NewsForge: 2.4 kernel: Contributor Ts’o’s practical approach to Linux

“Thirty-three year old Theodore Ts’o remembers when the Linux
kernel was small enough to print out and read cover to cover, when
“it was about an inch thick.” That was around 1991, when he first
joined the then scanty ranks of kernel hackers. He was a hobbyist,
working as a lead developer of Kerberos and as an information
technology architect for MIT during the day and working on Linux at
night, until VA Linux hired him, in 1999, to be a principal

“I first saw Linux in September of 1991. Linus had just released
version 0.09. I thought it was a really cool thing. I saw it was
missing a whole lot of features but figured I could add them, so I
started work and made some contributions. The first thing I ever
added was called POSIX job control. That’s something that allows
you to run a program in the background by putting an ampersand at
the end of a command line. Previous to that it couldn’t actually do
that. I had the POSIX specification, which is sort of the industry
standards for how Unix was supposed to be done, and the job control
specification was an optional part of the spec that Linux didn’t
actually support at that point. So I just sort of sat down and
looked at the specification and said, ‘yeah, I can do that,’ and
just started coding. It was probably two weekends worth of work,
more or less….”

“The most interesting thing about that period is that Linux
really is a child of the Internet. Back in 1990, that was when the
Internet really became reliable enough that it was easy to use it
as a means for collaboration. Previous to that you had projects
such as the X Consortium and the original BSD work but that had a
very physical focus of activity. The X Consortium was located at
MIT and the BSD work was based at UC Berkeley. There were a few
people that contributed things over the network but primarily most
of the development happened in one central place for each
subsystem. The Internet back then was much slower and much less


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