Linus Benedict Torvalds (born December 28, 1969 in Helsinki, Finland) is a Finnish software engineer best known for having initiated the development of the Linux kernel and git revision control system. He later became the chief architect of the Linux kernel, and now acts as the project's coordinator.
Linus Torvalds was born in Helsinki, Finland, the son of journalists Anna and Nils Torvalds, and the grandson of poet Ole Torvalds. Both of his parents were campus radicals at the University of Helsinki in the 1960s. His family belongs to the Swedish-speaking minority (5.5%) of Finland's population. Torvalds was named after Linus Pauling, the American Nobel Prize-winning chemist, although in the book Rebel Code: Linux and the Open Source Revolution, Torvalds is quoted as saying, "I think I was named equally for Linus the Peanuts cartoon character", noting that this makes him half "Nobel-prize-winning chemist" and half "blanket-carrying cartoon character".
Torvalds attended the University of Helsinki from 1988 to 1996, graduating with a master's degree in computer science from NODES research group. His academic career was interrupted after his first year of study when he joined the Finnish Army, selecting the 11-month officer training program to fulfill the mandatory military service of Finland. In the army he holds the rank of second lieutenant, with the role of a ballistic calculation officer. In 1990, he resumed his university studies, and was exposed to UNIX for the first time, in the form of a DEC MicroVAX running ULTRIX. His M.Sc. thesis was titled Linux: A Portable Operating System.
His interest in computers began with a Commodore VIC-20. After the VIC-20 he purchased a Sinclair QL which he modified extensively, especially its operating system. He programmed an assembly language and a text editor for the QL, as well as a few games. He is known to have written a Pac-Man clone named Cool Man. On January 5, 1991 he purchased an Intel 80386-based IBM PC and spent a month playing the game Prince of Persia before receiving his MINIX copy which in turn enabled him to begin his work on Linux.
After a visit to Transmeta in late 1996, he accepted a position at the company in California, where he would work from February 1997 through June 2003. He then moved to the Open Source Development Labs, which has since merged with the Free Standards Group to become the Linux Foundation, under whose auspices he continues to work. In June 2004, Torvalds and his family moved to Portland, Oregon to be closer to the OSDL's Beaverton, Oregon-based headquarters.
From 1997 to 1999 he was involved in 86open helping to choose the standard binary format for Linux and Unix.
Red Hat and VA Linux, both leading developers of Linux-based software, presented Torvalds with stock options in gratitude for his creation. In 1999, both companies went public and Torvalds' net worth shot up to roughly $20 million.
His personal mascot is a penguin nicknamed Tux, which has been widely adopted by the Linux community as the mascot of the Linux kernel.
Although Torvalds believes "open source is the only right way to do software", he also has said that he uses the "best tool for the job", even if that includes proprietary software. He has been criticized for his use and alleged advocacy of the proprietary BitKeeper software for version control in the Linux kernel. However, Torvalds has since written a free-software replacement for BitKeeper called Git. Torvalds has commented on official GNOME developmental mailing lists that, in terms of desktop environments, he encourages users to switch to KDE. However, Torvalds thought KDE 4.0 was a "disaster" because of its lack of maturity, so he temporarily switched to GNOME.
About 2% of the Linux kernel as of 2006 was written by Torvalds himself. Since Linux has had thousands of contributors, such a percentage represents a significant personal contribution to the overall amount of code. Torvalds remains the ultimate authority on what new code is incorporated into the standard Linux kernel.