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Operating Systems Software Linux

A Historical Look At The First Linux Kernel 173

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the to-configure-simply-recompile dept.
LinuxFan writes "KernelTrap has a fascinating article about the first Linux kernel, version 0.01, complete with source code and photos of Linus Torvalds as a young man attending the University of Helsinki. Torvalds originally planned to call the kernel "Freax," and in his first announcement noted, "I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones." He also stressed that the kernel was very much tied to the i386 processor, "simply, I'd say that porting is impossible." Humble beginnings."
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A Historical Look At The First Linux Kernel

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  • ...than Gentoo using kernel 0.02 was made available.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2007 @07:57AM (#20008625)
    "When the first kernel pops, then toss in about 1/2 cup of open source developers and shake vigorously until the popping dies down. You don't want to leave it on until you hear nothing, because then it's sure to be burnt."
  • That's it! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Constantine XVI (880691) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {todhsals+ythgie.hsart}> on Friday July 27, 2007 @08:00AM (#20008647)
    Instead of trying to convince Linus to go to GPL v3, we can just convince him to go back to the original liscence! :)

    This kernel is (C) 1991 Linus Torvalds, but all or part of it may be redistributed provided you do the following: - Full source must be available (and free), if not with the distribution then at least on asking for it. - Copyright notices must be intact. (In fact, if you distribute only parts of it you may have to add copyrights, as there aren't (C)'s in all files.) Small partial excerpts may be copied without bothering with copyrights. - You may not distibute this for a fee, not even "handling" costs. Mail me at [email blocked] if you have any questions. Sadly, a kernel by itself gets you nowhere. To get a working system you need a shell, compilers, a library etc. These are separate parts and may be under a stricter (or even looser) copyright. Most of the tools used with linux are GNU software and are under the GNU copyleft. These tools aren't in the distribution - ask me (or GNU) for more info.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tepples (727027)

      You may not distibute this for a fee, not even "handling" costs.
      There's your show-stopper.
  • by bomanbot (980297) on Friday July 27, 2007 @08:04AM (#20008687)
    To get an even deeper look into the beginnings of the Linux Kernel, I like the book that Linus wrote which is called Just for Fun - The story of an accidental revolutionary (ISBN 1-58799-080-6, google the rest).

    It contains the entire back history how Linux began as a side project and of course the famous spat with Andrew Tanenbaum over Minix and Linux and I found it to be a good (if very nerdy) read.

    But the pictures in the article? Just sad, he reminds me so much of myself ;-)
    • by jez9999 (618189)
      But the pictures in the article? Just sad, he reminds me so much of myself ;-)

      Erm, what, an average looking white male? So sad.
      • by Raenex (947668)

        Erm, what, an average looking white male?
        A kind of ugly dork. Probably average for Slashdot, though.
  • Oh No! (Score:5, Funny)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday July 27, 2007 @08:07AM (#20008711) Journal
    He looks just like Bill Gates at that age!
  • From memory.c

    * NOTE 2!! When from==0 we are copying kernel space for the first
      * fork(). Then we DONT want to copy a full page-directory entry, as
      * that would lead to some serious memory waste - we just copy the
      * first 160 pages - 640kB. Even that is more than we need, but it
      * doesn't take any more memory - we don't copy-on-write in the low
      * 1 Mb-range, so the pages can be shared with the kernel. Thus the
      * special case for nr=xxxx.
  • uh huh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Friday July 27, 2007 @08:09AM (#20008731)
    I have a poster in my office with all the lines of code for kernel 0.0.1. It's uber-geek. A must have for most slashdotters!
  • by DrXym (126579) on Friday July 27, 2007 @08:52AM (#20009099)
    Yup, GNU Mach was well into development BEFORE Linux was even written. This is an example why open source projects are more effective when they're driven by pragmatism and not politics.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DrXym (126579)
      Correction GNU Hurd.
      • GNU Mach, GNU Hurd, actually you are both right:

        The GNU Hurd is the GNU project's replacement for the Unix kernel. The Hurd is a collection of servers that run on the Mach microkernel to implement file systems, network protocols, file access control, and other features that are implemented by the Unix kernel or similar kernels (such as Linux).
    • by sayfawa (1099071) on Friday July 27, 2007 @10:42AM (#20010635)
      Maybe if the GNU folks had only been working on a kernel instead of also doing the hundreds of other programs as well, they would have made more headway with HURD. And if Linus had been trying to do a whole OS and not just the kernel, Linux the kernel would still be early in development.

