History of Linux

History of Linux

In Mid-1960s MIT, Bell Labs, and General Electronics were developing a new operating system called Multics, a time-sharing operating system for a GE-6


7 min read

I just started learning Linux and when I read a couple of blogs about Linux, many of them say that Linux is a Unix-like Operating System. But when I Googled how Linux is a Unix-like operating system, I didn’t get any clear article that can give me the precise answer. After spending almost a day searching here and there I got my answer. So I thought let’s write the answer that I got, so that in future when anyone has the same question, he/she should not face the same trouble that I faced. 😊

The Questions that arise in my mind.

1. How Linux is Unix like an Operating System?

2. Is there any similarities between both of them?

3. Is Unix share any code with Linux?

4. Is Linux Inspired by Unix concepts?

So let’s get the answers… 😉

Born of The Unix Operating System

Birth of Unix by Jay Tillu

If you wanna understand the relationship between Unix and Linux, then you must know about the birth of Unix. In Mid-1960s MIT, Bell Labs, and General Electronics were developing a new operating system called Multics, a time-sharing operating system for a GE-645 mainframe computer.

While Multics introduces several big innovations, it also addresses some problems. Though Multics was a pretty powerful and feature-rich operating system, it was not easy to use and also it was big in size.

So Small team of programmers from Bell Labs decided to use their experience with Multics and create a new operating system called Unics. While solving the problems of Multics, they also introduce some new features in the Unics operating system. So you can also say that Unics was the upgraded version of Multics.

In 1970s, team named the Operating system Unics (Uniplexed Information and Computing Service), it was closly derived from its predeccor Multics, which stands for (Multiplexed Information and Computer Services). Later Unics renamed with**Unix*.*

In the initial days, Unix was a single-tasking system. The first version of Unix was written in Assembly language. After the birth of the C language, the Unix team decided to rewrite the whole operating system with the use of C language. C makes it unique from all other operating systems in the market. After being rewritten in C, Unix became much more powerful, it also supports Multi-tasking, Multi-user, and Networking capabilities.

In the 1970s, operating systems were rarely portable. Due to their low-level source language, the operating systems were tightly linked to the hardware platform for which they were made. But after the rewritten in C language, Unix could now be ported on many hardware architectures.

Due to its tremendous power, portability, multi-tasking, multi-user, and Networking capabilities, Unix became very popular in universities, academics, research centers, and in offices. Many of the concepts that were introduced in Unix are still widely used.

The Birth Of Linux and Open Source

Birth of Linux by Jay Tillu

Through the 1970s and 80s, nearly every major university, academy, and research center use Unix on their computers. As Unix gained popularity, its commercial business also rises up.

But Unix was not open source, you have to purchase the license from the owner AT&T if you wanna use it. Also, you could not have access to the source code of the Unix. That means you cannot modify the operating system according to your need.

Just like Windows and macOS, you cannot have access to the source code of the operating system. You can just use the same operating system as they give it to you.

As time grows up, programmers want a more open environment of the operating system, on which they can modify anything and everything according to their needs. They want complete control of the operating system. And the response to this gave birth to Linux.

Linus Torvalds was a student studying Computer Science at the University of Helsinki. Linus used Unix at the university on a daily basis. He was really amazed and inspired by the power and features of Unix, but as Unix was a proprietary OS, He thought to develop his own operating system.

Basically, he created the kernel (the heart of the operating system) and named it Linux. But after creating the kernel, Linus open-sourced it. Because it was a hobby, not a commercial product and he wants to see what others think of it. This means now anyone can get the kernel code and read it, use it, and modify it, without any worry. And unknowingly he changes the world of the operating system forever. He finished the first version of the kernel in 1991. The first kernel was made for 32-bit system architectures.

Linux Kernel Source Code

But as we all know Kernel is a part of the operating system, for a complete working operating system, Linus Torvalds needs some software to run on it. Luckily, Richard Stallman, a computer enthusiast created a team of programmers devoted to free software, he called this the Free Software Foundation. The Free Software Foundation believed in making software that is free to learn, modify, and distribute. They gave full access to source code so that others can help in improving that. The Free Software Foundation distributes free software under the GNU GPL (General Public License).

The Free Software Foundation created a bunch of Software like a Text Editor called Emacs, Command-Line Interface called Bash. In 1991, the only thing that the Free Software Foundation was missing to make it a fully-fledged Operating System was the Kernel. But after Linus Torvalds created the Kernel and open-sourced it, the dream of Richard Stallman of free software comes true and Linux became the world’s first free and Open-Source Operating System.

Today almost 28 years passed but still, Linus Torvalds openly works on Linux. But it’s now an effort of the community that makes Linux, the world’s most Powerful, Reliable, Feature-rich, and Secure Operating System. Since 1991, more than 14,000 developers from around 1,300 companies including big tech giants like Intel, Samsung, IBM, Red Hat, Linaro, and SUSE, contributed to Linux Kernel.

Today Linux is available for almost every platform including Pcs, smartphones, embedded devices, Servers, supercomputers, mainframes, etc. Android kernel is based on Linux, World’s top 500 supercomputers are powered by Linux, and Nine out of Ten websites that run on the internet are powered by Linux servers (including Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Instagram). Due to its secure and open-source nature, many government organizations, universities, research centers, and academics accept it widely.

As the Linux kernel is free to use, modify and distribute many people downloaded it, and by using it they created their own version of the Linux operating system. The different versions of the Linux operating system are also called Linux distributions or Linux distro (in short). Today distrowatch.com lists 312 unique Linux distributions available in the market. The majority of them are free like Ubuntu, Fedora, Mint, CentOS, and Debian, and some are paid, which provides support on free distributions like Red Hat Enterprise.

Similarities between Linux and Unix

Similarities Between Unix and Linux by Jay Tillu

3. Is Unix share any code with Linux ??

  • No!! Unix doesn’t share any code with Linux.

1. How Linux is Unix like Operating System ??

  • Ya, that’s true that Linux doesn’t share any code with Unix. But the Linux kernel is moreover designed like the Unix kernel. As consciously Linus Torvalds wants an operating system that behaves like Unix. You can also see that many Linux concepts were inspired by Unix.

4. Is Linux Inspired by Unix concepts ??

  • Yes, Linux is deeply inspired by some Unix concepts. Like utilizing small building blocks to produce something of bigger value. It means writing small programs that do one thing and do it well. Later, those programs are combined with the mechanism known as “Pipes” and “redirection”, so the output of one program becomes the input for another program and as the data flows, something bigger value is achieved as a final result.

  • As both Linux and Unix follow POSIX (Portable Operating System Standards), both are portable operating systems.

  • Same as Unix, Linux is also based on Multi-User, Multi-tasking, Security, and Networking, concepts.

  • Just like Unix, Linux also has really strong security features. Which makes it one of the most secure operating systems in the world.

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