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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Linus Torvalds, 29


If operating-system software has a revolutionary hero, it is Linus Torvalds. The revolutionary movement is “open-source” software—in which a system’s source code is freely shared and collectively improved (see “Programs to the People,” TR January /February 1999). This model, which emerged from academia in the 1980s,has moved into the computing mainstream,largely due to this reticent Finn, who moved to California in 1997. Six years before, as a student in Finland, he had written his own “kernel,” the core of a Unix-based operating system. In the last eight years, with the help of developers worldwide, this seed has grown to become an

operating system called Linux. Linux is the world’s second most popular Unix flavor (behind Solaris) and the major challenger to the hegemony of Windows. It is also being used on Internet

appliances of all sizes.Even business-minded Forbes readers ranked Torvalds last year as their #1 Internet Hero--ahead of Bill Gates and Web creator Tim Berners-Lee.

Open source was once the province of fiery-eyed radicals.

Now IBM supports it, and Oracle sells Linux products. Torvalds

has moved with the trend. He remains at the center of Linux,

overseeing kernel changes. But he considers the operating system

a hobby. And he’s got a “real” job, too: at Transmeta, a chip design company funded by Paul Allen whose work remains top-secret. A patent filed last year suggests the company’s chips will be Intel-compatible. Is another revolution in store?


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