Early Linux History
These are some of the earliest events in the history of Linux (pre version 1), shown directly from their USENET conversations. At some point I hope to construct a time line of the significant events (I have newsgroup discussions and announcements of many first events).
Linux was a fairly active on the internet in 1991. Most of the action revolved around the kernel and file systems. Back then there was no WWW — users interacted via the Linux USENET newsgroup (which had no spamming and little flames back then), plus email. Binaries (especially the kernel) were so small that they were sometimes posted directly to the newsgroup as UUENCODE files. Here is an archive of the Linux newsgroup from 1991. You will notice that Linus was very interactive, as well as Ted Ts’o (I believe he was the person who created this archive file).
Here is an archive capture of the newsgroup from 1992.
Also in 1992, a publishing company named JANA was the first to create CD-ROM captures of the mit and newsgroup archives and sell them. These were labeled “Expo Edition CD-ROM NEWS” (when they had a label). It is from these CDs that I have extracted these archive files.
Personal Linux Histories
Here are most likely the first postings of some well known (to me) people in the Linux community. The people are listed roughly in the order that they began to appear on the network. By March 1993, all of these people were frequent posters to the newsgroups and there are a large number within the archives. One of the more entertaining things to look for is the old tag lines in their signatures and their old email addresses.
This 11/6/91 posting is the first I have from Linus. Obviously these aren’t his first, but it must be darn close.
Interestingly; Linus is the only person in this list that I haven’t met in person.
Ted, currently the CTO of the Linux Foundation, is probably the oldest USENET poster next to Linus. His posts go all the way back to the first 1991 entries I have in the archive. This 11/7/91 entry is his first posting claiming that he just heard about Linux and is creating the Linux 0.10 archives on tsx-11.mit.edu.
Bryce and I worked closely together on the Open Source Piranha project and now works for Oracle UK. This is Bryce’s first newsgroup posting from 10/2/92, and possible his first use of Linux, Bryce was handling the Network FAQ (which was his 2nd posting).
Stephen, the creator of the Linux ext3 file system, was a very frequent poster. This 10/12/92 entry is the first postings I have on record from Stephen. HERE are a few more. He was hacking everything! He and I had several interactions on the newsgroup.
Erik was the head of development at Red Hat while I worked there. This 2/8/93 posting is the earliest post from Erik I could find (it’s followed by an interesting post from Linus). His next postings were later that same month, and contain a response from Ted. Other early posts also included his mentioning that this new thing called Windows NT will be coming out soon (PROVING that Linux is older than NT), and his responding to the suggested creation of the first Linux magazine. There’s also an interaction between Erik and Ted in there.
I personally became involved in Linux in January 1992. Back then software distribution was handled by posting to the Usenet group. I have a record of installing TAMU on March 27, 1993. The kernel release was .99pl3 in the popular distributions SLS 1.01 and TAMU. Slackware was also out, but SLS was still more popular. The .99pl5 kernel was just about making the rounds I believe.
Here are some of my posts concerning problems when I quickly switched to the SLS release, HERE is my first posting to the newsgroup, and interestingly the first person to respond to my post was Ted Ts’o. I was asking about SCSI tape drives and eventually did some driver testing and got listed in the SLS and Slackware “Hardware Compatibility” document.
HERE is posting where I suggested a breakup of the Linux newsgroups, immediately followed by Stephen Tweedie proclaiming his support.
I also was the FIRST person to suggest that Linux have a mascot!. I doubt I’ll ever get historical recognition for it, but look at the end of this posting.
I joined Red Hat in 1999, working on the Piranha Open Source project, and was a co-creator of the Red Hat High Availability Server product. It was great to get paid to do my long-time hobby!