From the Publisher - Ten Years of <citetitle>Linux Journal</citetitle>
With this issue, Linux Journal turns ten. I hadn't really thought about how LJ had been my job for ten years until Don suggested I write this editorial. To me, that's a good thing; I have been publishing rather than counting days. What has happened in these last ten years is amazing. Ten years ago I don't think anyone would have expected to see the L-word in ads by HP, IBM, Oracle and many other big players.
In looking around to see what I had from ten years ago that might have something to do with this editorial, I found two interesting things. The first was my copy of Yggdrasil LGX: Linux/GNU/X. This is the Fall 1993 distribution. The second was a picture of Phaedra, the daughter of Joanne Wagner, our first ad rep. The two go together because Phaedra (now 15) used to play the text game Mille Bornes, from the BSD games collection, on this version of Linux.
The distribution came in the form of a 64-page book and had a description of what it included and what it would run on on the covers. Inside you found a CD, a regular 5 1/4" boot floppy and one of those new-fangled 3.5" boot floppies. The system requirements were 4MB of RAM and from 2 to 680MB of disk space. Inside the book were installation information and a list of where to get support—12 places. One of these 12 is Russ Nelson at Crynwr Software, who still is very much an active member of what we were all calling the free software community back then.
We publish a magazine, so let me look at what I predicted back in the beginning. My editorial in issue two was a piece of fiction describing what Linux would be like in the year 2000—six years into the future. The first sentence says, “In the past 7 years we have seen Linux go from an idea for a small UNIX-like system into a movement to bring affordable, reliable multi-tasking software to anyone who could buy a rather minimal computer.” I don't think there is any argument there.
After some rambling about a program loader called MS-DOS, I went on to say, “With the advent of ISDN in the early 1990s and personal satellite stations in the late 1990s, connectivity became the big issue.” Personal satellite certainly did happen. I was wrong about ISDN (I guess I forgot it stands for It Still Does Nothing), but DSL and cable clearly filled that gap. So, I am still on track.
And that's where the track went astray. For example, I predicted that 90% of LJ subscribers would be receiving the magazine on-line. It still sounds like a great goal, but a combination of people wanting to have something to carry on the bus with them and the way subscription audits work—that is, only paper magazines count toward the official circulation—has slowed progress there. Of course, to my credit, Microsoft founder Bill Gates previously had predicted that Xenix on an Intel 80286 chip was the future of computing, so at least I was a little closer.
All my other predictions had to do with getting everyone on the Internet. In January 2001, I moved to Costa Rica. In the 1994 editorial I claimed that in 2000, I was in Yaak, Montana. So, I did move but I picked a place with a lot better weather. This move also helped me adjust my perspective about Internet connectivity. While many countries, Korea being a good example, are delivering broadband Internet service to a large percentage of their population, many other places are still without.
About nine years ago we decided we needed a Web presence. Linux and Apache sounded like the right approach, so we set up a 486DX100 with 16MB of RAM to test the waters. We agreed to evaluate what we really wanted to do when we got to 10,000 hits per month. LJ was growing and we were busy with other projects. When we finally looked at the Web site again we were at 100,000 hits per month. The system was handling it just fine. Today, we receive over 10,000 hits per hour on our Web sites.
Early on in the life of Linux, ISPs considered it to be an alternative to proprietary UNIX platforms. This was an era where dial-up was almost always the answer. Unfortunately, no intelligent serial communications boards were available with Linux drivers. I started talking to vendors and they all thought I was crazy to think there was any commercial future in Linux for them.
One company kept talking to me, though. They thought I was crazy mind you, but they did keep talking. That company was Cyclades, and I finally managed to get them to give Randy Bentson one of their boards so he could write a Linux driver. Six months later, Doris Li, their marketing manager, admitted that 50% of their domestic sales of that board were going to Linux users. Much like Russ Nelson, Cyclades is still here.