OffTopic: Linux History (Re: Linux on-line bookstore)

Gary Lawrence Murphy (
Fri, 15 May 1998 18:17:13 -0400

Sorry to bug you all with this bit of Linux trivia, but I'm hoping to
clear up the lead-in statement on my bookstore page --- and Linus, if
you have time in your schedule for a few words, I'd be grateful for
your comments on this question of the origin of Linux.

I'd hoped to summarize the reason for Linux in as few words as possible.
My webpage states:

"it all started when Linus Torvalds, disgruntled by the slow
evolution of minix and GNU, wrote the first, free and public
unix-like kernel for the PC. The rest, as they say, is

One correspondent has questioned whether this is accurate and I will
include the gist of our discussion below. From what John implies, BSD
was already free and public, but if this is the case, then why release
Linux at all? More importantly, if BSD was more 'free' than GPL, why
did the community embrace Linux?

All I really remember was anxiously awaiting the day I could afford my
first 386 and then a VGA card so I could finally free myself from DOS :)

>>>>> "JG" == John Goerzen <> writes:

JG> You state that Linus wrote the first free public kernel for the
JG> PC. That's not quite correct. Minix was already out, as was
JG> 386BSD and maybe even FreeBSD.

me >> It's my recollection that Minix was out, but not very usable.

JG> Yes, Minix was basically a "textbook" OS.

me >> Linus
>> took the Minix distribution and made it practical. This is
>> much the same story as Edison and the lightbulb.
>> Wasn't there some problem with the BSD license? Short term
>> memory is always the first to go ;) Seems to me there was BSDI
>> which was for sale, but BSD either didn't run properly on the
>> 386 or had some dire problem with the licence which prompted
>> the community to turn to Linux.

JG> I am not aware of any such problem, but that doesn't mean it
JG> doesn't exist. One issue is that the BSD-style license is
JG> more permissive of what may be done with the code -- unlike
JG> the GPL, which guarantees that nobody can ever take over the
JG> code and release a derivative without releaseing the source.

Gary Lawrence Murphy <> --------
TeleDynamics RR#1 Sauble Beach, Ont CAN
telecenter design -- telework systems -- intranet/extranet consulting
"You don't play what you know; you play what you hear." ----- Miles Davis

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