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Happy Birthday, Linus

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the slow-news-day dept.

Linux 376

Glyn Moody writes "Today is the birthday of Linus. Just under 19 years ago, on the first day the shops in Helsinki were open after the holidays, Linus rushed out and spent all his Christmas and birthday money on his first PC: a DX33 80386, with 4 Megs of RAM, no co-processor, and a 40 Megabyte hard disc. Today, the kernel he wrote on that system powers 90% of the fastest supercomputers, and is starting to find its way into more and more smartphones — not to mention everything in between. What would the world look like had he spent his money on something else?"

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376 comments

A case of the pundays (5, Informative)

suso (153703) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572254)

How would the world look different? It would be a whole GNU world.

BTW, Linus is 40 today, there seems to be no mention of that anywhere.

Re:A case of the pundays (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572410)

Really? I wonder where you HURD that.

I hope Tove planned a big party for him, if it's the 40th.

No coprocessor... (4, Informative)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572828)

The point about Linus's machine having no coprocessor is actually true. This made development a little iffy since floating point math had to be done in software. The i386DX actually did not have an FPU, and the coprocessor was the i387 which was not all that popular but was compatible with both the DX and SX models. It was not until the introduction of the i486 that the SX had no coprocessor and the DX had a built-in coprocessor.

Interesting read.

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30573022)

i always thought this was the case with the 8086 but was mistaken. good point!

Re:No coprocessor... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30573088)

The 486 SX was just a 486 that they could not guarantee that the coprocessor would work so it was switched off.

over 40 (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572452)

Is he going to invent anything else? Or after 40 do you just give up on life?

Re:A case of the pundays (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572508)

Happy BDay to the Big L
What would the world look like had he spent his money on something else?
Less Linux Fan Boys

Re:A case of the pundays (2, Insightful)

BESTouff (531293) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572722)

As the saying goes, Linux was an idea whose time had come. If it weren't for Linus, someone else would have invented another similar OS, or one of the existing (Hurd, BSD, Minix) would have been used. All the people, the culture, the computers and the communication medium were there, ready to give birth to such a thing.

Still, Linus has been a great leader, and a tasteful (for some) architect. Thanks a lt for that !

Re:A case of the pundays (4, Informative)

knewter (62953) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572896)

I would counter that, while it inevitably would have happened at some point, it's not a given that the resulting OS would have been GPLed, and subsequently things could've turned out very differently. Happy Birthday, Linus!

Re:A case of the pundays (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#30573136)

i guess, but linux happened at the exact right time. Hurd was a mess (i think it was at its second or third rewrite at the time, trying for the last fad in kernel design), bsd was in court, minix was anything but open/free/whatever.

so in the end, linux was a case of scratching a itch, in combo with the choice between sitting in a heated room to write code or walk across a cold campus to access the university terminals. One can say that humans are at their most creative when they want to be lazy.

Re:A case of the pundays (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572948)

It's GNU/Linus, you insensitive clod!

Debian GNU/kFreeBSD (5, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572266)

What would the world look like had he spent his money on something else?

Not much different, as the people who built Linux distributions would instead have ported GNU to the kernel of FreeBSD [debian.org].

Re:Debian GNU/kFreeBSD (5, Interesting)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572476)

There's also at least a small chance that many of the kernel hackers who work on Linux today would have been working on the Hurd kernel. As it happened, the release of Linux essentially killed Hurd, although it's technically still around.

Re:Debian GNU/kFreeBSD (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30573084)

For at least the past few years, probably longer, Hurd has been in a kind of limbo state where the old core technology (Mach kernel) is hopelessly outdated, the new-but-stable (L4) isn't very interesting, and the really cool ones which are capability-based (L4.sec, Coyotos, Viengoos) were still in development...as far as I can tell, even Viengoos has been more or less abandoned now. Hurd is effectively dead and/or pointless until we have a good capability-based microkernel. Which would be a huge innovation for an OS that might be usable by people other than researchers.

Re:Debian GNU/kFreeBSD (1)

LOLLinux (1682094) | more than 4 years ago | (#30573118)

As it happened, the release of Linux essentially killed Hurd, although it's technically still around.

Hurd killed itself by the same means that DNF was killed. Linux just helped speed up the process.

Re:Debian GNU/kFreeBSD (3, Informative)

dkf (304284) | more than 4 years ago | (#30573130)

There's also at least a small chance that many of the kernel hackers who work on Linux today would have been working on the Hurd kernel.

I doubt it would have happened. The Hurd hackers wanted to do fundamental OS research, and everyone else wanted a "Unix" kernel that they could just use and hack around with, and which didn't cost a lot.

