Linus Torvalds

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Linus Torvalds (2014)
Linus Torvalds (2002)

Linus Benedict Torvalds (  [ ˈliːnɵs ˈtuːrvalds ] ; born December 28, 1969 in Helsinki ) is a Finnish - American computer scientist and software developer. Torvalds is the initiator and the driving force in the development of Linux - kernel , whose development he coordinates until today. He is also the inventor of the version control system Git . Please click to listen!Play


Childhood and youth

Linus Benedict Torvalds was born on December 28, 1969 in Helsinki as the first child of Anna and Nils Torvalds . At the time of his birth, his parents were still students at Helsinki University and active in the student movement of the 1960s . A short time later, his mother started working as a translator for the Finnish news agency STT , while his father was doing military service. Today Nils Torvalds is a member of the European Parliament after retiring as a television and radio journalist (as of October 2015). Anna Torvalds works as a graphic designer. The family belongs to the Swedish-speaking minority , the paternal grandfather was the journalist and poet Ole Torvalds , and the maternal statistics professor Leo Waldemar Törnqvist . Sixteen months after the birth of Linus Torvald, his sister Sara was born in 1971. When he was seven years old, his parents divorced. Two years later, his half-brother Leo Torvalds, who was nine years his junior, was born on his father's side. Two more half-brothers were to follow, but only at a time when Torvalds was already a father himself.

Linus Torvalds is named after the chemist Linus Carl Pauling . The surname Torvalds is very rare. According to his own statements, Linus Torvalds is related to all Torvalds worldwide. The reason for this can be found with his paternal grandfather, Ole Torvald Elis Saxberg Karanko. He took his middle name, which means "Thor's kingdom", simply added an "s" to it and made it his family name. Since this name did not exist otherwise, it is not used today by anyone except the direct descendants of Ole Torvald.

Gymnasiet Svenska normallyceum: the school that Torvalds attended

Torvalds grew up in the Helsinki district of Punavuori . He describes himself as an ugly child with too big front teeth, too big nose, no taste in clothes. He had little interest in sports and in his spare time he occupied himself with model building and read horror and science fiction books.

“I was a freak . A nerd . A geek . Practically from an early age. I didn't use duct tape to hold my glasses together, but I might as well have because all the other features were there. Good at math, good at physics, zero social competence . "

- Linus Torvalds

Because of his birthday at the end of the year, he was always the youngest in the class. He attended the Swedish-language Cygnaeus elementary school in Punavuori and later the Swedish general high school in Kruununhaka .

Linus Torvalds first came into contact with computers at the age of eleven, when his grandfather Leo Törnqvist bought a Commodore VC 20 for his mathematical calculations. He had his grandson type in the small BASIC programs that he designed on paper for this purpose. At first he didn't understand what he was actually typing, but soon he began to read computer manuals and try out sample programs such as hello world and simple games. When Leo Törnqvist died in 1983, Torvalds received the computer. Through a computer magazine he finally learned that the possibilities of the computer could be controlled much better by programming in assembly language and direct use of machine code .

Torvalds made his first serious programming experience on a Sinclair QL , including disassembling the QDOS operating system and programming his own floppy controller.

Around 1987, Linus Torvalds bought a new home computer , a Sinclair QL with 128 kilobytes of memory and a 68008 processor, whose then unique ability of preemptive multitasking fascinated him with money that he had received through scholarships, summer jobs and a loan from his father . He installed a Forth system and began developing his own programming tools. In addition, he bought a floppy controller in order not to be dependent on the Sinclair's unreliable microdrives . However, he was not satisfied with the controller's driver and wrote his own. In doing so, he discovered some errors in the Sinclair QDOS operating system , whereupon he took a closer look at its disassembly and thus not only learned to understand the architecture of the operating system, but also uncovered its inadequacies. Some of the programs that Torvalds developed during this time, he also sent for publication in computer magazines, including a game that was not printed because of its programming in assembler.


In 1988 Linus Torvalds successfully completed his high school education with the student exam and began his studies at the University of Helsinki , which he preferred to the more practical Helsinki University of Technology because of its theoretical training . At first he didn't have a major. It was only later that he decided to study computer science with the minor subjects physics and mathematics . While in the first year of study he still provided all the necessary certificates, other things became more important afterwards, which is why he did not take the final examination required for graduation until eight years later in spring 1996.

After his first year of study, Torvalds did his military service by going to the Finnish Army as a reserve lieutenant for eleven months until May 7, 1990, where he was responsible for fire control in his group . Since, according to his own statements, his computer was no longer "up to date", he worked on plans for his next computer until the beginning of the next semester in autumn.

