20 Facts About Linus Torvalds, the Creator of Linux and Git

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Brief: Some known, some lesser known – here are 20 facts about the Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux kernel.

Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux and Git

Linus Torvalds, a Finnish student, developed a Unix-like operating system while he was doing his masters in the year 1991. Since then, it’s sparked a revolution: today it powers most of the web, many embedded devices and every one of the top 500 supercomputers.

I’ve already written about some less known facts about Linux. This article is not about Linux. It’s about its creator, Linus Torvalds.

I learned a number of things about Torvalds by reading his biography.

20 Interesting facts about Linus Torvalds

You’ll probably already know some of these facts about Linus, but the chances are that you’ll learn some new facts about him by reading this.

1. Named after a Nobel prize winner

Linus Benedict Torvalds was born on December 28th 1969 in Helsinki. He comes from a family of journalists. His father Nils Torvalds is a Finnish politician and a likely candidate for president in future elections.

He was named after Linus Pauling, a double Nobel prize winner in Chemistry and Peace.

2. All the Torvalds in the world are relatives

While you may find several people with the name Linus, you won’t find many people with the name Torvalds – because the ‘correct’ spelling is actually Torvald (without the s). His grandfather changed his name from Torvald to Torvalds, adding an ‘s’ at the end. And thus the Torvalds dynasty (if I can call it that) began.

Since it’s such an unusual surname, there are hardly 30 Torvalds in the world and they’re all relatives, claims Linus Torvalds in his biography.

Linus Torvalds with sister Sara Torvalds
A young Linus Torvalds with his journalist sister Sara Torvalds

3. Commodore Vic 20 was his first computer

At the age of 10, Linus started writing programs in BASIC on his maternal grandfather’s Commodore Vic 20. This is when he discovered his love for computers and programming.

4. Second Lieutenant Linus Torvalds

Though he preferred to spend time on computers rather than in athletic activities, he had to attend compulsory military training. He held the rank of Second Lieutenant.

5. He created Linux because he didn’t have money for UNIX

In early 1991, unhappy with MS-DOS and MINIX, Torvalds wanted to buy a UNIX system. Luckily for us, he didn’t have enough money. So he decided to make his own clone of UNIX, from scratch.

6. Linux could have been called Freax

In September ’91, Linus announced Linux (standing for ‘Linus’s MINIX’) and encouraged his colleagues to use its source code for wider distribution.

Linus thought that the name Linux was too egotistical. He wanted to change it to Freax (based on free, freak and MINIX), but his friend Lemmarke had already created a directory called Linux on his FTP server. And thus the name Linux continued.

7. Linux was his main project at University

“Linux: A Portable Operating System” was the title of his thesis for his M.Sc.

8. He married his student

In 1993, when he was teaching at the University of Helsinki, he gave the task of composing email as homework to the students. Yeah, composing emails were a big deal back then.

A female student named Tove Monni completed the task by sending him an email asking him out on a date. He accepted and three years later the first of their three daughters was born.

Shall I say he started the internet dating trend? Hmm … nah! Let’s leave it there ;)

Linus Torvalds with his wife Tove Monni Torvalds
Linus Torvalds with wife Tove Torvalds

9. Linus has an asteroid named after him

He has numerous awards to his name, including an asteroid named 9793 Torvalds.

10. Linus had to battle for the trademark of Linux

Linux is a trademark registered with Linus Torvalds. Torvalds didn’t care about the trademark initially, but in August 1994, a William R. Della Croce, Jr. registered the Linux trademark and started demanding royalties from Linux developers. Torvalds sued him in return and in 1997, the case was settled.

11. Steve Jobs wanted him to work on Apple’s macOS

In 2000, Apple’s founder Steve Jobs invited him to work on Apple’s macOS. Linus refused the lucrative offer and continued to work on the Linux kernel.

12. Linus also created Git

Most people know Linus Torvalds for creating the Linux kernel. But he also created Git, a version control system that is extensively used in software development worldwide.

Till 2005, (then) proprietary service BitKeeper was used for Linux kernel development. When Bitkeeper shut down its free service, Linus Torvalds created Git on his own because none of the other version control systems met his needs.

13. Linus hardly codes these days

Though Linus works full time on the Linux kernel, he hardly writes any code for it anymore. In fact, most of the code in the Linux kernel is by contributors from around the world. He ensures that things go fine at each release with the help of kernel maintainers.

14. Torvalds hates C++

Linus Torvalds has a strong dislike for the C++ programming language. He has been very vocal about it. He jokes that the Linux kernel compiles faster than a C++ program.

15. Even Linus Torvalds found Linux difficult to install (you can feel good about yourself now)

A few years ago, Linus told that he found Debian difficult to install. He is known to be using Fedora on his main workstation.

16. He loves scuba diving

Linus Torvalds loves scuba diving. He even created Subsurface, a dive logging tool for scuba divers. You’ll be surprised that sometimes he even answers general questions on its forum.

Linus Torvalds in Scuba Gear
Linus Torvalds in scuba gear, circa 2010

17. The foul-mouthed Torvalds has improved his behavior

Torvalds is known for using mild expletives on the Linux kernel mailing list. This has been criticized by some in the industry. However, it would be difficult to criticize his banter of “F**k you, NVIDIA” as it prompted better support for the Linux kernel from NVIDIA.

In 2018, Torvalds took a break from Linux kernel development to improve his behavior. This was done just before he signed the controversial code of conduct for Linux kernel developers.

Linus Torvalds Middle finger to Nvidia : Fuck You Nvidia

18. He is too shy to speak in public

Linus doesn’t feel comfortable with public speaking. He doesn’t attend many events. And when he does, he prefers to sit down and be interviewed by the host. This is his favorite way of doing a public talk.

19. Not a social media buff

Google Plus is the only social media platform he has used. He even spent some time reviewing gadgets there in his free time. Google Plus is now discontinued so he has no other social media accounts.

20. Torvalds is settled in the USA

Linus moved to the US in 1997 and settled there with his wife Tove and their three daughters. He became a US citizen in 2010. At present, he works full-time on the Linux kernel as part of the Linux Foundation.

It’s difficult to say what the net worth of Linus Torvalds is or how much Linus Torvalds earns because this information has never been made public.

Linus Torvalds with wife and daughters
Tove and Linus Torvalds with their daughters Patricia, Daniela and Celeste | Picture credit: opensource.com

If you’re interested in learning more about the early life of Linus Torvalds, I recommend reading his biography entitled ”Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary”.

Disclaimer: Some of the images here have been taken from the internet. I do not own the copyright to the images. I also do not intend to invade the privacy of the Torvalds family with this article. 

About the author
Abhishek Prakash

Abhishek Prakash

Created It's FOSS 11 years ago to share my Linux adventures. Have a Master's degree in Engineering and years of IT industry experience. Huge fan of Agatha Christie detective mysteries 🕵️‍♂️

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