Linus Benedict Torvalds

Torvalds was born in Helsinki, Finland. He is 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 Nobel Prize–winning American 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 between 1988 and 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 held 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  before receiving his MINIX copy, which in turn enabled him to begin work on Linux. The first prototypes of Linux was publicly released later that year. Version 1.0 was released on March 14, 1994

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