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Communications of the ACM


Open Source Software No Longer Optional

Bart Simpson at blackboard

In the spring of 1991, a 21-year-old Finnish student named Linus Torvalds sat down to write code that would ultimately revolutionize the world of software development. In a Usenet newsgroup post late that summer, he told the world about his work: "I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones," he wrote. "This has been brewing since April and is starting to get ready. I'd like to know what features most people would want. Any suggestions are welcome, but I won't promise I'll implement them:-)."

Indeed, users of his Linux operating system have wanted a lot of features over the past quarter-century, and Torvalds has not had to add them himself. Linux today has more than 18 million lines of source code and some 12,000 participating developers. There are tens of millions of Linux users worldwide, from owners of Android smartphones to corporate data center managers to scientists at supercomputer centers.


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