Andy Tanenbaum on ‘Who Wrote Linux’

May 20, 2004 | Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, Operating Systems, Rants and Raves | By: Mark VandeWettering

It’s fascinating the degree to which Microsoft/SCO backed front companies are trying to create FUD around the use and authorship of the Linux operating system. In a Slashdot article today, they link to an article by Andy Tanenabaum about Ken Brown’s claims that Linux Torvards is not the author of Linux. Brown’s argument seems to center around the notion that it’s impossible for an individual to write an entire operating system by themselves.

This would seem to be a curious idea to come away with after talking to Andy Tanenbaum, since that’s precisely what Andy himself did.

Tanenbaum’s take on Brown was that he was an ignorant shill for commercial interests that he refused to identify. He know nothing about the history of Unix, having not even heard of the Salus book on the subject.. Tanenbaum also claims he demonstrated a lack of knowledge about patents, copyrights, and intellectual property law. What’s really suprising to me is that Brown interviewed Tanenbaum on March 23, and yet supposedly has finished his book already. One can only imagine the care and detail that he put into the book. Really, one can only imagine it, because it’s obviously not in there.

Tanenbaum interestingly continues to poke Linus for his choice of a monolithic kernel design over the microkernel design. The "feud", if it can be so labelled is long and well documented. Many Linux supporters take a dim view of Tanenbaum, claiming that he is just bitching because Linux has enjoyed success that Minix will only dream of. The links above document the exchanges between the principles, and I suspect that both of them are at least partly correct, and both of them are at least partly wrong. I don’t think that the debate over microkernel versus monolithic design is nearly as clear cut as either individual would make it. But both individuals have made good contributions to computing, and I’m glad to have books by both of them on my shelf (although I must admit, I’ve read Tanenbaum’s works a lot more often).


Comment from tim
Time 11/2/2004 at 1:01 pm

I agree with you. Andy and Linus are both right and wrong, in some mixture. All of us are. Except Ken Brown, who is stubbornly ignorant, and pretty much entirely wrong.