How Linux Got Its Name

Linux is based on MINIX which was developed by Andrew Tanenbaum mainly for academic use. Linus Torvalds considers his work on developing Linux as a hobby and he was 21 years old when he first announced it to the world. Linux was originally called “Freax” but somewhere along the lines Linus reluctantly consented to the name Linux after the FTP admin named a folder “linux” for Linus to upload his files to the server. It has been called Linux ever since.

Linux Distributions

Linux is actually a kernel, the core of the operating system which has complete control over everything in the system. The collection of other programs, tools and utilities make up an operating system. A Linux distribution or simply disto is a collection of software that includes the Linux kernel and package management system for handling the required programs, tools and utilities. It is for this reason that package managers are so closely related to the Linux distro it comes along with. Examples of popular Linux distros and their package managers are as follows:

Commercially Backed Distros (Company)

Linux DistroCompanyPackage Manager
Fedora LinuxRed Hatrpm
UbuntuCanonical Ltd.apt

Community Backed Distros

Linux DistroPackage Manager
Arch Linuxpacman


Linux started out as a small project but over the years it has grown to take over the Internet. A large number, around 90%, of web servers use Linux as their operating system. All the major cloud providers offer Linux as an operating system. When it comes software development, Linux is a great choice as a development operating system.

The next lesson in this course is Introduction To the Linux Terminal (CLI).

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