Wikipedia:WikiProject Linux/Translation:Geschichte von Linux

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Linux is a free kernel for computer operating systems. It has made much progress since its inception. Besides its growth from a small number of C files to currently consisting of about 40MB of source code, it has been put under a free license and seen various controversies about the use of its name.

This article gives a detailed overview of the history of Linux. A more general overview about Linux can be found in the main article, Linux.

Tux, the Linux mascot

Historical developments[edit]

Previous developments[edit]

The GNU mascot

In 1983 Richard Stallman started the GNU project with the goal of creating a free UNIX-like, POSIX-compatible operating system. Two years later he created the Free software Foundation (FSF) and developed the GNU general Public License (GPL), in order to spread software freely. In this way the GNU software developed very fast and by many people was developed further. Within a short time a multiplicity of programs developed so, by the early 1990s there was almost enough already available GNU software in order to create its own operating system. However a Kernel was still missing. This was to be developed in the GNU Hurd project but, Hurd proved to develop very sluggishly because finding and repairing errors (debugging) was very difficult and laborious due to technical characteristics of the microkernel design. Another project concerned with a free operating system in the 1980s was the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD). This was developed by Berkeley university from the 6th edition of Unix from AT&T. However since AT&T Unix code was contained in BSD, AT&T filed a lawsuit in the early 1990s against the University of Berkeley, which strongly limited the development of BSD and greatly slowed development. Thus the early 1990s gave it no complete, free system. The future of BSD was uncertain because of the litigation, development stalled, and although the GNU project was gradually developing, it lacked a well-behaved UNIX Kernel. In fact, it was more of a loose collection of free software projects, which could be translated on the most diverse (commercial) UNIX variants by means of the GNU compiler and were executable.

Emergence of Linux[edit]

Linus Torvalds 2004

Linus Torvalds began the development of Linux in 1991 in Helsinki. It was initially a terminal emulation, which Torvalds used to access the large UNIX servers of the university. He wrote the program specifically for the hardware he was using and independent of an operating system because he wanted to use the functions of his new PC with an 80386 processor. This is still among the standard today, optimally. The operating system he used during development was Minix, and the initial compiler was the GNU C compiler, which is still the main choice for compiling Linux today (although Linux will compile under other compilers, such as the Intel C Compiler).

As Torvalds wrote in his book Just for Fun, he eventually realised that he had written an operating system.[1] On August 25th, 1991, he announced this system via a Usenet posting to the group comp.os.minix. This posting may rank among the most well-known postings on the Usenet:

"Hello everybody out there using minix -
I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready. I'd like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons) among other things).
I've currently ported bash(1.08) and gcc(1.40), and things seem to work. This implies that I'll get something practical within a few months, and I'd like to know what features most people would want. Any suggestions are welcome, but I won't promise I'll implement them :-)
Linus (
PS. Yes – it's free of any minix code, and it has a multi-threaded fs. It is NOT portable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that's all I have :-(." [2]

The name Linux[edit]

Linus Torvalds wished Linux to be called Freax, created from the words "Freak" and "Free" for free software and the usual "x " in an allusion to the similarity to Unix. For the first six months at the beginning of his work on the system he put the files under the Freax name. Torvalds had already considered the name Linux but it seemed too egotistical to him. In order to give other people the ability to collaborate about the system and to suggest improvements in September of 1991 the files were put up on the ftp server ( of the Helsinki University OF Technology (HAT). The person responsible for the server at that time, Ari Lemmke (coworker at the HAT), preferred the name Linux. Without discussing the name with Torvalds, he simply called the selection at the server Linux, which was finally accepted by Torvalds after long discussions and also Torvalds admits, because Linux was simply the better name. In the source code of version 0.01 of Linux the name Freax still appears ("Makefile for the FREAX kernel") and only later was the name Linux used. Though it wasn't the original plan, the name Linux became used world-wide.

Linux under the GPL[edit]

Torvalds first published Linux under its own license. However, he later decided to use the GNU copyleft license. The first version under GNU copyleft was version 0.12 published in January 1992 and the change of license was noted in the CHANGE log [2]. In the middle of December 1992 he published version 0.99 containing the text of the GPL [3] for the first time. [3].

This licensing decision was the step that made it possible to develop Linux quickly and efficiently with the help of several other developers from around the world. Thus a growing community of developers created a kernel that was state of the art and competitive with proprietary systems.

