One of the most famous messages in all computing was posted exactly 24 years ago today, on 25 August, 1991:
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.
Many people have read that post by Linus Torvalds in the comp.os.minix newsgroup on Usenet, or at least heard about it. Many more are aware of how that (free) operating system ended up taking over vast swathes of the computing world, and becoming both “big” and “professional.” But what about before that famous moment? What were the key events that led to Linus creating that first public release of Linux?
To find out, in December 1996, I went to Finland to interview Linus in his flat in Helsinki. I used some of his replies in a feature that appeared in Wired magazine in August 1997; more of them appeared in my book, Rebel Code: Inside Linux and the open source revolution, published in 2001. What follows is a more detailed explanation of how Linux came into being, as told in Linus’ own words.
In the autumn of 1988, Linus had entered Helsinki University to study computer science. It was only two years later that he encountered Unix for the first time: