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

“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

“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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