LINUS TORVALDS – The Man behind Linux and Git

“Talk is cheap. Show me the code.”

– Linus Torvalds

Have you ever wondered how different our lives would be if there was no technology, no internet? Unimaginable, right?

Oh No Internet GIF by Loof and Timmy

Well, let me tell you about Linus Torvalds, who gifted us all with one of the greatest inventions in the technology, the Linux KernelWithout Linux, there would be no android, no macOS and not even Google!

Linus Benedict Torvalds is a Finnish-American software engineer who is the creator and the developer of the Linux kernel. It is the kernel for GNU/Linux operating systems and other operating systems such as Android and Chrome OS Hence, he is known as the “benevolent dictator” of Linux. He also created the distributed version control system Git and the scuba dive logging and planning software Subsurface.

Linus Torvalds
Linus Torvalds

If you ask any programmer to come up with a coder’s starter kit, there would be two things in it — The Linux operating system and Git. It’s safe to say there are billions of devices functioning in the world right now, thanks to Linux.

Early Life

Torvalds was born in Helsinki, Finland, on 28 December 1969. Torvalds attended the University of Helsinki, graduating with a master’s degree in computer science. His academic career was interrupted after his first year of study when he joined the Finnish Army Uusimaa brigade, in the summer of 1989, selecting the 11-month officer training program because of the mandatory military service of Finland. He resumed his university studies and was exposed to UNIX for the first time in 1990. His MSc thesis was titled Linux: A Portable Operating System.

How was Linux Created?

Nowadays, we tend to think of older generations as incompatible with technology. But it was Linus’ grandfather that sparked his interest in computers. Around the age of ten in 1981, Linus started to venture into the world of computers playing around on his grandfather’s Commodore VIC-20. Linus had purchased his very first PC by the time he turned 21.

Torvalds wasn’t satisfied with the MS-DOS his PC came with. He preferred the UNIX operating system he had used on the university’s computers.

Frustrated with having all of the pieces but not the right way to put them together, he decided to create his own PC-based version of UNIX. Months of determined programming work yielded the beginnings of an operating system known as Linux.

In 1991 he posted a message on the Internet to alert other PC users to his new system, made the software available for free downloading and released the source code. Torvalds was helped by many programmers to retool and refine the software as they had access to the source code and by 1994 Linux kernel version 1.0 was released.

But what makes Torvalds a legend isn’t just what he did- it’s how he did it.


Linux is the largest and most pervasive open source software project in history. It has seen massive acceptance in almost every sector, including financial services, government, education, and even film production.

Linux now administers as a collaborative, open-source project. Today, the Linux kernel is famous, running the enormous computers of Google, PayPal, Amazon, and eBay and the two billion mobile phones using the Android operating system.

Interactive map of Linux kernel
Interactive map of Linux kernel

Linux is also the operating system of choice to support cutting-edge technologies such as the Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, and Big Data. More than 75% of cloud-enabled enterprises use Linux as their primary cloud platform.

  • Linux is the operating system for over 95% of the top one million domains.
  • All of the top 500 supercomputers in the world run on Linux.
  • Most of the global markets run on Linux, including the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, the London Exchange, and the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
  • The majority of consumer electronics devices use Linux for its small footprint.
  • Looking deeper, Linux’s importance to the Web is even more extreme. 96.3 percent of the top 1 million web servers are running Linux.
  • Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube all run on Linux.
Tux - The Linux Penguin Official Open Source Mascot.
Tux – The Linux Penguin Official Open Source Mascot

The Linux Foundation

The Linux Foundation, the home of Linus Torvalds and lead maintainer Greg Kroah-Hartman, provides a neutral home where Linux kernel development can be protected and accelerated for years to come. It is dedicated to building sustainable ecosystems around open source projects to accelerate technology development and industry adoption. Founded in 2000, the Linux Foundation provides unparalleled support for open source communities through financial and intellectual resources, infrastructure, services, events, and training. Working together, the Linux Foundation and its projects form the most ambitious and successful investment in the creation of shared technology.

The Linux Foundation

It has taken its experience and expertise supporting the Linux community to help establish, build, and sustain some of the most critical open source technologies. Its work today extends far beyond Linux, fostering innovation in every layer of the software stack. The Linux Foundation hosts projects spanning enterprise IT, embedded systems, consumer electronics, cloud, networking and more.

A world without Linux

“A world without Linux is hard to imagine. It would mean a world without the Internet.”

The Internet we use today really couldn’t exist without Linux.
Why Linux instead of another operating system? Because only Linux combines standardization, high stability, security, and low cost. Ironically, for all the chatter about how hard Linux is, it was the perfect operating system to take the Internet from engineers to everyone.

Linux doesn’t even require an antivirus! The core reason is that very little Linux malware exists in the wild whereas malware for Windows is extremely common.

We actually stand around the antivirus displays with the Mac users just waiting for someone to ask.

To put it another way: Every Facebook post you make, every YouTube video you watch, every Google search you run, is done on Linux.

The Linux philosophy is ‘Laugh in the face of danger’. Oops. Wrong One. ‘Do it yourself’. Yes, that’s it.

-Linus Torvalds


Git is a distributed version control system for tracking changes in source code during software development. It allows developers to control versions and distribute beta and stable versions to end-users. It keeps strict control of code changes, keeps a log of changes, and lets developers merge versions of their software. Its goals include speed, data integrity, and support for distributed, non-linear workflows.

