Linus Torvalds

Linus Benedict Torvalds ( pronunciation (help·info); [ˈliːnɵs ˈtuːrvalds]; born December 28, 1969 in Helsinki, Finland) is a Finnish software engineer best known for having initiated the development of the Linux kernel. He later became the chief architect of the Linux kernel, and now acts as the project's coordinator.

Early years

Linus Torvalds was born in Helsinki, Finland, the son of journalists Anna and Nils Torvalds,[2] and the grandson of poet Ole Torvalds. His family belongs to the Swedish-speaking minority (5.5%) of Finland's population. Torvalds was named after Linus Pauling, the American Nobel Prize-winning chemist, although in the book Rebel Code: Linux and the Open Source Revolution, Torvalds is quoted as saying, "I think I was named equally for Linus the Peanuts cartoon character," noting that this makes him half "Nobel-prize-winning chemist" and half "blanket-carrying cartoon character".[3] Both of his parents were campus radicals at the University of Helsinki in the 1960s.

Torvalds attended the University of Helsinki from 1988 to 1996, graduating with a master's degree in computer science. His M.Sc. thesis was titled Linux: A Portable Operating System. His academic career was interrupted after completing his first year of study when he joined the Finnish Army, selecting the 11-month officer training program, thus fulfilling the mandatory military service of Finland. In the army he held the rank of second lieutenant, with the role of fire controller, calculating positions of guns, targets, and trajectories, finally telling the guns where to shoot.[4] In 1990, he resumed his university studies, and was exposed to UNIX for the first time, in the form of a DEC MicroVAX running ULTRIX.[5] In June 2000, the University of Helsinki issued Torvalds an honorary doctorate.[6]

His interest in computers began with a Commodore VIC-20.[7] After the VIC-20 he purchased a Sinclair QL which he modified extensively, especially its operating system. He programmed an assembly language and a text editor for the QL, as well as a few games.[8] He is known to have written a Pac-Man clone named Cool Man. On January 2, 1991 he purchased an Intel 80386-based IBM PC[9] and spent a month playing the game Prince of Persia before receiving his MINIX copy which in turn enabled him to begin his work on Linux.[3]


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