Linus Torvalds is a Finnish American software engineer who developed the Linux operating system. He was born in 1969 in Helsinki, Finland to Nils and Anna Torvalds. His parents were radical members of a communist party in the 1960s, who divorced when Linus was 10 years old. Linus himself is an atheist with no political affiliations. He was named after a Nobel Prize winning American chemist named Linus Pauling. He is said to have been a focused and introverted child, who preferred reading and learning in solitude to sports and other physical activities. His grandfather was a renowned Finnish poet named Ole Torvalds. Ole had a Commodore VIC-20 on which Linus first began programming.
Linus enrolled at the University of Helsinki to study computer programming in 1988. He took an 11 month break for mandatory military service and then resumed his studies in 1990. In 1991 he purchased his first PC (personal computer), but found himself dissatisfied with the MS-DOS operating system it used. He much preferred the UNIX operating system installed on his college computers and feeling that he now had the expertise to do so, decided that he would develop a PC based UNIX operating system on his own.
After many months of consistent hard work and programming, Linus was able to develop a rudimentary version of the first Linux software. He posted this software on the internet for all to download and use. He also released its source code publicly, which meant that anyone with the needed expertise could modify the software as per their own specifications. This was a major attraction for many hard core computer programmers and Linus began to have a cult like following of devoted programming enthusiasts. These programmers were monumental in helping to refine and develop the Linux Operating System. The version in use today is very different from Linus’ original one and contains modifications and additions by numerous programmers worldwide. Linus, however, retains the final say on what gets added to his original program and what doesn’t.
In 1997, he accepted a position at a company called Transmeta in California, where he worked until 2003. After this he moved to the Open Source Development Labs, which later became the Linux Foundation where Linus still continues to work. Two leading Linux based companies called Red Hat and VA Linux presented Linus with stock options as a token of their appreciation for his software. These were valued to be worth $20 million at their peak.
Although Linux is more complicated to use than Windows or Mac OS, its appeal is in the fact that it is virtually error free. It rarely crashes, causes bugs or carries viruses because the system loopholes have been meticulously combed out by its devoted programmers. Today it is known for being the most efficient, reliable and dependable operating system in use. It had an estimated 7 million users by 1999, a number which has steadily increased since then. It is still available free of charge for anyone to download and use. It has gained support from big corporations such as Netscape, Oracle, Intel and other companies who announced that they would support Linux as an affordable option as compared to Windows.
Linus is married to Tove Torvalds, who is a Finnish national karate champion. The couple have three daughters, two of whom were born in the United States. Linus has received numerous honors and awards such as the IEEE Computer Society’s “Computer Pioneer Award” in 2014, induction into the Internet Hall of Fame, Millennium Technology Prize in 2012 and being named one of the most influential people in the world. He hold 35 patents and continues to innovate and provide free software to Linux enthusiasts worldwide.