that old GNU/Linux argument

Björn Persson listor3.rombobeorn at
Tue Jul 22 12:58:33 UTC 2008

Timothy Murphy wrote:
> I think it is misleading to say that Torvalds was "dissatisfied" with
> Minix. The fact is, Tanenbaum (bizarrely) declined to port Minix to the 386
> on the absurd grounds that there were millions of 286's around the world,
> and people would continue using them indefinitely.

"Port" can't be the right word here. A 386 runs 286 code natively so there's 
no need to port it. You probably mean that he didn't want to make use of the 
more advanced features of the 386.

What I've heard is that Minix was meant for teaching. Tanenbaum deliberately 
made it simple so that students could understand the whole kernel in 
reasonable time.

Those who wanted Unix on their PCs used Minix because it was the only 
Unix-like OS available for PCs. Some people wrote patches to improve it, but 
Tanenbaum didn't incorporate their patches because he wanted to keep Minix 
simple. Tanenbaum's license wouldn't allow anyone to redistribute patched 
versions of Minix, so those who wanted an improved Minix had to get the 
patches separately and apply them.

So I don't know if Linus was dissatisfied but some people certainly were. 
There was a pent-up demand for a more advanced Unix-like OS for PCs that 
would allow people to help improving it, and then Linux appeared on the scene 
and provided the last piece that made GNU usable.

Björn Persson

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