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Forgotten Roads Remembered

Sep 14, 2007, 22:30 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

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By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

This weekend I am embarking on an unusual road trip.

A friend of mine from 'way back in our middle-school days and I are going to drive from the Indiana-Michigan state line to Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. Even those of you not familiar with northern Indiana and its glacier-induced flatness are probably tensing for a yawn even as you read this.

What makes this trip unusual is that my friend is an avid roadfan--someone who enjoys the history, evolution, and atmosphere of old highways. Between Michigan and the Indiana state capitol is one major highway: US 31. Today, this is a four-lane affair that (despite the umpteen billion stoplights in a city called Kokomo) can get you from Michigan to Indianapolis in just about three hours. But it didn't always used to be that way.

In fact, in my lifetime I can remember when the highway was two-lane for quite a distance through the northern part of the state, darting through small towns that the current highway studiously avoids. Because of my past experience with this older version of the highway, my friend has invited me to explore this particular highway this weekend, seeking out and photographing old alignments and segments that many have simply forgotten.

I mention this exploration of what was because I think it relates to a certain anniversary of Linux that's coming up on Monday, September 17. According to Linus Torvalds, that is the date when the first real 0.01 version of the Linux kernel came out--some 19 days after he posted the now-famous message to the comp.os.minux newsgroup.

While many of us count that August 26 date as the anniversary of Linux, Linus told me last year that one could count September 17 as well, since that was when actual code was released.

Regardless of what date you call the anniversary, it struck me that this is the time of year that Linux enthusiasts of all stripes could pause to reflect on where Linux has been. Jeremy Andrews has been posting some of the very early messages from the Linux Kernel Mailing List on the excellent KernelTrap site lately, and it's been a real pleasure to look back 16 years or so to see where Linux came from.

Who worked on the code back then? What did they create? Has any developers' work been lost, removed from the kernel never to return? Or are the fingerprints of everyone's work still present in today's kernel?

As Linux users, there is a lot of credit to go around, far beyond Linus. We could never thank them all individually: from coders to business executives to software testers to lawyers... the mind boggles.

But as we go careening off into the future, I can take this one moment of the present to send gratitude to the past:

To everyone who's ever worked on Linux, thanks!