Minix Operating System

Minix is an OperatingSystem developed by AndrewTanenbaum for teaching purpose. See

Wasn't Linux original ported from Minix? Or at least, wasn't the Linux code based on the Minix code? Or something?

Linux was created because the licensing requirements for Minix were horribly restrictive, as well as being for-profit. No longer so; Minix is now effectively PublicDomain. See Andrew was intent on controlling Minix's fate, and that fate did not include being an easily installed, up to date, or useful OS. As a result, disgruntled Minix users were driven away to Linux. And all this happened in spite of Tanenbaum calling Linux an inferior relic.

Alternatively, linux was really created because LinusTorvalds had just bought a machine with the brand new 386 chip, and wanted to play with it. He did so by writing a new OS; rather than make it all up from scratch, he chose to implement the UNIX API. He released it, and other people liked it. Linus and Linux soon got into a row with AndrewTanenbaum and Minix about which was best. Tanenbaum pointed to the fact that Minix had a more advanced (microkernel-based) architecture, ran on cheaper (286-class) hardware, and was portable to 68k hardware as well. Linus pointed to the fact that Linux had features that made it actually useful, ran a lot faster and was free. See for some history. And flames.

So: That's a controversial question. Microsoft funded a book called "Samizdat" about 10 years ago that implied that Torvalds copied much of his code from Minix (something he had no legal right to do). The book is interesting, but it's also laughably bad from a technical standpoint. It displays a shockingly low level of comprehension of its subject matter, e.g. in the parts that talk about decompiling, obfuscating, and "pretty printing" code. (If Torvalds really copied parts of Minix, I seriously doubt a "pretty printer" had anything to do with it.)

Nevertheless, I'm inclined to believe that at least some of Torvalds development process was aided by the presence of the Minix source code (and text book) on his desk. You can't tell me that Torvalds - a novice - never got stuck on a tough problem during the development of Linux. And when he did get stuck, I find it hard to imagine that he would not go straight to Minix for his answers. At the same time, that was the whole point of Minix. It was a student OS designed to teach systems programming. Unless Torvalds actually used something like the Windows clipboard to insert Minix code directly into his own code (which I doubt, if only because one couldn't really copy text directly from the hardback textbooks of the early 1990s), then he's probably on solid legal ground.


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