By the beginning of the 90s home PCs were finally powerful enough to run a full blown UNIX. Linus Torvalds, a young man studying computer science at the University of Helsinki, thought it would be a good idea to have some sort of freely available academic version of UNIX, and promptly started to code.
He started to ask questions, looking for answers and solutions that would help him get UNIX on his PC. Below is one of his first posts in comp.os.minix, dating from 1991:
From: torvalds@klaava.Helsinki.FI (Linus Benedict Torvalds)
Subject: Gcc-1.40 and a posix-question
Date: 3 Jul 91 10:00:50 GMT
Due to a project I'm working on (in minix), I'm interested in the posix standard definition. Could somebody please point me to a (preferably) machine-readable format of the latest posix rules? Ftp-sites would be nice.
From the start, it was Linus' goal to have a free system that was completely compliant with the original UNIX. That is why he asked for POSIX standards, POSIX still being the standard for UNIX.
In those days plug-and-play wasn't invented yet, but so many people were interested in having a UNIX system of their own, that this was only a small obstacle. New drivers became available for all kinds of new hardware, at a continuously rising speed. Almost as soon as a new piece of hardware became available, someone bought it and submitted it to the Linux test, as the system was gradually being called, releasing more free code for an ever wider range of hardware. These coders didn't stop at their PC's; every piece of hardware they could find was useful for Linux.
Back then, those people were called "nerds" or "freaks", but it didn't matter to them, as long as the supported hardware list grew longer and longer. Thanks to these people, Linux is now not only ideal to run on new PC's, but is also the system of choice for old and exotic hardware that would be useless if Linux didn't exist.
Two years after Linus' post, there were 12000 Linux users. The project, popular with hobbyists, grew steadily, all the while staying within the bounds of the POSIX standard. All the features of UNIX were added over the next couple of years, resulting in the mature operating system Linux has become today. Linux is a full UNIX clone, fit for use on workstations as well as on middle-range and high-end servers. Today, a lot of the important players on the hard- and software market each have their team of Linux developers; at your local dealer's you can even buy pre-installed Linux systems with official support - even though there is still a lot of hard- and software that is not supported, too.