      The mention of GNU should merely point out how important the GNU is in GNU/Linux. As Linus said in the post: Sadly, a kernel by itself gets you nowhere. To get a working system you need a shell, compilers, a library etc. These are separate parts and may be under a stricter (or even looser) copyright. Most of the tools used with linux are GNU software and are under the GNU copyleft.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ajs (35943)

        Maybe if the GNU folks had only been working on a kernel instead of also doing the hundreds of other programs as well, they would have made more headway with HURD. And if Linus had been trying to do a whole OS and not just the kernel, Linux the kernel would still be early in development.

        Very doubtful.

        First off, keep in mind that originally, Linux was aimed at being more on-par with Minix than Hurd. Linus would have written it even if the Gnu folks didn't exist, though it would have been written with pcc instead of gcc. Early on, he didn't have or even target creating a "whole OS", just a terminal server.

        The mention of GNU should merely point out how important the GNU is in GNU/Linux.

        Every time I hear "GNU/Linux", I have to chuckle. It's a bit like Pittsburgh demanding that Ford vehicles be called Steel/Ford. It's the ultimate example of RMS's hubris, and frankly I fi

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Peaker (72084)
          The purpose of the GNU work is to make people aware of Freedom-related issues.

          Saying Stallman insisting on calling it GNU is hubris is funny, when you consider that its not Stallman who named it after his first name.

          Its reasonable to request distributions that are heavily based on Linux and GNU to mention GNU in their name.

          I would also think it is reasonable for a huge codebase such as KDE to request that, too. For example, "Kubuntu" for short, and "A KDE frontend to a GNU/Linux system" for long.

          Calling it
          • by nuzak (959558)
            > when you consider that its not Stallman who named it after his first name.

            Nor did Linus, if you'd even bothered to read the summary.

            Despite RMS's handwavings about Linux merely dropping some trivial kernel piece into the otherwise completed GNU system, the reality is that the Linux people did a lot of work in getting the glibc and binutils toolchain working for it. RMS has to this day not acknowledged any of their work in doing so. I think it's more RMS's failure to reciprocate that has more to do wi
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ajs (35943)

            The purpose of the GNU work is to make people aware of Freedom-related issues.

            Ah... look, young'un... GNU was founded to create a system that wouldn't restrict people's ability to use it to its fullest, which many of the people involved early on, including Stallman, felt needed to involve the ability to read, modify and distribute source code. It was not some sort of "sowing the seeds of freedom among the heathens," effort.

            Saying Stallman insisting on calling it GNU is hubris is funny, when you consider that its not Stallman who named it after his first name.

            Wherein my example is quite apt... We could say that it's horrible hubris of Ford to have named his company after himself... really, the so-called "Ford" was a r

          • by crucini (98210)

            Its reasonable to request distributions that are heavily based on Linux and GNU to mention GNU in their name.

            Not really. GNU is effectively dead, and was never very alive to begin with. Linux killed it. The only reason the GNU moniker is attached to some parts of Linux is historical. If GNU had not been around before Linux, the libc and utils would have been written just for Linux. Do you doubt that there was sufficient talent and energy in the Linux community to do that?

            Have you seen Ulrich Drepper's [xent.com]

            • by Peaker (72084)

              Linus did, and that's why the OS is named after him.

              Linus didn't. He wrote a kernel.

              The free unix clone was a combination of Linux and GNU code and others. Sure, they could have written it, maybe. But they didn't.
              And GNU had a lot more LOCs/work put into it than the Linux kernel, especially years ago when the name debate started. So it would make sense to name the entire unix clone you compose according to the name of the largest/most significant contributor, doesn't it? In that case, GNU was definitely it

      • by Braino420 (896819)
        He has also said other things on the topic. From Revolution OS:

        Interviewer:

        -If some people asked you to describe this GNU/Linux, I mean, what's your thought about this, does that justify, or...

        Linus Torvalds:

        -Well, I think it's justified, but it's justified if you actually make a GNU distribution on Linux. The same way that I think that Red Hat Linux is fine, or SuSE Linux, or Debian Linux, because if you actually make your own distribution of Linux, you get to name the thing. But calling Linux in gene

      • The mention of GNU should merely point out how important the GNU is in GNU/Linux.

        I don't think anyone ever claimed GNU software isn't an important part (even perhaps the most important part) of distributions everywhere. My beef with GNU/Linux is the ridiculous emphasis on a name. I don't go around saying, "I'm running Microsoft Windows". I say, "I'm running Windows." And people who run mac os x don't say, "I'm running mach/mac os x". I also use a bunch of stuff that's not GNU. Do I need to start including those in the name too?

        Feel free to remind people that their distro would

    • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday July 27, 2007 @12:48PM (#20012703) Homepage Journal

      This is an example why open source projects are more effective when they're driven by pragmatism and not politics.