I can remember that the biggest factor in our little group of hackers moving to Linux (from 386BSD) was that it had working shared libraries. OK, they sucked in many (many!) ways, but it still meant that you didn't need to have loads of copies of libc in memory or on disk at once. On the small machines of the time, that was a massive saving.

Re:Debian GNU/kFreeBSD (2, Insightful)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572482)

While it would run in similar POSIX way, there is enough difference in the BSD and GNU/Linux license, that Free software would be very different. Don't underestimate the power of the philosophy behind the software.

Re:Debian GNU/kFreeBSD (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572818)

If Bill Jolitz hadn't dropped off the face of the Earth for a year and perhaps even when he wasn't incommunicado if he had been more receptive to help from other people who wanted to pitch in we might be running a lot more 386BSD.

Instead he ceded the high ground (IMO) to Torvalds.

Re:Debian GNU/kFreeBSD (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30573060)

and there would have been a Debian project without Linux? would the GNU-utils have been where they are today without the massive attraction to them through Linux? I'm not saying they wouldn't have improved without Linux, but they sure as hell wouldn't be as good as they are today.

surley OSP (1)

itzdandy (183397) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572270)

spending that cash on a yearly subscription to playboy certainly would have netted the world a new open source porn system providing free as in beer porn to the world!

Re:surley OSP (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572388)

Yeah, but it would have that crappy Finnish porn.

Re:surley OSP (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572750)

Yeah, but it would have that crappy Finnish porn.

You don't care for Tom of Finland? To each his own.

What would the world look like? (2, Funny)

UdoKeir (239957) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572300)

That's easy: http://www.guidebookgallery.org/screenshots/win31 [guidebookgallery.org]

The world would be almost the same (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572328)

We would just have the argue if it should be called GNU/Windows or Windows.

Happy Birthday Linux (1)

mschoolbus (627182) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572358)

I, for one, appreciate everything you have done for the computing world!

I hope you have a great birthday and had a merry Christmas!

Happy Bday to the Big L (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572360)

hat would the world look like had he spent his money on something else?
  A Lot Less Linux Fan Boys...
  *DUCK & COVER*

Alternate timeline... (1)

Vexler (127353) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572384)

If he had bought a Trash-80, would we all be programming Motorola chips today?

Re:Alternate timeline... (1)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572518)

If he had bought a Trash-80, would we all be programming Motorola chips today?

Maybe, but it wouldn't be because of the TRS-80, which had a Zilog Z80 CPU.

Re:Alternate timeline... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572862)

He probably means a TRS-80 Color Computer. It had a Motorola 68B09E chip.

I didn't realize that any TRS-80s had a different chip (i.e., Z80), but I suppose it's possible.

Re:Alternate timeline... (1)

ghard (58462) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572904)

If he had bought a Trash-80, would we all be programming Motorola chips today?

Maybe, but it wouldn't be because of the TRS-80, which had a Zilog Z80 CPU.

I beg to differ - I've written C on TRS-80 model 16 with XENIX - it had MC68k and Z80 for bootstrap, which was used as I/O co-processor once the 68k system was up, It also had dual 8" floppies, and an 8MB (!!) hard disk which was larger than a modern desktop PC chassis.

Also the parent got the time wrong - affordable i386-based systems didn't really co-exist with TRS-80 - and the price of a Trash - even a Z80-based model would've definitely been more than you'd be able to buy with your Xmas cash in Finland those days.

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Re:Alternate timeline... (3, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572956)

Actually, Amiga would have been also a very valid choice back then, at least in Europe. I wonder if Linus ever said why he went with a PC.

Re:Alternate timeline... (1)

ghard (58462) | more than 4 years ago | (#30573128)

Actually, Amiga would have been also a very valid choice back then, at least in Europe. I wonder if Linus ever said why he went with a PC.

Lack of MMU, perhaps?

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blinded (1)

prgrmr (568806) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572408)

He could have bought an Official Red Ryder, Carbine-Action, Two-Hundred-Shot, Range Model Air Rifle.

And then shot his eye out.

Re:blinded (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572638)

At age 19? Hardly! You'd have to be pretty stupid (or six years old) to do that.

BTW, I hated that corny movie.

get real (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572436)

exactly 0% of "that kernel" is extant in today's Linux kernel.

Let's stop the Linus worship, m'kay? After the whole Alan Cox debacle, Linus was exposed for the total douche he is.

Open source would be a lot better off with a few less egomaniacs like Linus and a few more - dare I say it? - RMS's.

