26 years ago a young computer science student at the University of Helsinki called Linus Torvalds set himself the task of creating a free operating system that would take the best parts of UNIX, which had originally been developed by A T & T’s Bell Labs back in 1969, and improve on them to create a mould-breaking solution.

Already some developers had been working to achieve this with an operating system called GNU but what it lacked was the kernel, that all-important element that was vital to turn it into a fully usable piece of software. Because many elements of UNIX were legally protected from adaptation by developers the only solution for Torvalds was to create his own software which he gradually did.

At the time Microsoft was establishing its almost total monopoly on the computing world but, nonetheless, Linux started to quickly find favor and its success was accelerated by the emergence of the internet. Because it was an open source system, developers could tweak it to their precise needs in a way that was not possible with proprietary Microsoft products so it found its way into powering web servers for some of the world’s largest organizations which had been manufactured by companies including Dell, IBM and Hewlett Packard. Today, according to research carried out by W3Techs, UNIX operating systems power about 67% of all web servers and the vast majority of these are running Linux-based software.

Even the age-old foe Microsoft has come round to accepting that Linux is here to stay by letting clients run it instead of Windows on its cloud computing offering, Microsoft Azure, and around 33% of them are believed to do so. The company even uses it itself to power the tech behind the system so the Linux mascot, Tux the Penguin, really has been popping up everywhere.

"Paper-tux" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Sunfox

But the real breakthrough into the consumer market for Linux has come with the explosion in the use of Android mobile devices which also use it as the basis for their operating system and, with an estimated 88% share of the market, it truly can be said to have arrived in the mainstream.

It hardly needs to be said that making calls and sending text represent just small proportion of the uses of smartphones; accessing the internet and gaming are even more popular. So whereas games developers previously concentrated on creating them using Windows this has led to an explosion of Linux-based titles. Gaming companies have also been very quick to react to the whole new audience that Linux-based smartphones have created. Linux supports a whole range of popular sites and the rise in the popularity of online bingo has created a new market. The ability to play bingo via a site supported by Linux is proving to be a hit with online gamers.

So really it has been consumer demand which has driven this development in much the same way that the fast emerging sector of hybrid and electric-powered cars are now meeting the needs of ecologically-sensitive drivers (appropriately enough, the Tesla on-board computers and displays are also Linux-powered).

So, with a name which its inventor once thought was far too egocentric to consider, Linux is come a long way from that Helsinki computer science lab in the early 90s - and it certainly has much further to go.

The Linux operating system was a development of UNIX created by Linus Torvalds in Helsinki in the early 90s. It was adopted by many mainframe manufacturers who wanted to use open-source software instead of Windows but its big breakthrough came when it was adopted by Android and used on the majority of the world’s mobile devices. In turn this meant that many more games were developed which could run on Linux so now players have a very wide choice to enjoy.
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