Celebrating 15 Years of Linux Journal

by Shawn Powers

[Shawn Powers was barely out of high school when the first issue of Linux Journal went to press 15 years ago, but we figured it would be fun to send him back in time and write a column for the first issue. Besides, how else could we claim a tax write-off on a time machine?]

Wow, what a dream. I could have sworn I was a 30-something-year-old geek with a family and a mortgage. But, here I am in 1994. Oh well, at least the Linux Journal gig wasn't a dream. What's Linux Journal, you ask? That's easy. We're the only magazine dedicated to the Linux and Open Source community. What's “Open Source”? Well, you'll have to wait a few years for that one.

Our publisher, Bob Young, brings us a great interview with Linus Torvalds. As I'm sure you know, Linus has quite a bit to do with the Linux community. Bob Young also is someone you'll want to keep an eye on—trust me on this one, and maybe think about investing in red-colored headwear. We've also got an awesome comparison of the three leading operating systems: Linux, Windows and OS X—er, I mean OS/2. Sure, IBM is pouring a ton of money into marketing its operating system, while Linux doesn't have any huge financial backing, but I think history will prove it takes more than hype to compete. Looking through the vista of time, Microsoft will have its fair share of blunders too. Linux is here to stay.

The big news that comes along with this maiden issue of Linux Journal is that the Linux kernel itself has matured to 1.0 status. Just because it's no longer beta doesn't mean you'll have to start paying for it though. Linux is free. Free in several ways. Check out Arnold Robbin's “What's GNU?” column for more details.

Are you worried you won't be able to run Linux on your existing hardware? Well, admittedly, hardware compatibility is a challenge, but if you're looking to install a basic Linux system, you should expect to have a computer with at least 2MB of RAM and 15MB of disk space. Also, the fancy 386 processor will give you amazing 32-bit speeds and fully utilize the power of the Linux kernel. With the 386 math coprocessor and its 32-bit address space, I can't imagine we'll ever need a faster processor. ::SNORT::

One of the biggest announcements this month is the availability of a new Linux distribution called Debian. Ian Murdock, the creator and maintainer of Debian, tells us why his distribution is different and why the Linux community needs something like it. He has the backing of the Free Software Foundation and is making the entire operating system available as a free download to anyone who wants it—awesome stuff that will almost certainly stand the test of time. Again, trust me.

The one thing I'm sad to report is that in order to try all the awesome programs available for Linux, you'll either have to download them very slowly from FTP servers or spend some money buying CDs. Installing from CDs is much faster though, so it might be worth the investment. I'd give you the Ubuntu CD I brought with me, but I fear it might disrupt the space-time continuum. And, I probably would get in trouble for that.

I'm so excited for everyone stuck back here in 1994. You have years and years of Linux Journal issues to read. Whatever your current plans are for the Linux operating system, keep subscribing to Linux Journal, and we'll keep you up to date with the latest information, tech tips, programming practices and industry news for the next 15 years and beyond!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go find Linus. He hasn't figured out what sort of mascot to choose for Linux, and I'm a big penguin fan. If I start trying to convince him now, maybe in a few years, he'll decide my penguin idea is a good one. Wish me luck!

In 1994, Shawn was attending his first year of college at Michigan Tech University. He skipped his engineering classes almost every day to sneak into the computer labs and play with Linux. At the time it seemed a waste of tuition, but looking back, he wouldn't change a thing.

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