Linus Torvalds is known primarily as the man behind Linux, the most popular free operating system in the early nineties. This system is used in millions of mobile devices and desktops around the world. Today Torvalds still coordinates the Linux project, and it is he who makes decisions about making changes to the official kernel branch.
Programmer Linus Torvalds was born in 1969 in the Finnish capital Helsinki. His parents' names were Nils and Anna Torvalds, both of whom were journalists by profession. They gave the name Linus to their son in honor of the famous chemist Linus Pauling, the 1954 Nobel Prize winner.
At school, Torvalds was a classic "nerd" - he excelled in the exact sciences, but at the same time he was uncommunicative and modest. Linus began to get involved in programming in 1981, after his grandfather, mathematician Leo Torvalds, showed him his electronic computing machine - the Commodore VIC-20. Linus read the manuals for this computer, and then became addicted to computer magazines and began to write his own small programs (first in BASIC, and later in assembler)
In 1987, seventeen-year-old Torvalds used the accumulated money to replace the outdated VIC-20 with a novelty of those years - the Sinclair QL. This computer ran on an 8MHz Motorola 68008 processor and had 128KB of RAM. Its price was then about 2000 US dollars.
After high school, Linus entered the University of Helsinki for a computer science course. However, in the summer of 1989, studies had to be suspended - Linus was drafted into the army for 11 months (Finland is a country with general conscription). However, in the service, he was mainly engaged in mental work - ballistic calculations.
After the army, Linus continued his studies at the University of Helsinki and became one of the students of the C and Unix course. Soon he read a book by professor from the Netherlands Andrew Tanenbaum "Design and Implementation of Operating Systems". It described, among other things, the Minix training operating system. It was created by Tanenbaum himself for students studying the structure of Unix systems. This book had a strong influence on Linus.
In January 1991, he bought himself a new personal computer - with an Intel 386 processor, 4 MB of RAM and a 40 MB hard drive. The characteristics of this machine made it possible to install a copy of the Minix on it. Gradually, Linus began to improve this OS. First he created his own program for the remote terminal, then he wrote the driver for the floppy drive, the file system, and so on. At a certain point, it became clear to him that the programs he created were in fact a working version of the original OS.
On September 17, 1991, Linus released the source code of his operating system (version 0.01) to the public. There were no public presentations in this case. He only sent messages to several familiar hackers with the address of the server where it was possible to get acquainted with his work. The source code immediately attracted great interest. Hundreds and then thousands of programmers began to study this system (which soon became known as "Linux"), supplementing and improving it.
By the beginning of 1992, Linux already had a number of features that Minix lacked, in particular, the function of swapping to the hard disk when working with heavy utilities. In addition, Linus periodically added features to the new OS that users requested in their emails.
Linus turned down all bounty offers, but appealed to Linux users to send him postcards from where they live. As a result, he began to receive many postcards from all over the world - from Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the USA and so on. That is, from the beginning of its existence, the Linux system was distributed free of charge, and this practice continues to this day.
In 1996, Linux got its own logo - the funny fat penguin Tux became it.In his autobiographical book For Pleasure, published in 2001, Torvalds writes that he chose such a mascot because one of these flightless birds pecked him once while visiting the zoo.
Of the many penguin drawings sent to him from all over the world, Linus chose designer Larry Ewing's version of the mascot. Ewing made a rather cute and unusual penguin - with an orange beak and flippers. Real penguins, of course, have flippers and a beak of a different color - black.
Further biography and awards
In February 1997, Linus joined the American microprocessor firm Transmeta. He worked there until June 2003, after which he left for the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL). This non-profit organization was created with the goal of "accelerating the deployment of Linux in the corporate environment."
In January 2007, OSDL and another non-profit Free Standards Group merged to form The Linux Foundation. Today, more than ten years later, Torvalds is still one of its key figures. At the same time, it is known that he does not work in the office of The Linux Foundation, located in the American city of Beaverton, but from home.
In October 2008, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, USA, awarded Torvalds with the Fellow Awards for his work on Linux.
In 2012, the talented programmer was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame. In addition, this year he became (together with the Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka) the winner of the Finnish Millennium Technology Prize. It was presented to Torvalds personally by the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö.
In April 2014, Torvalds received the Computer Engineering Pioneer award from the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). And in 2018, the same Institute awarded Torvalds with the Ibuki Prize with the wording "For leading the development and distribution of Linux."
In 1993, Linus was an assistant at the University of Helsinki and taught classes here. At that time, the Internet was not yet an ordinary thing, so one day he gave his students the following assignment: everyone had to send him a message from home by e-mail.
Basically, he received regular, meaningless emails. However, one student (her name was Tove) decided on a very original step - in her message she called Linus out on a date. Within a few months they became husband and wife.
Subsequently, Linus and Tove (she, by the way, is a multiple champion of Finland in karate) had three daughters: in 1996 - Patricia Miranda, in 1998 - Daniela Yolanda, in 2000 - Celeste Amanda.
Torvalds lives with his family in the American Portland. He became a US citizen in 2010.