Later Linus Torvalds said in an interview that the decision to place Linux under the GPL was his best ever: "Making Linux GPL'd was definitely the best thing I ever did." [4].


The term Linux was initially used by Torvalds only for the kernel, the core of the operating system but, over the course of time the name generally became accepted in addition, for most Linux distributions, which also contain a lot of other programs besides the Linux Kernel. Many of these programs come from the GNU project. For this reason Richard Stallman of the Free software Foundation has tried for years to change the name of the operating systems that contain Linux as the kernel to GNU/Linux [4].

It should be pointed out that the system only became possible by the efforts of the GNU project to create a completely free operating system, while Linux is actually only an indispensable, but small component of the overall system. However this opinion is disputed since a typical Linux distribution also contains many programs that do not come from the GNU project.

Richard Stallman

The arguments over using a combined name including both GNU and Linux started soon after Linux' release to the public. The GNU's Bulletin noted Linux in 1994 as a "free Unix clone", the same year that Debian adopted the name GNU/Linux for their distribution. In the 1995 issue of GNU's Bulletin the references to Lines changed to GNU/Linux. In May, 1996 Richard Stallman Published the Emacs editor 19.31. In it, he referred to the Linux System as Lignux. His intentions were to get people to understand that the Linux-based GNU system and GNU/Linux system (or Lignux) pointed to the combination of a Linux-Kernel and GNU's Software as a whole. Nevertheless, he soon left behind the expression Lignux and used only GNU/Linux.

The continuous requests to name the system GNU/Linux encountered different reactions. Only a few distributions did not follow the example of Debian, the large commercial Linux Distribution followed. Some of the users and developers of free software as well as the open SOURCE movement followed the requests, most however ignored or opposed it, even under protest. A reason for not using the term GNU/Linux is surely that Linux is clearly simpler, the best term is simple. A further possibility is that Linus Torvalds had always called the combined system "Linux" since its publication in 1991. Stallman, however, announced his demand to change the name only after the system had already became popular.

See also: GNU/Linux naming controversy and Linux (Begriffsklärung)

The mascot[edit]

Torvalds announced in 1996 that there would be a mascot for Linux, a penguin. The conditions imposed as described in the biography Just for Fun were:

„Aber Linus wollte keinen x-beliebigen Pinguin. Sein Pinguin sollte glücklich aussehen, so als hätte er grade eine Maß Bier genossen und den besten Sex seines Lebens gehabt.“ (Lit.: Torvalds, S. 151) Larry Ewing provided thereupon the original draft of the today's well known mascot. The name Tux was suggested by James Hughes as derivative of T orvalds's U ni X . A further reason for this construction is probably that due to its colours, the penguin seems to be wearing a tuxedo.[1]

Recent developments[edit]


As persons responsible for the Linux Kernel including Alan Cox and Marcelo Tosatti who are very well-known beside Torvalds. Cox cared for Kernel row 2.2 to the end of 2003, Tosatti worried up until the middle of 2006 about the version 2.4 and Andrew Morton steered the development and administration of the new 2.6 Kernel, which was published on 18 December 2003 in one as stable available version. Also the older branches are still constantly improved.

The success of Linux in many areas of application is in particular on the characteristics of free software concerning stability, security, expandability and maintenance of leading back in addition, at the being void license costs.


The graphical user environment KDE

With graphical user environments such as KDE and GNOME Linux offers to the graphic in Bereich the Desktops meanwhile are a comparable in comfort too MS Windows or Mac OS X. Extensive tests of the environments on user friendliness and efficiency make possible the use of Linux without special knowledge. Techniques as Xgl or AIGLX make possible for hardware acceleration and graphical effects on the Desktop.

Beside the growing offer of proprietary software for Linux, the largest growth comes from a large and steady increase from the Community as Linux has expanded into different areas: With time, more and more free software projects ranging from developmental interfaces to business applications all the way to complicated media players have become available, free of charge, for Linux and Linux-Users. In addition, the Windows API simulator WINE allows a steadily rising number of programs that were written for Windows to also run under Linux.

On the Desktop side, a Distribution can be easily installed. Also, many Distributions include applications such as calculators and text editors in it to make Linux more "out of the box". In areas of mass install, Linux has become a talking point by companies who invest largely in migrating software, e.g. in Munich or Vienna. However, the success of a desktop system is also decided by its gaming coverage. Some games from well known manufacturers also come out in a Linux version. For example, games such as Doom 3, Quake through Quake 4 are available.