      The problem is that politics is interested in you even if you're not interested in it. The pragmatic approach involves taking politics into account even if you're personally bored to tears by the subject.

    • by gowen (141411)
      Yeah. All those GNU guys managed to complete were a compiler that supports 20-odd languages, a shell, the full set of portable, POSIX-compatible UNIX tools (sed, awk etc), a cross-platform plotter, a PostScript interpreter, a chess engine, a complete system for internationalisation, a C library ... oh, and about 5,000 other applications and tools [fsf.org].

      And they only wrote those since they were all needed to compile Emacs.
      • by DrXym (126579)
        Who is saying GNU software sucks? I'm not. I'm just pointing out the bleeding obvious which is the GNU Hurd has been an abject failure at creating an operating system, in no small part because in the past 17 years it still has not produced a viable distribution. If this amorphous blob that you call the "GNU guys" is so great, why can't they produce a kernel to compete with Linux? What is it that Linux has that they don't? I'll tell you - PRAGMATISM. Which is what I said in the first place.

        It's also notabl

    • The Hurd debacle has a number of causes. First, it started from Mach. Mach was an attempt to build a microkernel by adding stuff to an early BSD kernel. This was a bad idea to begin with, and the end result was disappointing.

      Microkernel architecture is quite hard, and if any of the initial design decisions are botched, you get a slow, ugly system. The better microkernels are commercial and proprietary, and don't have many papers on how the internals were designed. Mach has the published papers, beca

  • I had no idea it was Benedict. I've not seen that elsewhere, must not be something he likes ;)

    "From: Linus Benedict Torvalds [email blocked]"
    • by Aladrin (926209)
      Or something he doesn't care about, and nobody decided it was important enough to make fun of.

      I went by my middle name for the first 18 years of my life, but chose to go with my first name instead for various reasons. Hardly anyone except my family knows my middle name, and it's not because I don't like it. It's just not important enough to announce to everyone I meet, let alone the entire world.
  • Well (Score:5, Funny)

    by akkarin (1117245) on Friday July 27, 2007 @08:56AM (#20009141)
    "Oh, Linux will *never* have a fan base. Never. Ever. Period."
    - Bill Gates
  • by sepluv (641107) <blakesleyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday July 27, 2007 @09:13AM (#20009361)
    just as a preemptive strike against all the Linus-entirely-made-the-OS-himself trolls before they come out of the woodwork, here is the last paragraph of section 2 from the announcement in the TFA. Torvalds says it better than I could:

    Sadly, a kernel by itself gets you nowhere. To get a working system you need a shell, compilers, a library etc. These are separate parts and may be under a stricter (or even looser) copyright. Most of the tools used with linux are GNU software and are under the GNU copyleft. These tools aren't in the distribution - ask me (or GNU) for more info.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2007 @10:17AM (#20010277)
    Am I the only one twisted enough to have fixed for a moment on the once perfectly innocent sentence : "Could someone please try to finger me from overseas?"... :)

  • never let it be said that Linus is never wrong. good thing too ;-)
  • Ready? (Score:4, Funny)

    by bollucks (450288) on Friday July 27, 2007 @10:22AM (#20010341)
    ...and it was almost ready for the desktop.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``...and it was almost ready for the desktop.''

      At the time, it sort of was. Remember, this was the age of DOS. I don't know how much you could actually do with Linux at the time, but GNU was already a vastly more featureful system than DOS. When the first Linux distribution came out (Slackware, 1993), it sported all the glory of the GNU system, a GUI (XFree86), the ability to run DOS, and, if I recall correctly, even some support for running win16 (remember, Windows 95 wasn't out yet) programs.
      • by sgt scrub (869860)
        Toolkit for Linux CD-ROM (May 1994)
        The new Toolkit for Linux CD-ROM from Walnut Creek features the sunsite.unc.edu archive and the ALPHA and BETA directories from the tsx-11.mit.edu archive. Distributions include Slackware 1.2.0 and MCC. Also includes Xfree86 2.1 and 1.3, tcl/tk, gcc2.4.5, libc4.4.4, emacs 18.58 and 19.22, GNU Ada, lisp, Prolog, Fortran, rexx, Eiffel and more.

        It came out just in time to save me from Windows hell.
    • by serutan (259622)
      I was gonna say, "Imagine a Beowulf Cluster of 386s running this!" but no.
  • by wandazulu (265281) on Friday July 27, 2007 @10:36AM (#20010547)
    Because I was a computer-room assistant back in college I got a couple of Unix accounts (that's what they were called) to learn and possibly help the grad students who were doing all the "cool" stuff on them (as opposed to showing a freshman how to print from WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS (F7 baby!)). The problem with the Unix machines (a SunOS and an Ultrix box) was that they both had accounting turned on and so I had $5000 of computer time to use until I had to go back and ask for more, which they actually gave only begrudgingly. I guess some departments really paid some $$$ for access.

