Linux turned 32 years old this year, marking an eventful journey since its official release in September 1991. Its inception and immense success would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of Linus Torvalds who is popularly regarded as the Father of Linux and a crusader of open-source software, alongside a vibrant community of developers from around the world.
It all began as a personal project by Linus Torvalds, who was then a Finnish Computer Science student at the University of Helsinki. His goal was to create a free operating kernel similar to MINIX, a UNIX-like operating system.
He didn’t intend it to be big or gain recognition, but as fate would have it, what was once a hobby project grew spectacularly over time to become one of the most widely used operating systems in server environments and on the cloud.
Torvalds meets Steve Jobs
At around 2000, Torvalds was offered a great salary and a remarkable position at Apple by Steve Jobs. Steve insisted that he stopped working on the Linux project, something Linus Torvalds outrightly refused to do. Instead, Linus stuck to Linux and continued working with other open-source technologies.
As a matter of fact, Linus Torvalds built Git with the collaboration of other developers in the Linux community and officially released it in 2005. The creation of Git was inspired by a lack of a free version control tool that would meet the requirements for the development of the Linux kernel.
Why did Linus Torvalds Decline the Proposal?
There are a couple of reasons why Linus Torvalds turned down Steve Job‘s offer. First, Steve Jobs didn’t care much about Linux. In an interview with Wired, he stated “He wanted me to work at Apple doing non-Linux things”. Essentially, Steve Jobs was working on replacing the Mach Kernel – the kernel MacOS was running on – with a new one.
There were two options as the base kernels- Linux and FreeBSD. Steve offered Linus Torvalds a job to work on a new kernel based on the Linux kernel, but he declined because he didn’t want to work on a closed-source system, regardless of the paycheck. This left Steve with no option but to turn to FreeBSD as the only alternative, and so he hired many programmers to work on it.
What If Torvalds Would Have Accepted the Proposal?
Linus Torvalds wanted to continue working on open-source projects that would be accessible to the community without license restrictions. The two gentlemen’s ideologies were, obviously, at loggerheads and this led them to chart different paths.
Declining the job offer to work for Apple is probably the decision that Linus could have ever made. True, it can be argued that Linux would still have carried on without him.
What’s not in doubt is that the open-source community would have lost such a talented and inspirational talent whose full potential would not have been realized. There is a high probability that we wouldn’t be where we are now without his remarkable efforts and contributions.
Linus Torvalds Today
In a keynote interview with Dirk Hohndel, the Vice President and Chief Open Source Office of VMware, Linus Torvalds explained that he’s not a programmer anymore, save for reading emails and occasionally writing code.
However, he’s actively involved in overseeing every line of code added to the Linux kernel and guiding developers accordingly. This includes approving or rejecting their code when he feels it’s not sound.
Linus is known for his outbursts, blunt feedback to engineers, and sometimes using expletives in his mailing lists. In an interview with BBC in September 2018, he acknowledged his behavioral shortcomings and explained that he’s seeking professional help to become more polite and empathetic with fellow developers.
He however asserted the fact that he’s not a people-pleaser and will continue to speak his mind and provide criticism where needed.
Lesser Known Facts about Linus Torvalds
While many are familiar with his significant contributions to the open-source world, here are some lesser-known facts about Linus Torvalds:
- Linus, is pronounced as “Lee-nus“, not “Lie-nus“.
- Linus is responsible for the creation of Tux, the official Linux mascot.
- He is named after Linus Pauling, a double Nobel Peace Prize winner.
- He grew up in a family of journalists.
- He describes himself as an agnostic.
- He created Git, a popular and widely used Version control system used by millions of developers.
- In 2022, his net worth was estimated to be $50 million with an annual salary of $1.5 million.
Famous Quotes of Linus Torvalds
Here are some of Linus Torvalds‘ famous quotes:
Talk is cheap. Show me the code.
Software is like sex: it’s better when it’s free.
Bad programmers worry about the code. Good programmers worry about data structures and their relationships.
Intelligence is the ability to avoid doing work, yet getting the work done.
Most good programmers do programming not because they expect to get paid or get adulation by the public, but because it is fun to program.
I like to offend people, because I think people who get offended should be offended.
The Linux philosophy is ‘Laugh in the face of danger’. Oops. Wrong One. ‘Do it yourself’. Yes, that’s it.
The Torvalds‘ decision to continue developing Linux as an open-source project has played a pivotal role in shaping the free and open-source software movement.
That’s all for now. I’ll be back with another interesting article that I hope you’ll enjoy reading. Please share your valuable feedback in the comment section below.