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Linux.com: A Brief History of Computer Hackerism (Excerpt Part Two): The Academy and the Monastery

Mar 07, 2001, 23:52 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Pekka Himanen)

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"The development of the Net is an excellent concrete example of the hacker ethic in action, but the Linux project, which has arguably taken the ideal of openness the furthest so far, serves as an even better one. Torvalds started working on Linux in 1991 while he was a student at the University of Helsinki. After developing an interest in the problems of operating systems, Torvalds imported into his home computer the Unix-like Minix operating system, written by Dutch computer-science professor Andrew Tanenbaum. By studying and using it as a developmental framework, he proceeded to design his own operating system. An essential feature of Torvalds's work was that he involved others in his project from the very beginning. On August 25, 1991, he posted a message on the Net with the subject line "What would you like to see most in minix?" in which he announced that he was "doing a (free) operating system." He received several ideas in reply and even some promises for help in testing the program. The operating system's first version was released on the Net as source code free to all in September 1991."

"The next, improved version was available as soon as early October. Torvalds then extended an even more direct invitation to hackers to join him in the development of the new system. In a message sent to the Net, he asked for tips about information sources. He got them, and development advanced quickly. Within a month, other programmers had joined in. Since then, the Linux network has grown at an amazing creative pace. Thousands of programmers have participated in Linux's development, and their numbers are growing steadily. There are millions of users, and their number, too, is growing. Anyone can participate in its development, and anyone is welcome to use it freely."

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