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Summary Article: Torvalds, Linus
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Finnish computer scientist. He invented the Linux operating system in 1991 while a student at the University of Helsinki in 1991. Instead of founding a company to sell his work, he distributed it freely over the Internet, releasing the source code, which meant that anyone with knowledge of computer programming could alter or customize it. In 2000, Time magazine put him at number 17 in the ‘Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century Poll’.

Described as a pioneer of open source software, Torvalds became a cult hero to a devoted band of computer users around the world, and the Linux system was to present a major challenge to the computer industry's dominant players. In the late 1990s the Linux software gained increasing acceptance and major database companies, including Oracle and Informix, announced plans to develop Linux versions of their software. Torvalds moved to Santa Clara in California in 1999 to work for Transmeta Corp., backed by US computer entrepreneur Paul Allen.

Torvalds was born in Helsinki. From the age of ten, he began to experiment with computer programming on his grandfather's Commodore VIC-20, before going on to study for his master's degree in computer science. Dissatisfied with the MS-DOS operating system on his home PC, Torvalds decided to work on a version of the UNIX software used at his university. Creating a kernel – the code at the heart of the operating system that works directly with the processor – Torvalds released the Linux 02, the first functional Linux operating system, in October 1991 and made it free and available to everyone. Linux soon had a following of enthusiastic supporters around the world, who, because they had access to the source code, were able to collaborate voluntarily on the development of the system.

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Torvalds, Linus

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