Linux: The Unix Revolution

From humble beginnings, Linux is an international powerhouse for computing

Linux logo

 Pixabay / public domain

The first signs of Linux traced back as far as the IBM-AT-compatible PC era around 1991. A young student at the University of Helsinki sought to build a Unix-like operating system for IBM compatible PCs. That student, Linus Torwalds, had been experimenting with Minix, a free Unix OS for PCs, developed by Andrew S. Tanenbaum from Amsterdam. Torvalds wanted to develop a Unix OS for his PC that overcame the limitations of Minix.

The PC architecture for which Torvalds developed his new and improved Unix OS would evolve into the world’s most successful line of computers. This success formed the basis for Linux’s rapidly growing popularity. Linus’ talent and hard work and the support from the open source community did the rest.

Early History of Linux

During the second half of 1991, Torvalds released version 0.02 of what would become known as "Linux" ("Linus' Unix") available to the open source community. By 1994 he was ready to release the first stable Linux Kernel (version 1.0) to the world. Once it was out, it quickly spread, gained power and evolved into a variety of species ("distributions").

One of the reasons of Linux’s popularity stems from the license under which it was released, the GNU General Public License. It ensures that the Linux source code is freely available to everyone, and everyone can contribute to its development. This openness effectively added thousands of programmers to the Linux development team. Despite the concern that many cooks may spoil the soup, it remains a fact that a large number of Linux developers yielded an operating system of unprecedented efficiency and robustness, with countless freely available software packages for both business and pleasure.

Linux Advantages

The charm of modern Linux comes from the robust advantages it offers.

Low Cost

You don’t need to spend time and money to obtain licenses since Linux and much of its software come with the GNU General Public License. You can start to work immediately without worrying that your software may stop working anytime because the free trial version expires. Additionally, there are large repositories from which you can freely download high-quality software for almost any task you can think of.

Stability

Linux doesn’t need to be rebooted periodically to maintain performance levels. It doesn’t freeze up or slow down over time due to memory leaks and such. Continuous up-times of hundreds of days (up to a year or more) are not uncommon.

Performance

Linux provides persistent high performance on workstations and on networks. It can handle unusually large numbers of users simultaneously and can make old computers sufficiently responsive to be useful again.

Network Friendliness

Linux was developed by a group of programmers over the Internet and has therefore strong support for network functionality; client and server systems can be easily set up on any computer running Linux. It can perform tasks such as network backups faster and more reliably than alternative systems.

Flexibility

Linux can be used for high-performance server applications, desktop applications, and embedded systems. You can save disk space by only installing the components needed for a particular use. You can restrict the use of specific computers by installing for example only selected office applications instead of the whole suite.

Compatibility and Choice

It runs all common Unix software packages and can process all common file formats.

The large number of Linux distributions gives you a choice. Each distribution is developed and supported by a different organization. You can pick the one you like best; the core functionalities are the same; most software runs on most distributions.

Fast and Easy Installation

Most Linux distributions come with user-friendly installation and setup programs. Popular Linux distributions come with tools that make installation of additional software very user-friendly as well.

Linux continues to work well even when the hard disk is almost full.

Multitasking

Linux is designed to do many things at the same time; e.g., a large printing job in the background won’t slow down your other work.

Security

Linux is one of the most secure operating systems. “Walls” and flexible file access permission systems prevent access by unwanted visitors or viruses. Linux users select and safely download software, free of charge, from online repositories containing thousands of high-quality packages. No purchase transactions requiring credit card numbers or other sensitive personal information are necessary.

Open Source

If you develop software that requires knowledge or modification of the operating system code, Linux’s source code is at your fingertips. Most Linux applications are open source as well.