Discussions of the High-Tech Revolution: Part B
Case In Point: Linus Torvalds and Linux Software, Getting to the Future First and Winning
Linux is an operating system that was initiated by Linus Torvalds while a student at the University of Helsinki in Finland. Torvalds had an interest developing a UNIX-type computer operating system. He began writing code in 1991 and soon after released version 0.02, the first functional Linux operating system. He worked steadily until 1994 when version 1.0 of the Linux Kernel was released.
Throughout the development, Torvalds posted his source code online and allowed people to download it for free from the Internet. By January 1995 there were some 1.5 million Linux users around the world. The open-source community, which creates free software and cooperatively improves it by passing along code upgrades over the Internet, made Linux simpler to use and getting it to work better in networks with proprietary software. By 2003 hundreds of thousands of programmers had improved upon Torvalds’ original idea and more than 15-18 million machines were operating on Linux.
Linux quickly became popular among academic and government computer users and software developers who wanted to avoid the costs of systems based on proprietary software from companies like Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, and IBM. In the high-performance and supercomputing world, researchers are increasingly using grid technology, linking numerous PCs or servers in a single system, employing the Linux operating system.
In fact Google runs on “Lintel,” essentially Linux software and hundreds of Intel-based PCs. And Linux is quickly becoming the dominant operating system for some new technologies like blade servers–powerful computers in which dozens of Intel circuit cards are racked vertically inside a pizza-box-sized container, replacing several separate servers. In the near future, Linux may become the operating system of choice for embedded devices. More than 40 companies, consortia, and academic institutions have begun to distribute versions of Linux for use in embedded devices.