Linus Torvalds on 30 Years of Linux, Rust, and the Open-Source Community

The operating system that powers over 90% of the world’s best servers and cloud infrastructures, as well as the Internet, Android smartphones, supercomputers, connected cars and the International Space Station has almost been named “Freax”.

“I think I emailed five people about version 0.0,” said Linus Torvalds (photo, left), the inventor of Linux, who recalled that a colleague changed the name almost immediately . “I am eternally grateful to others for having more taste than me.”

Alternative to MS-DOS

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the birth of Linux. This was the idea of ​​Torvalds, who was a 21-year-old software programmer when he developed the new tool in 1991. Torvalds, who dislikes public speaking and rarely makes appearances, marked the occasion. answering questions from Dirk Hohndel (right), vice president and director of open source at VMware Inc., at the Open Source Summit at the end of September.

Torvalds was a computer science student at the University of Helsinki in 1991. He had purchased an IBM compatible personal computer, but was not happy with the MS-DOS operating system and wanted to use UNIX instead.

The problem was that a UNIX subscription would have cost the student $ 5,000 at the time, so he decided to create a UNIX-like operating system for his computer. Although he was a software engineer, Torvalds had a particular interest in the hardware side of the technology and he professed a deep interest in the 386 microprocessor, introduced by Intel Corp. in 1985.

“People always thank me for Linux, and they haven’t had half of it like me,” Torvalds said at the Open Source Summit session. “I learned a lot about computer architecture and the 386.”

Torvalds has previously claimed that open source was not on his radar early on when he developed Linux. But he was happy with what he had done and invited a number of people to submit comments on his project.

As Linux grew in popularity thousands of people wanted to contribute, so Torvalds found himself managing a larger community and running version control. It was a situation he came to embrace as part of open source ethics.

“I’m very proud of the fact that there are still quite a few people involved in the core who arrived in 1991,” Torvalds said in his conversation with Hohndel. “I think this is a testament to the quality of the community. It’s part of what I always strive for.

Waves of change

Thirty years later, Torvalds still oversees any modification to the Linux kernel, but one of the most recent waves of change is brought about by the rise of Rust as the preferred programming language among many developers.

Last year, a number of Linux kernel developers offered to write new Linux kernel code in Rust. Amazon Web Services Inc. released a new open source Linux distribution called Bottlerocket, designed to run on containers and written in Rust.

Torvalds is a big fan of the C programming language, but admitted during his Summit session that its flaws aren’t always important to the Linux kernel. He previously said he was open to bringing Rust on board and reiterated that position during his conversation with Hohndel.

“Rust was the first language I saw that could be a solution to the other part of the problem… the problem of just writing a driver,” Torvalds said.

Torvalds, who turns 52 in December, has indicated he is okay with continuing to oversee Linux development for the foreseeable future, although he has hinted that his role may have an age limit.

“I have been very happy doing the core for 30 years,” Torvalds said. “Somehow I don’t see myself doing kernel programming at 70.”

While he’s currently happy to run the Linux kernel, Torvalds hasn’t always been so happy with other parts of the tech world. Over the past few years, he has expressed his dissatisfaction with IT security and GitHub’s support for pull requests.

His anger at Nvidia Corp. about his relationship with Linux developers in 2012 resulted in a now infamous photo in which Torvalds expressed his opinion with a certain finger. Asked by Hohndel during his Open Source Summit appearance if he had any regrets, Torvalds recalled the story.

“There’s a certain image of me that some tech news sources like to use,” Torvalds said. “It’s a little regret. But overall, who cares? “

Photo: Open Source Summit

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