In autumn 1990 the University of Helsinki decided to replace its VAX computer with VMS operating system with a DEC MicroVAX with Ultrix , the Unix system for VAX computers. To prepare for the Unix lectures, Torvalds got the book Operating Systems Design and Implementation by Andrew S. Tanenbaum . In this book Tanenbaum describes the principles of an operating system and, using the Unix clone Minix he developed, its structure and possibilities. Torvalds describes it as the book that changed his life and motivates him to this day.

On January 2, 1991 Linus Torvalds ordered his first PC , a 386 IBM PC , which cost him 18,000 Finnmark (~ € 3,300). However, since he didn't have that much money, he paid a third of the price down and planned to pay the rest in installments over the next three years. In fact, he only had to take care of the payment of the installments until autumn 1992, when Linux users from all over the world donated the outstanding amount. Three days after placing the order, he was allowed to pick up the fully assembled device, which only had a stripped down DOS installed. Torvalds had already ordered Minix, but delivery to Finland took a month.

The beginnings of Linux

After Minix shipped, Torvalds spent a month familiarizing himself with the system. He also got to know many weaknesses of Minix, which Tanenbaum developed primarily for teaching purposes. Torvalds was particularly frustrated with the terminal emulation he needed to log into the university computer and go online. It was winter, a time of the year that, according to Torvalds in Finland, is not suitable for leaving the home. So he decided to write his own hardware-level terminal emulator. This should work with two threads , each supported by a pipe , controlled by task changes .

After a month, Torvalds was so familiar with the basics that he was able to develop an initial test program for task changes. A little later, the terminal emulation was ready for him to connect to the university computer and the Internet. Soon, however, new demands arose on the program. He could read e-mails and discuss them in newsgroups, but the possibility of downloading or uploading files was missing, as the emulator needed drivers for the hard disk and the file system. Since the lectures of the current semester were too little for him, he decided to expand the emulator and first developed a hard disk driver and then a file system driver compatible with Minix. His emulator took on features similar to operating systems.

On July 3, 1991, he posted a request on the Minix newsgroup for a readable version of the POSIX specifications. This posting made some people aware of Torvald's work. Ari Lemmke, who worked as an assistant at the Helsinki University of Technology, contacted Torvalds with an offer to give him space on the university's FTP server for the operating system he was apparently working on so that the public could access it .

Tux , the Linux mascot

On August 25, 1991 Torvalds finally announced in the newsgroup comp.os.minix that he was working on a free operating system. A few days later, on September 17, 1991, the shell for his operating system was also functional, and Torvalds put the kernel, which at that time only had 10,000 lines of source code, online with version number 0.01. Linux got its name from Ari Lemmke, who did not like the name Freax planned by Torvalds and called the FTP folder Linux , a name that Torvalds had previously only used internally for himself.

Torvalds released version 0.02 in early October. In contrast to the first version, about which he had only informed a few acquaintances by e-mail, he also announced this in the newsgroup. Over the next few months, he processed many of the suggestions and requests he received from this announcement.

Initially, the commercial exploitation of Linux was not allowed. But in the fall of 1991 Torvalds went with Lars Wirzenius, the only other Swedish-speaking computer science student at the University of Helsinki, to give Richard Stallman a talk on the GNU project . As the popularity of Linux increased, more and more people were interested in Linux and switched from Minix to Linux, he announced in January 1992 that the project would soon be placed under the GPL . In the same month found between and Andrew Tanenbaum him under the title Linux is obsolete (dt. Linux is obsolete ) a now famous debate about the concept of Torvalds' operating system instead. Tanenbaum's criticism, however, did not detract from the popularity of Linux. The free license ensured that Linux spread faster and faster and was also ported to other platforms. When Linux 1.0 was released on March 14, 1994, Torvalds' university made the main lecture hall of the computer science department available for the presentation, which was also broadcast on Finnish television.

Life apart from Linux

In the fall semester of 1993, Linus Torvalds, who was meanwhile a teaching assistant at the University of Helsinki, took on a Swedish-language course Introduction to Computer Science . One of the fifteen participants in this course was kindergarten teacher and six-time Finnish karate master Tove Monni. One day when Torvalds asked his students to send him an email as a homework assignment, their email contained an invitation to a rendezvous. His mother later wrote:

“Sara (his sister) and I always said that to make Linus happy, you just have to put him in a room with a good computer in it and give him some cooked noodles to eat. One thing I worried about as he got bigger, however, was how on earth would he ever meet nice girls that way? […] He met Tove when he was teaching classes at the university and she made him forget both his cat and his computer for a few days. One saw immediately that, in the end, nature, as is her custom, had won the day. "

- Anna Torvalds (mother)

After just a few months, Torvalds moved in with Tove Monni, and his computer didn't follow suit until two weeks later. According to his own statements, this is still the longest period of his life without a computer, not including his military service. In 1995, Torvalds received an offer from Intel's research laboratory in Portland, Oregon , to do a six-month internship in the United States . Since he had not yet finished his studies and the prospect of the necessary work visa looked rather bad, he decided not to accept the position. He and Tove Monni subsequently talked more and more about moving to the USA.