Git security: Newline injection bug tricked version control system ...

Linus created Git in 2005 for the development of the Linux kernel, with other kernel developers contributing to its initial development. Every Git directory on every computer is a full-fledged repository with a complete history and full version-tracking abilities, independent of network access or a central server. It is free and open-source software distributed under GNU General Public License Version 2.

Git has completely changed the way software is developed and has revolutionized software development. Nearly all software now includes open source components.

How was Git Created?

As with many great things in life, Git began with a bit of creative destruction and fiery controversy.

Changes to the software were passed around as patches and archived files for most of the lifetime of the Linux kernel maintenance. In 2002, the Linux kernel project began using a proprietary DVCS called BitKeeper. The Linux kernel community faced a daunting challenge: They could no longer use their revision control system BitKeeper and no other Source Control Management met their needs for a distributed system. This prompted Torvalds to develop their own tool.

Linus Torvalds took the challenge into his own hands and disappeared over the weekend to emerge with Git. There was enthusiasm and participation in the further development of git. Ports, extensions and websites popped up all over the place. Within a few years, pretty much everyone used git. Like Linux, it had taken over the world. Today thousands of projects use Git and it has ushered in a new level of social coding among programmers.

An Update is Available for Your Computer – sticky comics

Not that Torvalds takes all (or even most) of the credit for the success of Git. “I maintained Git for six months, no more,” he acknowledged this week at Open Source Summit Europe. “The real credit goes to others. I’ll take credit for the design.” 

“I’m just happy that it made it so easy to start a new project. Project hosting used to be painful, and with Git and GitHub it’s just so trivial to do a random small project. It doesn’t matter what the project is; what matters is that you can do it.”

-Linus Torvalds

Ted Talk with Linus

In an impressively candid moment of self-reflection, Torvalds said the impetus behind Git was to prove to himself that he wasn’t just a one-hit-wonder. “We all have self-doubts,” he suggested. “Linux was ‘just’ a re-implementation of Unix. Git proved I could be more than a one-hit-wonder.” 

In a rare interview with TED Curator Chris Anderson, Torvalds discusses with remarkable openness the personality traits that prompted his unique philosophy of work, engineering and life. “I am not a visionary, I’m an engineer,” Torvalds says. “I’m perfectly happy with all the people who are walking around and just staring at the clouds … but I’m looking at the ground, and I want to fix the pothole that’s right in front of me before I fall in.

"Work Station" of Linus
“Work Station” of Linus

This ted talk was an interview with Linus and he talked about some of his personality traits that most of us might find odd. At his home, Linus has a very minimalist work station, a walking desk with a single monitor. He also mentioned that whenever he has worked on a project it has been on something that was meaningful to him, something that fulfils a need.

Linus Torvalds in The Mind behind Linux - Ted Talk
Linus Torvalds in The Mind behind Linux – Ted Talk

In the Interview, Linus provides an insight into the thinking behind his various achievements and the challenges he faced. Watch the Ted Talk here

Torvalds Today

Torvalds is now working on the Linux kernel full-time for Open Source Development Lab (OSDL), which is based in Beaverton, Oregon. Founded in 2000 and supported by a global consortium of computer companies, including IBM, OSDL describes its mission as “becoming the recognized center of gravity for Linux and the central body dedicated to accelerating the use of Linux for enterprise computing.”

What if Linus Torvalds Would Have Accepted Job Proposal of Steve Jobs?

Torvalds also owns the Linux trademark.

In contrast to many leading advocates of open source software, Torvalds maintains a low profile and attempts to avoid debates that are not closely related to the Linux kernel and he generally avoids commenting on competing software products. In fact, his public stance is so neutral that it has even been criticized by others.

The Linux Contribution and Legacy

Torvalds, through open-source philosophy, undoubtedly helped shape the evolution of programming and set the tone for the collaborative culture around it.

Linus Torvalds receiving 2018 IEEE Masaru Ibuka Consumer Electronics Award
Linus Torvalds receiving 2018 IEEE Masaru Ibuka Consumer Electronics Award

His work and outlook making innovation accessible set the tone to create democratizing cultures around emerging technologies like the Internet. Torvalds proved that the most useful innovations are born of collaboration for overall product improvement versus competition for individual economic gain.

Linus has earned several awards and recognition for his achievements in computer science. Critics have awarded him the Millennium Technology Prize, awards in the Internet Hall of Fame, IEEE Masaru Ibuka Consumer Electronics Award, IEEE Computer Pioneer Award and many more. Time Magazine featured him as the Most Important People of the century. He was also named as one of the Most Influential People in the world.

In 2000, Apple’s founder Steve Jobs invited him to work on Apple’s macOS. Linus refused the lucrative offer and continued to work on the Linux kernel.

“Intelligence is the ability to avoid doing work, yet getting the work done.

-Linus Torvalds

Whether he’s taking credit or not, and whether he could have foreseen how big Git and Linux would be, it’s impressive that two primary pillars of modern computing came from the keyboard of an understated person. People are happy to give him the credit he richly deserves. Everyone will ultimately remember him for Linux and Git. It unlocks the potential for a million other Linux-like projects to grow.

Looking forward, the open-source culture that Torvalds helped drive will also help set the tone for business, research, and development in the future.

That’s what makes Linux so good: you put in something, and that effort multiplies. It’s a positive feedback cycle.

– Linus Torvalds
Tags : gitlinus torvaldslinuxlinux kernelthe linux foundation


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