The roots of the Linux operating system are inspired by the well known and used UNIX operating system. Many of the features are borrowed from UNIX and many are inherently Linux in origin. The roots of Linux began when Linus Torvalds of Finland was studying at the University of Helsinki. At the age of 21, Linus began to develop the basics parts of the Linux kernel.

Andrew S. Tannebaum released the source code for his operating system, MINIX.

This provided the basis for the first lines of code. Several improvements where made by Linus. These efforts culminated in the release of the fist Linux Kernel, version 0.01 on May 14, 1991.

In the spirt of the open source movement, the source code for Linux was available on the internet. Developers from around the world to the initial code that Linus had created and modified it to perform better and with more features. Slowly the collaboration of the efforts of many synthesized into the the release of Linux 1.0.

This was a breakthrough in the development of Linux as a serious operating system. A new and improved filesystem was implemented along with more hardware support. Kernel modules was also introduced that could be appended dynamically to the system.

From this point onwards Linux has been sustained and improved through a system of collaboration and refinement from people from around the world. Eventually the demand for Linux grew so much that several variations were produced that could specialize in certain services or focus on specific uses. Commercial and professional groups began developing and maintaining code that could be compiled into a distribution. Today, there are hundreds of Linux distributions and thousands of applications. Linux is used from small embedded devices to full scale scientific computations performed on a super computer. All of this stems from the original code that Linus Torvalds released in the early 1990s.

Today, Linux has been diversified. There is not one official version of Linux due to the open source nature of its development. Many commercial and non-commercial groups have created their own versions of Linux that are custom designed for a variety of purposes. Some of the most popular and modern distributions of Linux are below.

Modern Linux Distributions


Creation Date

Development Group



Future Release


Lightweight, Minimalist, OS for web browsing



Debian Group

Highly flexible and extensible. Multi-use desktop and server based



Fedora Project

Descendent of Red Hat, Multi-use business applications

Red Hat Linux


Red Hat

Multi-use business applications

Scientific Linux


CERN, Fermilab

Specialized operating system for mathematics and physics analysis



Canonical Ltd.

Most popular Distribution. Aimed for laptop installations