When it became apparent in the spring of 1996 that Linus Torvalds would soon have finished his studies, Hans Peter Anvin contacted him , who had started the fundraising campaign to pay off Torvalds' computer years earlier. Anvin had been working at Transmeta for some time and was now trying to get Torvalds interested in the young company. Other companies such as Telia Company , Red Hat and Digital responded with job offers, but he finally decided on Transmeta, which is located in "warm" California , and whose task he found most interesting.

In the winter of 1996 wrote Torvalds during a long weekend his master's thesis Linux, a portable operating system (dt. Linux, a portable operating system ). After handing them over to his professor Martti Tienari, he drove Tove to the hospital, where 40 hours later, on December 5, 1996, their first daughter, Patricia Miranda, was born. In the next few weeks, the two planned their move to California. On January 22, 1997, Linus and Tove Torvalds married in a small ceremony with three guests to simplify the paperwork required for the move to California.

"I married the first woman who tore me up electronically."

- Linus Torvalds

He has often shown that Torvalds is not one of those emotionally empathic, more sensitive people, but has now also publicly admitted. In an email to the Linux kernel mailing list, he apologized for his occasional misconduct and showed a great deal of self-critical awareness.

Working life

On February 17, 1997, Torvalds and his wife Tove moved to Santa Clara , where he started working at Transmeta - developing an x86 interpreter for their processors . The company had promised him that it would be allowed to work with Linux during working hours, which he used. Among other things, he had the opportunity to meet Steve Jobs and later also Bill Joy , even if their opinions on open source differed from his.

On April 16, 1998, the Torvalds had a second daughter, Daniela Yolanda. Linux also received a boost when the software company Netscape Communications first published the source code of the Netscape Communicator under a free license in the same year and shortly afterwards Sun and Adaptec announced that they would join Linux International . Finally, IBM announced that it would support the open source web server Apache on its servers. More and more free software was discussed in the press, after which Torvalds in August 1998 as one of the figureheads of this movement on the cover of Forbes magazine , entitled Peace, love and software (dt. Peace, Love and software found again), accompanied by a brief overview of the history of Linux and the article For the love of hacking .

“As pleasant as these developments were, they didn't change my life. We had two lovely children to look after. I spent most of my non-family hours maintaining Linux, both at home and in the office. "

- Linus Torvalds

In 1997, Torvalds had received stock options from the two Linux companies Red Hat and VA Linux thanks to them . When Red Hat successfully went public on October 11, 1999, Torvalds' fortune grew from $ 5,000 to $ 1 million overnight. A few months later, VA Linux had the most successful stock market launch of all time. After the two 180-day lock-up periods had expired , the family had $ 20 million and moved from their semi-detached house to a large, comfortable property. On November 20, 2000, the third daughter, Celeste Amanda, was born.

In June 2003, Linus Torvalds left Transmeta and started working at Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), a non-profit organization promoting Linux in the corporate sector. A year later, the family moved near Portland to live closer to the Beaverton, Oregon- based OSDL. In 2007 OSDL merged with the Free Standards Group to form the Linux Foundation . Torvalds continues to work on the further development of the Linux kernel there.

In September 2018, he announced that he would be stepping back for some time and working on himself because of his repeated outbursts of anger. However, he returned on October 22, 2018 and took over the coordination of the kernel, which he had previously given to Greg Kroah-Hartman .

According to an interview in 2014, Torvalds was using the Linux distribution Fedora with the GNOME desktop and the ext4 file system at that time .

Awards and recognitions

Linus Torvalds received numerous recognitions for his contribution to the development of a free operating system. On November 11, 2000, an asteroid discovered in 1996 was named 9793 Torvalds after him. Another, discovered in 1994, was named 9885 Linux . In 1998 he was invited by Martti Ahtisaari to Itsenäisyyspäivän vastaanotto , the president's ball traditionally held on Finnish Independence Day for politicians, high dignitaries and people worthy of the Republic. The Stockholm University appointed him in 1999 to her by then recent honorary doctorate , a year later, the retired University of Helsinki after. In the summer of 2004, the Finnish broadcaster Yleisradio held an election of the greatest Finns under the name Suuret Suomalaiset . The audience chose Torvalds while at No. 16. And in 2006, the European edition listed him of Time Magazine in the list of "60 Years of Heroes" (dt. 60 years hero ) in the category "rebel leader and" on.