LinuxTag 2004 in Karlsruhe

The majority of the work on Linux is done by the community, a group volunteers from around the world. Some help is also offered from supportive companies. Their hired programmer and developers not only work on the kernel, but also write software that is available to everyone with Linux.

Distributions can have no affiliation with companies (like Debian is) or be directly affiliation with companies (like Fedora core and openSUSE are).

Representatives of the respective projects (that also means anyone who makes Linux programs) meet at different conferences and fairs to socialize. One of the biggest fairs is the LinuxTag in Karlsruhe (from in 2006 in Wiesbaden) where more than 10,000 people gather yearly to find out information on Linux and its current programs and to socialize with each other.

Open Source Development Labs[edit]

The Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) were founed in 2000 and are an independent non-profit organisation that aims to optimise Linux for deployment in data centres and with carriers (?). It serves as a sponsored workplace for Linus Torvalds and did for Andrew Morton prior to his move to Google. The OSDL allows Torvalds to oversee the development of Linux full-time. The OSDL is financed by firms such as Red Hat, Novell, Mitsubishi, Intel, IBM, Dell and HP.


Red Hat at the LinuxTag

Currently a group of companies makes money with Linux. These companies, most of which are also members of Open Source development Labs, invest substantial resources to the advancement and development of Linux in order to make it suited for different areas of application. Dies reicht von Hardwarespenden an Entwickler über Treiber und Geldspenden für Stiftungen, die sich mit Linux-Software beschäftigen, bis hin zur Anstellung von Programmierern bei der Firma selbst. Bekannte Beispiele dafür sind IBM und HP, die Linux vor allen Dingen auf den eigenen Servern einsetzen, als auch Red Hat, das eine eigene Distribution unterhält. Ebenso unterstützt Trolltech Linux durch die Entwicklung und der GPL-Lizenzierung von Qt, was die Entwicklung von KDE erst möglich macht, und durch die Förderung einiger X- und KDE-Entwickler.


Linux has been surrounded by controversy repeatedly since its inception.

Andrew Tanenbaum[edit]

"Linux is obsolete"[edit]

In 1992 Usenet-Artikel Andrew S. Tanenbaum in the Newsgroup comp.os.minix wrote an article with the title Linux is obsolete. Since then, it has developed into a famous and much heated debate around the structure of the Linux-Kernels. The approved Information scientist and Author of the Microkernel Systems Minix wrote a list of criticisms of the (at the time) rather young Linux Project. The most important of his criticisms were:

  • The design of the kernel was monolithic and old-fashioned.
  • The lack of portability due to the use of features of the Intel 386 processor was poor design in Tanenbaum's eyes. "Writing a new operating system that is closely tied to any particular piece of hardware, especially a weird one like the Intel line, is basically wrong."
  • The open distribution and development model of the software lacked strict control of the source code by any individual person.
  • The operating system installed a set of features which were useless from Tanenbaum's point of view. (he judged the file system, one that permitted parallel access from several programs, as a redundant "performance chop").[5]

Tanenbaum's prediction that Linux would become outdated within a few years and replaced by GNU Hurd (which he considered to be more modern) was incorrect. Linux has been ported to all of the major platforms and its open development model has led to an exemplary pace of development. Additionally, GNU Hurd has not yet reached the level of stability that would allow it to be used on a production server.[citation needed]

The Book Samizdat[edit]

Years later, Andrew Tanenbaum was associated with Linux once more, when Ken Brown his book that has gone missing to this day called The Book Samizdat, in it, he wrote how he spoke with Tanenbaum, and explained that Torvalds had not declined him. In his statement to Brown, he wrote a segment which documents his relation to Linux well. Of course, Torvalds had known of his Book and Minix.