Re:get real (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572940)

Whether he's a douche or not is immaterial to his accomplishments. He wrote (originally) and later managed the development of the kernel that allowed GNU to become part of something mainstream. Whatever Hurd may have done, the remains that it was dramatically behind schedule and short of developers when Linus produced his first kernel; and didn't manage to catch up in either capability or developer interest during the years that Linux was little more than a barely functional hobby system. Douche or not, Linus managed to develop a system good enough to interest people, then hold onto their attention long enough to turn it into something useful.

RMS not an egomaniac? Seriously? He's the worst kind of egomaniac, the "Look at me I'm humble! Look! Me! Humble! Just wanna help, but can't help unless you. Look. At. Me!" kind. Flagellating yourself in the public square is not a gesture of humility. None of which should take away from his accomplishments either, don't get me wrong. Just because I happen to think he's a douche doesn't mean he's not a very effective douche, just like your opinion of Linus doesn't change how effective he's been.

this is what happened (3, Funny)

Device666 (901563) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572440)

If linux wouldn't bought a computer, this year would be probably the year GNU\Hurd would be finished. Gnome KDE etc would probably not exist.

Re:this is what happened (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572930)

His name is Linus. Your grammar is awful. Your nick name is 12 year old'ish.

We will never know (4, Insightful)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572448)

Maybe without Linux we would use Minix or Hurd today. While Linus caused an crystallization point for hundreds of developers he did not write the thing alone. these people were already there. More or less waiting for something like this to happen. Most of them were already part of the Minix mailing list. So most likely Linux was already waiting to happen then. From my own time as an undergraduate. all the good programmers wanted to write an OS. And when it Linux came into existence everyone said cool. I take it and I do something with it. The same happened later with the browser as well. And if X11 would have had a better programming interface there would have been more different browsers out there. Still. Thanks to Linus for starting it.

no co-proc? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572458)

A DX33 had a math co-processor, if it didn't it would have been an SX.

Re:no co-proc? (2, Informative)

jgardia (985157) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572578)

386SX -> no math coprocessor, 16bit data bus 386DX -> no math coprocessor, 32bit data bus 486SX -> no math coprocessor, 32bit data bus 486DX -> math coprocessor, 32bit data bus

no, you're wrong (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572734)

You fail your nerd lore. Turn in your nerd badge immediately.

80386DX had a 32-bit bus and came in a small PGA package. and 80386SX was only 16-bit(24-bit address) and generally was not socketable. There was a mathco for each, the 80387DX was a PGA package, the SX was a PLCC package.

80486DX has a math co and the SX did not (both 486 models were 32-bit bus and could fit in the same socket)

I miss my 80386DX+80387mathco system. it was a sweet setup.

DX or SX? (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572500)

Wasn't it the SX line that had the math coprocessor disabled? My first computer (not counting my CoCo) was a 386 SX 20, which was cheaper than a DX for want of a coprocessor.

Re:DX or SX? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572546)

Wasn't it the SX line that had the math coprocessor disabled? My first computer (not counting my CoCo) was a 386 SX 20, which was cheaper than a DX for want of a coprocessor.

sx was a 16 bit slot package.

Re:DX or SX? (4, Informative)

Stonent1 (594886) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572654)

The 386SX was a 32 bit processor internally but had a 16 bit data bus. The 386DX was a straight 32bit processor all the way through. There was a third flawed varient that had a problem switching between real and protected mode that could lock up the system. Those chips would be stamped that they were only certified for 16 bit apps. The ones that tested good had a double sigma stamp on them. Neither the 386sx nor 386dx had math coprocessors. The 486 however was a different story. The 486DX had a coprocessor but the 486SX did not.

DX33 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572506)

The DX had a math coprocessor I had an SX

Re:DX33 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572684)

The 486 was the first of the x86 family with the co-processor built in -- no 386 had a co-processor built it, you had to buy a separate 387.

The DX had a 32-bit memory bus. The SX had a 16-bit memory bus.

(I still have my 386SX mobo. Haven't looked at it in 20+ years. IIRC it has a slot for a 387SX. Wonder what, if anything, now would run on it.)

Re:DX33 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572746)

I stand corrected - it was a 486SX I so fondly remember.

Re:DX33 (1)

dingen (958134) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572698)

No, that's the 80486. With the 80386, DX meant you got a full 32 bit CPU, instead of partly 16 bit one with the SX.

Doesn't qualify for one-name status (3, Informative)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572510)

Mr. Torvalds may be well known, but when you use just the single name "Linus", most people think of the blanket-carrying kid in Peanuts.

Re:Doesn't qualify for one-name status (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572576)

but when you use just the single name "Linus", most people think of the blanket-carrying kid in Peanuts.

That's a hell of a blanket statement for you to make.

Re:Doesn't qualify for one-name status (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572604)

most people think of the blanket-carrying kid in Peanuts.

