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ReadersDigest.co.uk: European of the Year - Linus Torvalds

Dec 28, 2000, 14:11 (16 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Fergus Bordewich)

[ Thanks to Roope Anttinen for this link. ]

"In the middle of the night, a scruffy 21-year-old sat in a darkened room at his mother's house in Helsinki, Finland, tapping out a message on his computer keyboard. "Hello everybody out there," he typed, sipping tea and nibbling the dry pasta he habitually ate. "I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional)...I'd like any feedback on things people like/dislike..."

"The young man's name was Linus Torvalds. And what he sent out to the world on that August night in 1991 has transformed the whole landscape of computer use. Torvalds had done something remarkable: he had created the kernel of a new computer operating system--the brains of a computer which controls the hardware and organizes the programs. Not only that, he had then given it away free, a decision akin to the Coca-Cola company publishing the formula for Coke, or MI5 releasing its top-secret files. Virtually anyone with access to the Internet--from Bristol to Berlin to Boston--could simply download the key codes that Torvalds had written and then apply their own skill to perfecting the system to fit their own needs."

"Linux--the only successful computer operating system yet created outside the US--has become an international phenomenon. Top officials at Bill Gates's Microsoft Corporation worry that it is becoming a direct threat to their company's dominant position in the software market. Torvalds himself is lionized by computer aficionados around the world. To them, he is instantly identifiable, like Madonna or Elvis, by just a single name: Linus."

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