What is Linux and Why is it So Popular?

The Linux kernel is the heart of a computer operating system that powers everything from supercomputers to smartphones. It is an open source software project that is used on a wide range of systems by developers and enthusiasts. The kernel enables hardware to be controlled and software to be run by sending messages from the device to a central computer.

When Linus Torvalds wrote the first version of his kernel, he was doing it for fun. He wanted to read Usenet from home, and he needed a program to operate his terminal emulator. He hacked together an operating system that could handle basic tasks like keyboard and serial port control, emulation of VT100 terminal escape sequences for the screen, and dialing via modem to his university to connect to its Usenet pool.

He called it Linux and released the kernel under the GNU General Public License. This allows anyone to study, modify and redistribute it. It was not well received at first; the commercial Unix cathedrals of Sun, DEC and IBM had their best minds slaving away at stable, tightly-coupled and expensive operating system software, and they were raking in profits from hefty hardware sales and support contracts.

But the free and flexible Linux slot demo started to gain traction among computer hackers and hobbyists, and when the kernel was combined with userspace utilities from the GNU operating system by contributors like Red Hat and Suse, it became a serious contender. Then the world of high-performance computing began to take it seriously, and the pace of development accelerated even more.

Today, Linux runs every kind of computer: from servers to mobile devices to the International Space Station. The operating system is so incredibly scalable that it can be tweaked to suit the needs of almost any hardware platform or application.

This elasticity is one of the reasons why many people choose to adopt Linux. It is a far cry from the one-size-fits-all, this-is-what-comes-with-your-PC vision of Windows or macOS (formerly OS X).

You can get a feel for Linux by trying out a live CD or USB drive. These can be inserted into any computer and booted to provide a full operating system for troubleshooting or scanning for malware. Having one around is also useful for helping you recover files from an unbootable computer, or in the event of a data corruption disaster.

You Might Also Like