10 years of Linux
Sat Nov 8th 2003, 9:42am
Seems like everyone's having 10 year anniversaries in the Linux community; I've seen a bunch of notices recently on Slashdot: the Linux Documentation Project, Debian, Slackware, etc [1]. It's really hard to say just when in Linux's history it really "took off", but certainly back in the early '90s it was popping up in dorm rooms and labs everywhere, people were beginning to build bigger projects and more complex organizations around it, and it was generally making the change from something only serious hackers could run to something the general geekdom could play with.

Looking back somewhat nostalgically, I too got involved with Linux during that time: 10 years ago in November of '93, with Linux version .99 patch level 11. As a sophomore in college and still fairly new to Unix, everything in Linux seemed so wild, untamed, and exciting. With the included GNU C compiler, vi, Emacs, etc, etc, working on my speedy 486 quickly became a far superior choice over heading to the campus Sun/HP labs. But what really made Linux cool to me was TCP/IP--and the fact that, with Linux, now my PC could speak it. At the time, DOS/Windows 3.1 (all I knew before) had no TCP/IP stack, but here was this thing made my PC a fully fledged member of the Internet, and from it I could telnet, ftp, and finger to anywhere I wanted. Simply amazing [2].

It's been fun to be part of a phenomenon after all these years. It's hard to imagine what the state of the industry would be like without Linux and the open source community it's fostered. Even so, it's probably worth reminding ourselves periodically of the opportunities they both have given us: tools to be hackers and to tinker with really cool stuff, and the power to enhance our own professional skills to help us excel in the workplace.
[1] So Slackware and Debian claim they were around 10 years ago, but if they were they certainly weren't very high on the radar. Everyone I knew was using primitive distros like SLS, and Slackware didn't hit mainstream until summer or fall of '94.
[2] Little, then, did I imagine ten years later I would be writing a web-based journal entry on a blog system I wrote, sitting downstairs using my Apple PowerBook (running a hybrid commercial/open-source operating system), accessing everything over my private, WPA-protected 802.11g wireless network, tunnelled in securely to my systems over SSH :-).

Visitor comments
On Wed Dec 15th 2004, 12:21pm, numis posted:
vienkaarshi vajag speeleet un es esmu LATVIETIS

On Wed Dec 15th 2004, 1:02pm, Steve Kehlet posted:
Thanks for the post, but... can you post an English translation for those of us who don't understand Latvian? :-)