Further recognitions

  • 1999: Person of the Year from PC Magazine
  • 2000: Reader's Digest Europeans of the Year 2000
  • 2008: Induction into the Hall of Fellows of the Computer History Museum
  • 2012: Induction into the Internet Society's Internet Hall of Fame



Web links

Commons : Linus Torvalds  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Linus Torvalds: Re: [RFC PATCH] check_preempt_tick should not compare vruntime with wall time. September 13, 2010, accessed on September 14, 2010 (English): "I need to go do voter registration and socsec update first, though - I became a US citizen last week"
  2. Fergus M. Borde Weighting: Linus Torvalds vuoden eurooppalainen. Valitut Palat, January 2001, archived from the original on September 28, 2007 ; Retrieved March 2, 2009 (Finnish).
  3. ^ A b Marjorie Richardson: Interview: Linus Torvalds. Linux Journal, November 1, 1999, accessed March 2, 2009 .
  4. Nikkanen 2000, p. 23.
  5. Just for Fun , p. 12
  6. Torvalds 2001, p. 14.
  7. Torvalds 2001, p. 59
  8. Torvalds 2001, p. 60
  9. Linus got some money . Linux News, November 6, 1992
  10. gcc 1:40 and a posix-question . comp.os.minix, July 3, 1991
  11. What would you like to see most in minix? comp.os.minix, August 26, 1991
  12. Torvalds 2001, pp. 92, 97
  13. Free minix-like kernel sources for 386-AT . comp.os.minix, October 5, 1991
  14. linux-0.12 is available . ( Memento of October 8, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Linux activists, January 14, 1992
  15. Linux is obsolete . comp.os.minix, January 29, 1992
  16. Just for Fun , p. 78
  17. Just for Fun , p. 132
  18. Linus Torvalds Reflects On How He's Been Hostile To Linux Community Members Over the Years, Issues Apology, and Announces He Will Be Taking Some Time Off , / September 17, 2018, accessed September 17 2018
  19. History of the OSI ( Memento from September 17, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  20. Forbes Magazine , 08/10/1998 - Number 3
  21. ^ Linux: the making of a global hack .
  22. ^ Josh McHugh: For the love of hacking . In: Forbes Magazine , August 10, 1998
  23. Just for Fun , p. 171
  24. Reference for Red Hat . Heise online , August 13, 1999
  25. VA Linux storms the stock exchange . Heise online, December 10, 1999
  26. Torvalds 2001, p. 188 f.
  27. Linux creator Linus Torvalds joins the OSDL. PRNewswire
  28. ^ The genius behind Linux cherishes his anonymity . Seattle Times
  29. Linux inventor takes time out , Spiegel Online, September 17, 2018
  30. ^ Noam Cohen: After Years of Abusive E-mails, the Creator of Linux Steps Aside , The New Yorker , September 19, 2018
  31. Linux kernel 4.19 released. Retrieved January 2, 2019 .
  32. Linux 4.19 []. Retrieved January 2, 2019 .
  33. Thorsten Leemhuis: Linus Torvalds in an interview. Retrieved May 18, 2019 .
  34. Minor Planet Circ. 41570,41571
  35. Linnan juhlat 1998 - Äänestyksen tulos 1998 . ( Memento of March 17, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Yleisradio
  36. Honorary doctorate for Linus Torvalds . Heise online, September 28, 1999
  37. 60 Years of Heroes . ( Memento of March 15, 2009 on the Internet Archive ) Time Magazine
  38. ^ Hans-Joachim Baader: PC Magazine: Linus Torvalds Person of the Year. In: November 17, 1999, accessed June 16, 2015 .
  39. ^ Hans-Joachim Baader: Linus Torvalds Reader's Digest Europeans of the Year. In: December 28, 2000, accessed June 16, 2015 .
  40. ^ Linus Torvalds
  42. ^ Linus Torvalds Receives 1997 Nokia Foundation Award . ( Memento of February 4, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Nokia press release, October 10, 1997 (English)
  43. Torvalds, Stallman, Simons Win 1998 Pioneer Awards . ( Memento of October 7, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  44. Laureate 1999. ( Memento from October 25, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  45. Talking to Torvalds .
  46. Awardees of The Takeda Award 2001. The Takeda Foundation, April 5, 2002 (English)
  47. ^ Hans-Joachim Baader: Linus Torvalds wins Economist Award., September 15, 2004, accessed June 16, 2015 .
  48. Chydenius medal was received by Linus Torvalds - the pioneer in open innovations . ( Memento of February 5, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Chydenius Foundation (English)
  49. Laureates 2012. ( Memento from April 20, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Millennium Prize Foundation, April 19, 2012 (English)
  50. Ben Schwan: Millennium Technology Prize 2012 for Linux and iPS stem cells. In: Heise online . June 13, 2012, Retrieved June 13, 2012 .
  51. Linus Torvalds Named Recipient of the 2014 IEEE Computer Society Computer Pioneer Award ( Memento from May 4, 2014 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on May 2, 2014 (English)
  52. 2018 IEEE Technical Field Award Recipients and Citations ( Memento from January 24, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF, 198 kB); accessed on June 30, 2017.