Happy 48th Birthday Linus Torvalds! Here are 20 Facts About Him

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

Linus Torvalds, a Finnish student developed a Unix-like operating system while he was doing his masters in the year 1991. It has become a revolution since then and today it powers most of the web, embedded devices and all of the top 500 supercomputers.

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

20 Interesting facts about Linus Torvalds

Probably you already know some of the facts about Linus but chances that you’ll know some new facts about him.

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

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

2. 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 s). His grandfather changed his name from Torvald to Torvalds, adding an ‘s’ at the end. And thus the Torvalds dynasty began (if I can call it that).

Since this is an unusual surname, there are hardly 30 Torvalds in the world and they are all relatives, claims Linus Torvalds in his biography.

A young Linus Torvalds with his journalist sister Sara Torvalds

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

5. In early 1991, unhappy with the 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. In Sep’91, Linus announced Linux (Linus’s MINIX) and encouraged his colleagues to use the source code for wider distribution.

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

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

9. 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 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 wife Tove Torvalds

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

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

Tove and Linus Torvalds with their daughters Patricia, Daniela and Celeste

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linus Torvalds in Scuba Gear. Circa 2010

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

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

20. Google Plus is the only social media platform he uses. You can find him reviewing gadgets there in his free time.

If you are interested to learn more about the early life of Linus Torvalds, I recommend reading his biography titled Just for Fun. You can also watch this short video about Linus Torvalds and share it with other people:

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