„But the code was his. The proof of this is that he messed the design up. MINIX is a nice, modular microkernel system [...] Linus rewrote the whole thing as a big monolithic kernel, complete with inline assembly code :-(. The first version of Linux was like a time machine. It went back to a system worse than what he already had on his desk. Of course, he was just a kid and didn't know better (although if he had paid better attention in class he should have), but producing a system that was fundamentally different from the base he started with seems pretty good proof that it was a redesign. I don't think he could have copied UNIX because he didn't have access to the UNIX source code, except maybe John Lions' book, which is about an earlier version of UNIX that does not resemble Linux so much.“ [6]

Competition from Microsoft[edit]

At the main entrance to a Microsoft campus in Germany

Although Torvalds has said that Microsoft's feeling threatened by Linux in the past was of no consequence to him, ACTUAL QUOTE WOULD BE NICE HERE the Microsoft and Linux camps had a number of antagonistic interactions between 1997 and 2001. This became quite clear for the first time in 1998, when the first Halloween document was brought to light by Eric S. Raymond. This was a short essay by from a Microsoft developer that sought to lay out the threats posed to Microsoft by Free Software, and identified strategies to counter these perceived threats.

Competition entered a new phase in the beginning of 2004, when Microsoft published results from customer case studies evaluating the use of Windows vs. Linux under the name "GET the Facts" on its own website. Based on inquiries, research analysts, and some Microsoft sponsored investigations, the case studies claimed that enterprise use of Linux on servers compared unfavourably to the use of Windows in terms of reliability, security, and total cost of ownership.[7]

The commercial Linux distributors put effort into producing their own studies, questionnaires and testimonials to counter Microsoft's campaign. Novell's web-based campaign at the end of 2004 was entitled "Unbending the truth", and sought to outline the advantages as well as dispelling the widely publicized legal liabilities of Linux deployment. Novell particularly referenced the Microsoft studies in many points. IBM also published a series of studies under the title "The Linux at IBM competitive advantage" to again parry Microsoft's campaign. Red Hat had a campaign called "Truth Happens" that aimed not to advertise the product on the basis of studies, but to let the performance of the product speak for itself.

Most Members of the Linux-Community take the topic, and make fun of it with jokes like "Linux – your PC skiped work again!" and "Sooner or later, we'll migrate to you...". Among the rest, the magazine "LinuxUser" also published a not quite seriously meant Review of Windows XP under the criticism points of a typical Linux distribution.


In March 2003 SCO accused IBM of violating their copyright on UNIX by transferring code from UNIX to Linux. SCO claims ownership of the copyrights on UNIX and a lawsuit was filed against IBM. Red hat has countersued and SCO has since filed other related lawsuits. At the same time SCO sold Linux licenses since the beginning of this to users who do not want to risk a possible complaint on the part of SCO. To add, the copyright of UNIX is not clear either, because Novell claims the license for themselves, and opened a lawsuit against SCO.

Trademark rights[edit]

In 1994 and 1995 several people in different countries attempted to register the name Linux as a trademark. Thereupon requests for royalty payments were issued to several Linux companies, a step with which many developers and users of Linux did not agree. Linus Torvalds clamped down on these companies with help from Linux International and was granted the trademark Linux, which he transferred to Linux International. Protection of the trademark was later administered by a dedicated foundation, the non-profit Linux Mark Institute. In 2000 Linus Torvalds specified the basic rules for the assignment of the licenses. This means that everyone who offers a product or a service with the name Linux must possess a license for it, which can be attained through a unique purchase. However, non-commercial products can receive a free license or not require one at all.

In June 2005 a new controversy developed over the use of royalties generated from the use of the Linux trademark. The Linux Mark Institute, which represents Linus Torvald's rights, announced a price increase to 5,000 dollars from 500 dollars for the use of the name. This step was justified as being taken to cover the rising costs of the protection of the trademark.

To the linux community, this rise caused annoyance and misunderstandings. This pushed Linus Torvalds to write an e-mail(?Or some other form of writing) on August 21st in an attempt to smooth the waves and to clear up the misunderstanding. In an e-mail he described the current situation as well as the background in detail and also dealt with the question of who had to pay license costs:

"[...] And let’s repeat: somebody who doesn’t want to _protect_ that name would never do this. You can call anything "MyLinux", but the downside is that you may have somebody else who _did_ protect himself come along and send you a cease-and-desist letter. Or, if the name ends up showing up in a trademark search that LMI needs to do every once in a while just to protect the trademark (another legal requirement for trademarks), LMI itself might have to send you a cease-and-desist-or-sublicense it letter."
"At which point you either rename it to something else, or you sublicense it. See? It’s all about whether _you_ need the protection or not, not about whether LMI wants the money or not."
"[...] Finally, just to make it clear: not only do I not get a cent of the trademark money, but even LMI (who actually administers the mark) has so far historically always lost money on it. That’s not a way to sustain a trademark, so they’re trying to at least become self-sufficient, but so far I can tell that lawyers fees to _give_ that protection that commercial companies want have been higher than the license fees. Even pro bono lawyers charge for the time of their costs and paralegals etc." [8]


