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Forgotten Roads Remembered

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!