Linus Torvalds Has Revealed the Date of Linux’s Real Birthday

Many people in the Linux community is celebrating Linux's birthday on August 25, but is that the right date? Here's the answer.

Linux Birthday

Many people in the Linux community is celebrating Linux’s birthday on August 25, but is that the right date? Here’s the answer.

We all know the story. In 1988, a young Finnish man entered the Helsinki University to study Computer Science. His name was Linus Benedict Torvalds. On August 25, 1991, after five months of development, the 21-year-old Linus Torvalds made his now-legendary announcement via mail to a Minix newsgroup.

… I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. …

Linus ([email protected])

As you can see, when Torvalds announced Linux, he didn’t actually announce Linux. It was not yet named, he just said “a (free) operating system” and that it resembled Minix.

To find out exactly when Linux’s birthday is, let’s first recall some facts about the Linux kernel.

The Linux Kernel

For those who don’t know, Torvalds originally named his kernel “FREAX” – a mix of “free”, “freak” and and “x” (as an allusion to Unix). One can see that while Torvalds may be a great programmer and leader, he really should leave the process of naming projects to other people.

FREAX Kernel 0.01
FREAX-kernel 0.01

When his coworker Ari Lemmke, who was one of the volunteer administrators for the FTP server at the time, uploaded the kernel to the FTP site, he didn’t like the name when he created the subdirectory for the source code on nic.funet.fi and renamed it to Linux, without asking Torvalds. Later, however, Torvalds consented to Linux.

In short, Linux was named by Ari Lemmke without consulting Linus Torvalds.

To demonstrate how the word “Linux” should be pronounced, Torvalds included an audio guide with the kernel source code.

On September 17, 1991, Torvalds put the source code of the first version of his Linux 0.01 online. However, he did not make a big announcement. Shortly thereafter, on October 5, he announced the first “official” version of Linux, version 0.02.

Linux’s Birthday

Obviously Linux has many birthdays, depending on who you ask. Three clear candidates for a birthday, but one can, of course, have only one.

  • August 25, 1991: Announcement on a mailing list.
  • September 17, 1991: The release of the first version.
  • October 5, 1991: Announcement of availability.

But let’s refer to the ZDNet website and see what Linus Torvalds himself says about this.

Now, that 0.01 release was never publicly announced, and I only emailed a handful of people in private about the upload (and I don’t have old emails from those days), so there’s no real record of that. The only record of the date is in the Linux-0.01 tar-file itself, I suspect.

Just thought I’d mention it, since while unannounced, in many ways this is the true anniversary date of the actual code.

So now we know the actual birthday of Linux kernel which was on September 17, 1991. However, that doesn’t change the official birthday of Linux which is on August, 25.

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