Linux is one of the three dominant operating systems on the planet, but Linus Torvalds’ own code only represents about two percent of the modern Linux kernel – a fact that proves what profound potential open source philosophy has for developing nascent technologies in Industry 4.0.
From all of us at Edgy Labs Hyvää syntymäpäivää, Linus!
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Just five months after Apollo 11 made Buzz Aldrin the first man to walk on the Moon, legendary computer programmer Linus Torvalds was born in Helsinki, Finland.
Nowadays, we tend to think of older generations as incompatible with technology, but it was actually Linus’ granddaddy that sparked the young nerd’s interest in computers. Around the age of ten, Linus started to venture into the world of computers playing around on his grandfather’s Commodore VIC-20, and by the time he turned 21, Linus had purchased his very first PC.
As a programming student, Torvalds wasn’t satisfied with the MS-DOS his PC came with.
Even worse, because the software was under commercial license, he wasn’t able to modify it to include, say, for instance, some of the more user-friendly aspects of the UNIX software he was familiar with from the university.
Frustrated with having all of the pieces but not the right way to put them together, Torvalds created his own OS. Torvalds combined what he saw as the best of both of the Microsoft and University operating systems to create Linux.
But, what makes Torvalds a legend isn’t just what he did- it’s how he did it.
How Open Source Culture Helps Refine Technology
Open source will become the standard in Industry 4.0 because it expands distribution of a technology, leads to improvements and encourages lower costs in less time.
The spirit of open source is both selfish and altruistic, and has been a defining pillar of the programming community since its early days.
The selfish side of open source allows those with the programming know-how to rework a code to suit their specific needs.
For example, in creating Linux, Torvalds took the most user-friendly aspects of commercially available software (Microsoft DOS) and academic software he was familiar with (UNIX from his alma mater University of Helsinki) to create the right OS for him.
The altruistic side of open source understands that while not everyone’s programming needs are the same, others might be running into similar programming problems.Beyond sharing the wealth, Torvalds also saw the accessibility of open source as a way to make his technology better.Click To Tweet
Essentially, the more people there are working on a problem, the better the chances of solving that problem more quickly become.
In Torvalds’ case, instead of commercializing his OS (which would have limited access to his software in the long term for economic gain in the short-term), he decided to publish his free operating system and distribute it under GNU.
Since the source code was provided, users are able to freely distribute and modify the file to suit their individual needs. This attracted the attention of many technically qualified fans, who then offered their own changes and improvements to the program.
And, what’s really interesting about open source is that contributors, like Linus, don’t work for economic gain or profit; they work for the overall improvement of something that they use.
In the end, more improvements led to a more refined product for everyone.
This collective ability to smooth out the biggest bugs for programmers themselves is part of why Linux is known for fewer crashes than its OS competitors, and part of why it remains one of the dominant programming languages on the planet.
How Open Source Helps Drive Down Costs
Tested and refined by countless professionals in the field, the Linux OS quickly acquired a tried-and-true reputation as efficient, effective and useful. Torvalds welcomed these additions, and the Linux operating system quickly grew as a reliable programming staple among industry professionals as well as everyday users.
Linux also helps show how open source philosophy helps drive down costs by making efficient and competitive alternatives available and accessible.
By the mid-1990s, for example, several computer manufacturers had incorporated Linux into their products as a low-cost alternative to Microsoft. Coupled with its already open source availability, backing from giants like Oracle, Netscape, Corel and Intel contributed to the enormous jump in Linux users worldwide.
The Linux Contribution and Legacy
Torvalds, through open source philosophy, undoubtedly helped shape the evolution of programming and set the tone for the collaborative culture around it.
Looking back, his work and outlook making innovation accessible set the tone to create democratizing cultures around emerging technologies like the Internet. Torvalds proved that the most useful innovations are born of collaboration for overall product improvement versus competition for individual economic gain.
Looking forward, the open source culture that Torvalds helped drive will also help set the tone for business, research, and development in Industry 4.0.