    Anyway, along comes Linux (not .01 but some very pre-1.0 version) and somebody else put it on a Gateway2000 486 machine) and all of a sudden I had, along with all the other assistants, a Unix-like machine we could call our own, do whatever we want and not worry about screwing up the "real" work being done. So when it came to learning how the Unix-world worked, I learned far more on that early Linux box than either SunOS or Ultrix if only because I didn't have to deal all the accounting stuff.

    The funny thing is that I remember feeling that the Linux box responded better than the Sun machine or the VAX in that it seemed to handle more users better (though I suppose on the Linux box we were just mucking about with standard commands instead of doing heavy-duty work).
    • because they were the companies that made a low-cost Linux-capable machine economically feasible.
      • If it weren't for the PeeCee clone market made possible by the Phoenix BIOS and the competition in the processor market keeping Intel on their toes, the low cost high performance Linux system as we know it wouldn't exist.


        Remember, back around 1990, IBM and Compaq system prices were pretty close to what was being asked for low end HP/Apollo, Sun and MIPS boxes. Now if DEC had been more agressive with the pricing for Alpha and Ultrix...

        • I should have included Phoenix as well. As far as PCs 1990's pricing being comparable with Unix workstations, it didn't happen that way on my planet.
          • by IvyKing (732111)
            Did you ever see what Compaq was asking for their first 486 systems? Seem to recall prices on the order of 10 grand or so. OTOH, generic 486 boxes were a lot cheaper - which is exactly my point that Phoenix (and AMI) did a lot more for lowering the cost of the PeeCee than IBM, Intel or MickeySoft. Remember also that Windoze didn't start taking off until 1991 or '92 - also remember that the killer app for the IBM PC was Lotus 1-2-3.

            Ca 1991, 386 boxes were a lot cheaper than 486 boxes in part due to AMD se

            • I don't think AMD had enough of a market share in that time-frame to influence Intel prices much. But the more important point is that popularity of PCs made a business case for AMD to compete with Intel and the openness of the PC (excluding the BIOS) along with the ability to aquire MSDOS instead of having to reverse-engineer it as well, made clones feasible a lot earlier than they would have otherwise.

              386 systems were cheaper than 486 systems because the 486 was faster.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by IvyKing (732111)
                If you're going to bring up MS-DOS, you might as well mention Seattle Computer Products. The reason that MS-DOS was available for other machines was that it was originally written by SCP for their own hardware - and since IBM did not pay for the original development, they had no exclusive rights to MS-DOS. BTW, Compaq and a few other companies had their own forks of MS-DOS. Also BTW, DR-DOS was the result of DR reverse engineering a reverse engineered version of CP/M.

                What made the business case for the

        • "If it weren't for the PeeCee clone market made possible by the Phoenix BIOS and the competition in the processor market keeping Intel on their toes, the low cost high performance Linux system as we know it wouldn't exist. "

          And don't forget to thank the industrial military-complex and their shrewd practice of "second sourcing". By refusing to buy from Intel unless they shared their trade secrets with AMD, they ensured that no one (including them) could be held hostage by the whims, mistakes, and self-int
  • I got into Linux around kernel version 0.11 or so...and what a wild, strange trip it has been! I would have been even more fun to have caught the original posting by Linus...but I only had access to the newsgroups around the kernel version I mentioned.

    ttyl
              Farrell
  • ...only problem is all their correspondance was written in an proprietary format and theres no app to read it anymore....
  • by doorwayboy (758668) on Friday July 27, 2007 @01:59PM (#20013765)
    Anyone else notice the two pics of a young Linus were are linus1.gif and linus3.gif?
    http://kerneltrap.org/files/linus2.gif [kerneltrap.org]
    • by pimpimpim (811140)
      Hah! To my own shame I must say I didn't notice, I loose some nerd points there :) It might actually have been done like this on purpose, knowing the kind of people who would read this article.
  • FTA:

    Although linux is a complete kernel, and uses no code from minix or other sources, almost none of the support routines have yet been coded.

  • FTA:

    "I'd hate to get flames like "you destroyed my entire collection of Sam Fox nude gifs (all 103 of them), I'll hate you forever", just because I may have done something wrong." - Torvalds
  • I don't recall ever seeing so many 3 and 4 digit /. IDs post. Kind of an odd feeling in a geeky way.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Kilroy (2297)
      We don't get out much anymore. It takes forever to render these new comment threads in Mosaic.

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