  • 1991: Linux is announced on the 25. August by the 21-year-old Finnish student Linus Benedict Torvalds publicly in the Usenet. On 17. September, the first public version was released on an FTP-Server. Some developers were interested in the project and started to contribute improvement and extensions.
  • 1992: The first Linux distributions appear.
  • 1993: Already, over 100 developers are working on Linux. The kernel is being adapted to the GNU operating system, laying it open to a wide range of real-life applications. Version 0.99.10 is the first licensed under the GPL. The WINE project takes up work. The oldest surviving Linux distribution, Slackware, is released for the first time, and the largest community distribution, the Debian project, is founded.
Boxed set of (then) SuSE Linux as retailing in 1996.
  • 1994: It's not until March of this year that Torvalds considers all kernel components as mature, and releases version 1.0. The kernel is now net-enabled (see IP stack). The XFree86 project contributes a graphical user interface. Red Hat and SuSE each release version  1.0 of their distribution.
  • 1995: The next stable branch appears in March of this year – the 1.2 series. During the course of the year, Linux is ported to the DEC and Sun SPARC processor architectures. This porting to further new platforms will continue during the following years.
  • 1996: Version 2.0 is published. The kernel can now use more than one CPU simultaneously, making it attractive for productive use in a range of new areas.
  • 1998: Firms such as IBM, Compaq and Oracle announce their support for Linux. A new group of programmers starts developing the graphical user interface K Desktop Environment (KDE), the first aiming for user friendliness for the general user.
Screenshot of an early GNOME desktop, 2005.
  • 1999: The 2.2 series comes out in January, with better networking code and improved support of symmetric multiprocessing. At the same time another group of developers starts the GNOME project due to a belief that KDE, using a proprietary widget set, is not free. The aim of the GNOME project is to develop a free set of graphical widgets and produce a user-friendly desktop environment to compete with KDE. IBM announces a comprehensive project to improve support for Linux.
  • 2000: The office suite StarOffice is released under the LGPL, laying the foundation for a versatile free office suite for Linux.
  • 2001: The 2.4 series is released in Januar. Now the Kernel supports up to 64 GB RAM, 64-bit file systems, USB and Journal file systems.
  • 2002: The development community around released version 1.0 of the suite. Also, the free web browser Mozilla was published as version 1.0. In September the first worm, named Slapper, infects a large amount of Linux calculators.
  • 2003: Near the end of the year, but after Linus Torvalds change to the OSDL, the Kernel 2.6 was released. Linux starts to spread more and more on Embedded Devices.
  • 2004: The team XFree86 splits. They developed the X.Org Foundation, a foundation which allowed a much quicker development of the X server for Linux and Linux-Users.
  • 2005: The project OpenSuSE begins as a free Community distribution from Novell. In addition, version 2.0, which supports OpenDocument from OASIS was released in October.
  • 2006: The Xgl technology from Novell and AIGLX from Red Hat allow easy to use hardware acceleration effects on the Linux-Desktop.


  1. ^ a b Linus Torvalds, David Diamond: Just for Fun. The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary. HarperBusiness, New York, 2001, ISBN 0066620724
  2. ^ Linus Torvalds: What would you like to see most in minix? from Usenet, 25.08.1991
  3. ^ Linux-Kernel, Version 0.99 (Z-kompimiert, 830 kB) from the December 1992
  4. ^ Hiroo Yamagata: The Pragmatist of Free Software Linus Torvalds Interview, 05.08.1997
  5. ^ Andrew Tanenbaum, Linus Torvalds and others: Linux is obsolete Usenet post, 29.01.1992
  6. ^ Andrew Tanenbaum: Some Notes on the "Who wrote Linux" Kerfuffle, Release 1.5 from his private webpage, 20.05.2004
  7. ^ "Get the Facts". Microsoft. 2004. Retrieved 2006-11-24. 
  8. ^ Linus Torvalds: Linus trademarks Linux?!! from the linux-Kernel mailing list, 21.08.2005

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]