The History Of Linux operating system


Linux is the most popular term in the software industry. So, before we dig down to the history of Linux let’s find out…

What Is Linux and How the name came from?

Actually, Linux is a kernel of an operating system. Now you have to understand what is a kernel- it’s the core of the Linux operating system. Basically, the kernel is a computer program that acts as a  bridge between the applications and the hardware. The whole OS is built upon this kernel and it has complete control over everything in the system.

In earlier days every computer had different sets of operating systems, so the execution of those systems is really difficult. Every software was designed for a specific purpose and was unable to operate on other computers. It was extremely costly and normal people neither can afford it nor can understand it.

To overcome this problem, they need a multipurpose and multiuser OS that can execute one or more tasks at a time. Lots of developers are working on building some kind of system which overcomes this issue.

Until the two friends Kenneth Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and others at AT&T Bell Labs began developing a small operating system.

Multics :


In 1965 MIT(Massachusetts Institute of Technology), GE(General Electric Company), and Bell Labs these three large organizations working on a joint project to create a time-sharing OS MULTICS. Multics was an acronym (what isn’t in the computer world) that stood for MULTiplexed Information and Computing System.

Multics was very complex in nature and takes too much time to execute so it’s stopped. After spending lots of money and time in 1969 Bell Labs withdraw the project.

Any innovation whether it succeeds or fails creates some roadmap for the future, The same thing happens with Multics.  Some researchers from bell lab Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Mcilroy continue to develop further with the multipurpose and multiuser features of Multics.

Note: Dennis Ritchie also invents and developed the C language.

How UNICS or UNIX came?


Meanwhile, Ken Thompson developed a video game called Space Travel. But no hardware can run this game. So he decided to run the game in PDP-7 (minicomputer) and started to write his own file system.

Later in 1969 Ken, Dennis Ritchie, and Rudd Canaday create a new operating system for PDP-7 and they called their new operating system UNICS for UNiplexed Information and Computing System.

UNICS was then modified into UNIX and It was simple and elegant, used ‘C’ language instead of assembly language, and its code was recyclable. Working with the part of code called Kernel, makes it possible for developers to create different OS and features.

Also, its source code was open source, which means you can modify and develop your own code.

Later AT& T Bell Labs acquire UNIX and give the financial support. From 1972 to 1978 UNIX was modified and many of the large organizations, Universities started using it.

But later in 1975 onwards AT& T started selling UNIX commercially and in 1982 they released a first commercial version called UNIX system III.

But this move creates chaos in the market and eventually UNIX is divided into two parts. Part1 was…

UNIX system V: system 5

The chargeable version of UNIX released in 1983 is called system V and with future compatibility. AT& T also shares its source code with other Universities for faster development.

But it’s done two things for the company. First, definitely major development happens in terms of new features, and second many university students using UNIX wrote their own code and modify it completely.

These lead to the Second Part2…

The Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD): bsd

From the very early days, students of the University of California at Barkley used UNIX and eventually write new codes which different from BSD UNIX. It creates a drastic change because now anyone doesn’t have to rely on UNIX and AT& T for purchasing licenses.

Then in the 1980s, many companies started developing their own UNIX:-

  • IBM created AIX
  • Sun created SunOS (Solaris)
  • HP created HP- Unix etc.

It created a mess in the market and every company doing the same thing differently. Many legal wars happened those days but the innovation somehow stops In between.

GNU(GNU’s Not Unix):


One person (Richard Stallman) a programmer at Harvard and MIT see the increasing tendency of software companies to copyright their software under terms that prohibited sharing and immediately think of a solution and started the GNU project.

Gnu’s purpose is to develop a wholly free system. Anyone can freely use, modify, distribute it with no legal hassle. His goal was to make an open-source operating system for everyone.

In 1985 under the non-profit free software foundation(FSF) he created the General Public License (GPL) for the GNU software distribution.

Stallman created many useful tools and utilities under the GNU project like Emacs text editor, GCC, Bash shell, and Glibc. Many of the CLI(Command-line Interface) tools are still used very much even today.

