To understand how Linux came to be, we must look back to the early days in computing, when Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie of Bell Laboratories began working on UNIX, the first ever portable operating system. The year was 1969. UNIX could run on a range of devices and was widely used as proprietary software. Then, Richard Stallman started the GNU Project in 1983 with goals to create a free operating system. At the time, the free software movement was advocating for the freedom for users to modify and share copies of software. The project created the GNU General Public License (GPL), a widely used free software license, which set the background for the Linux operating system.

In 1991 there was not yet a free operating system, so a Finnish computer science student named Linus Torvalds began developing an operating system as a hobby. He released the code under GPL and slowly, the community around Linux grew as more and more developers contributed to the base code.

Today, Linux refers to the many versions of operating systems built on top of the base code. This means anyone can create their own version of a Linux operating system!


View the timeline of key dates in Linux history and press “next” to continue.

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