Re: OffTopic: Linux History (Re: Linux on-line bookstore)

Martin von Loewis (
Sat, 16 May 1998 11:22:27 +0200

> One correspondent has questioned whether this is accurate and I will
> include the gist of our discussion below. From what John implies, BSD
> was already free and public, but if this is the case, then why release
> Linux at all? More importantly, if BSD was more 'free' than GPL, why
> did the community embrace Linux?

One issue is the exact timeline, which would be interesting to
reconstruct. As far as I recall, 386BSD 0.0 was released about the
same time as early Linux kernels. 386BSD was a complete system in the
sense that it had all tools (which Linux didn't, originally), but the
PC port was very flaky. For example, 386BSD 0.0 required a math
coprocessor to work. FreeBSD and NetBSD appeared months later.

Another issue is why Linus made Linux and why he released it. The
first answer is well known: Linus was playing with 386-based
scheduling (task state segment and so on), and the first
accomplishment were two tasks that wrote out 'A's and 'B's
concurrently. So Linus started this system not because he was
disgruntled by something, but because he wanted to learn something.

When he originally released it, there was a much stricter license on
it than GPL: Free for private use only. The change to GPL was made on
user's request. The BSD ownership was not very clear at that time,
AT&T was claiming that significant parts of BSD were owned by USL, so
you technically had to have a Unix source license to use 386BSD. This
was settled years later with 4.4BSD Lite, so today's BSD derivatives
don't have this problem.


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