A Computer Science Student Create something!!!

linus torvalds

In the year 1991, Linus Torvalds a student at the University of Helsinki Finland purchased I386 hardware and wrote a new POSIX( Portable Operating System Interface) Kernel. It’s based on MINIX (A Unix-like system created for academic use and free from any legal issue released by Andrew S. Tanenbaum ).

It was named Linux version 0.02 and released on Oct 5, 1991, consist of Linux kernel and 3 utilities (bash- a command-line interface,update-a utility to flushing file streams, and GCC- a CPP compiler)

He put that source code online and write an email regarding his findings:

He wrote this program especially for his own PC as he wanted to use Unix 386 Intel computer but couldn’t afford it.

Although it’s in the very primary stage and support for the OS was very less. So he welcomes other developers to use and modify it.

Later Many programmers joined him in developing Linux which resulted in the addition of several features like improved file system, networking support, device drivers, and multiprocessor support.

Name and Mascot Chosen For Linux:

Linus Torvalds initially wanted to call the OS FREAX (free + freak + ’X’ from Unix). He even saved the name of the file as Freax for about a year. But one of the volunteers who work with the OS already uploaded the files to an FTP server named Linux and eventually, Linus agree to keep the name.


In 1996 Torvalds announced Penguin was the Official Mascot of Linux. The story behind his selection was once he was beaten by a baby penguin in an Australian zoo. The mascot name was chosen TUX, as a derivative of Torvalds’ Unix.

Another Important Thing Done by the Inventor! (Copyleft)

Initially, when Torvalds launched the official version of Linux the are no official words on copyright and privacy control.  So some confusion was raised in the market regarding its free usage.

Immediately Linux is copyrighted under the GNU General Public License (GPL). The GNU GPL is actually called a copyleft instead of copyright by most people in the industry because its terms are so significantly different from most commercial licenses.

You can use, modify and even sell the modified version of Linux but you have to provide complete source code and compiler binaries to the company.

The original owner – Linus Torvalds in the case of the Linux kernel – retains copyright to the software no matter who or how much it is modified or added to.

Today where are you Linux?

Now more than 97% of the world’s supercomputers(including top10), more than 85% of smartphones, billion of desktop computers, 70% of all web servers, several applications(DSL modem, DVD, routers, self-driving cars, metro systems, space station computers and so on) run Linux.

Today Linux is used for common tasks such as running office applications, multimedia, graphics, and gaming. It also provides powerful tools for programming and web development. Linux is built to run on desktops, servers, Internet Of Things devices, and mobile devices (Android).

Thousand of developers are paid by hundreds of companies like Red Hat, Samsung, Intel, IBM, Novell, Oracle, Nokia, Google, AMD, Microsoft, and many more for Linux.

Some of the most popular distributions are Ubuntu, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), Debian, Fedora, CentOS, OpenSuSE, Arch, Mint, and Solaris.


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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. A graphic representation of the development of Linux operation system. This is wonderful and as you read through many of the confusion in the computer worlds fall in place. Towering and overshadowing many contributors is Linus Torvalds who harness most of the efforts and create the path that linux is climbing higher and higher. 

    He name the mascot for linux as tux and in form od a penguin. And today Linux bestrides the computer landscape such  that 70% of webservers run on Linux. 

    This is quite an interesting read and has open lots of insight on  computer generally.

    1. Today Linux powers everything from the U.S. Department of Defense to the International Space Station, to most of the world’s Internet servers and supercomputers and the reason is it’s fast, reliable, versatile, and super secure, so it’s resistant to viruses. Thanks for your feedback.

  2.  Hello there, Linux is a growing operating system adding more and more users to its user base each year. It is a fabulous operating system and a great alternative to Windows and Mac. For me if its not Mac it linux because it’s increasing popularity also demands that it keep changing and upgrading with new technology.

    1. Linux is evolving and these days developers are working on creating a more user-friendly version of Linux so that users from other platforms have come here and used it more. Open Source is always better than any commercial product.

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