      Perhaps anywhere else, but not here on slashdot. And a heads up: RMS usually refers to Richard Matthew Stallman, not Root Mean Square... even though most of us here know the uses of the latter.

Re:Doesn't qualify for one-name status (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572656)

Citation needed.

1) Nerd site.
2) Mentions "Linus".
3) You think of the Peanuts strip.

Please turn in your geek card on your way out.

Re:Doesn't qualify for one-name status (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572716)

Didn't you know? The blanket-carrying kid grew up and wrote an operating system kernel!

Re:Doesn't qualify for one-name status (1)

British (51765) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572730)

This is slashdot. Half the acronyms posted to the news headers are lost on me.

Most Americans might (4, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572742)

Some North Americans really do overestimate the penetration of their own popular culture. Globally, most people wouldn't think of anyone at all. On Slashdot - Mr. Torvalds.

Re:Most Americans might (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30573038)

Exactly ... it's cultured here. pop or not ... any questions?

Re:Doesn't qualify for one-name status (1)

Bobby Onions (735795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572748)

You've surveyed the population of the world regarding this matter, and that was the finding of said survey? Nope. You're just expressing your personal view.

Re:Doesn't qualify for one-name status (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572974)

People may not know who Linus is?!? WTF has happened to /.?

Oh, my mistake "Slashdot?", you may parse it wrong otherwise because "/." is not commonly used in English.

What if Tanenbaum hadn't written MINIX? (1)

munitor (1632747) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572512)

That's the real question. But today is about Happy Birthday to Linus!

386dx, no coprocessor? (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572548)

Perhaps my memory is incorrect, but I thought the difference between the 80386sx and 80386dx was that the dx had a built-in math coprocessor.

Re:386dx, no coprocessor? (1)

UdoKeir (239957) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572610)

No, that's the 486dx/sx you're thinking of. The 386sx had a 16-bit data bus, half that of the dx.

Re:386dx, no coprocessor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572612)

You're thinking of the 80486 line, in which the "DX" meant it had a co-processor installed.

Re:386dx, no coprocessor? (1)

dee.cz (1160027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572784)

DX had wider bus, not a coprocessor. Must have been insanely expensive when Linus bought it, I switched to the same setup 16.5 years ago.

Re:386dx, no coprocessor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572786)

Nope, with the 386-series. the SX version had a cut-down external (286-like) interface design - 16-bit data lines and a 24-bit address bus, but the DX version had full 32-bit external data & address interfaces.

The SX/DX co-processor distinction came in with the 486

buiTch (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572630)

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If he'd bought prostitutes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572642)

Today we would have free access to some of the top prostitutes of the world, anytime we want and anywhere we'd want.

Good choice, Linus. Thanks.

That's my first computer too (1)

dingen (958134) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572756)

DX33 80386, with 4 Megs of RAM, no co-processor, and a 40 Megabyte hard disc

That's almost exactly my first computer too. Altough I really had a 20 MB harddisk, but I used doublespace to get 40 MB. And I didn't have the Intel DX33, but the Cyrix DX40 instead. That 7 MHz really made the difference.

Re:That's my first computer too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572892)

Are you sure you didn't have a 486? There wasn't a consumer 386DX at 40mhz.

Big deal. (1)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 4 years ago | (#30572806)

No Linux? Big deal. There are plenty of alternatives. Perhaps we would have ended up without a GPL-encumbered OS - maybe something like NetBSD or FreeBSD - doing these things. Nothing to see here.

Mac (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30572866)

What if he bought a Mac? It's a dead end for a kernel hacker I suppose.

Powerful computer (1)

Dan East (318230) | more than 4 years ago | (#30573116)

For his age, that was a pretty powerful first computer. I'm a few years younger than Linus, and my first computer was a TI-99/4A, followed by an Amiga 1000 (512K RAM, no HDD). I think many people of our generation started with floppy-based computers (Apple II, TRS-80, VIC-20, C64, Amiga) with less than 1 MB RAM. I saved up for and purchased the Amiga from my job as a bagger at a grocery store. Paid $750 for it used, and it came with a monitor and an external floppy drive (really saved on the disc swapping having two drives!). That was right when the Amiga 500 was released.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30573140)

his heart must be *truly* klingon.

Grattis på födelsedagen! (3, Interesting)

CaptainOfSpray (1229754) | more than 4 years ago | (#30573160)

Ja må han leva uti hundrade år!

OK, I'm showing off - I lived in Sweden 18 years, became fluent in Swedish, and I'm guessing (from his name) that Linus is mother tongue Swedish rather than Finnish.
But we're raising a glass and shouting "Skål" and "Gippis" and so on...
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