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[humorix] Brief History Of Linux (Part 1)

Brief History Of Linux (Part 1)
January 11, 2000

January 5th marked an important date in the history of
Linux, and nobody noticed.  Nine years ago Linus Torvalds
acquired his first x86 computer and soon started hacking on
what was to become Linux.  Unfortunately, this milestone in
the history of computing has been largely forgotten.  We
here at Humorix would like to rectify this situation by
presenting a multi-part condensed history of Linux and
computing -- from prehistoric times to the modern age.

* Re-Inventing the Wheel

Our journey through the history of Linux begins ca. 28000
B.C. when a large all-powerful company called MoogaSoft
monopolized the wheel-making industry.  As founder of the
company, Billga Googagates (rumored to be the distant
ancestor of contemporary monopolist Bill Gates) was the
wealthiest man in the known world, owning several large
rock huts, an extravagant collection of artwork (cave
paintings), and a whole army of servants and soldiers.

MoogaSoft's unfair business practices were irritating, but
users were unable to do anything about them, lest they be
clubbed to death by MoogaSoft's army.  Nevertheless, one
small group of hobbyists finally got fed up and starting
hacking their own wheels out of solid rock.  Their spirit
of cooperation led to better and better wheels that
eventually outperformed MoogaSoft offerings.

MoogaSoft tried desperately to stop the hobbyists -- as
shown by the Ooga! Document[1] -- but failed.  Ironically,
Billga Googagates was killed shortly afterwards when one
his own 900-pound wheels crushed him.

* Hammurabi's Open-Source Code

Nothing of any significance occured until ca. 1750 B.C.,
when Hammurabi became king of Babylonia.  Under his reign,
a sophisticated legal code developed; Version 1, containing
282 clauses, was carved into a large rock column open to
the public.  However, the code contained several errors
(Hammurabi must have been drunk), which numerous citizens
demanded be fixed.

One particularly brave Babylonian submitted to the king's
court a stack of cloth patches that, when affixed to the
column, would cover up and correct the errors.  With the
king's approval, these patches were applied to the legal
code; within a month a new corrected rock column (Version
2.0) was officially announced. While future kings never
embraced this idea (who wanted to admit they made a
mistake?), the concept of submitting patches to fix
problems is now taken for granted in modern times.

* Lawyers Unite

Humanity faced a tremendous setback ca. 1100 A.D., when the
first law school was established in Bologna.  Ironically,
the free exchange of ideas at the law school spurred the
law students to invent new ways (patents, trademarks,
copyrights) to stifle the free exchange of ideas in other

If, at some point in the future, you happen upon a time
machine, we here at Humorix (and, indeed, the whole world)
implore you to travel back to 1100, track down a law
teacher called Irnerius, and prevent him from founding his
school using whatever means necessary. Your contribution to
humanity will truly make the world (in an alternate
timeline) a better place.

* Walls & Windows

Most people don't realize that many of the technological
innovations taken for granted in the 20th Century date back
centuries ago.  The concept of a network "firewall", for
instance, is a product of the Great Wall of China, a crude
attempt to keep raging forest fires out of Chinese
territory.  It was soon discovered that the Wall also kept
Asian intruders ("steppe kiddies") out, just as modern-day
firewalls keep network intruders ("script kiddies") out.

Meanwhile, modern terminology for graphical user interfaces
originated from Pre-Columbian peoples in Central and South
America. These natives would drag-and-drop icons
(sculptures of the gods) into vast pits of certain gooey
substances during a ritual in which "mice" (musical
instruments that made a strange clicking sound) were played
to an eerie beat.

* English Flame War

The idea behind Slashdot-style discussions is not new
either; it dates back to London in 1699.  A newspaper that
regularly printed Letters To The Editor sparked a heated
debate over the question, "When would the 18th Century
actually begin, 1700 or 1701?"  The controversy quickly
became a matter of pride; learned aristocrats argued for
the correct date, 1701, while others maintained that it was
really 1700.  Another sizable third of participants asked,
"Who cares?"

Ordinarily such a trivial matter would have died down,
except that one 1700er, fed up with the snobbest 1701
rhetoric of the educated class, tracked down one
letter-writer and hurled a flaming log into his manor house
in spite.  The resulting fire was quickly doused, but the
practice known as the "flame war" had been born.  More
flames were exchanged between other 1700ers and 1701ers for
several days, until the Monarch sent out royal troops to
end the flamage.

* California Goldrush

Now we skip ahead to California in 1849, when the discovery
of gold at Sutter's Mill set the stage for countless 
prospectors (Fortyniners) to travel West in the hopes to
get-rich-quick by finding gold in them thar hills.

What's the connection with Linux, you ask?  Well, the same
thing happened exactly 150 years later, in 1999.  The
discovery of Venture Capital at Red Hat set the stage for
countless investors (Ninetyniners) to travel West in the
hopes to get-rich-quick by finding hot IPOs in them thar
Linux companies.

* The Rise of Geeks

The late 19th Century saw the rise and fall of "geeks",
wild carnival performers who bit the heads off live
chickens. This vocal minority, outcast from mainstream
society, clamored for respect, but failed.  Their de facto
spokesman, Tom Splatz (distant relation to Humorix's Jon
Splatz), tried to expose America to their plight in his
312-page book, "Geeks".  

In the book Splatz documented the life of two Idahoan geeks
with no social life as they made a meager living traveling
the Pacific Northwest in circuses.  While Splatz's
masterpiece was a commercial failure, the book did set a
world record for using the term "geek" a total of 6,143

With that, we now come to the dawn of the 20th Century.
Part 2 of this brief history will chronicle the development
of computers and the invention of Unix -- two key
components necessary for a certain Finnish student to
create his own operating system and achieve world

To be continued...

[1] http://i-want-a-website.com/about-linux/nov98.shtml#Ooga-Document


James S. Baughn
Humorix:      Linux and Open Source(nontm) on a lighter note
Archive:      http://humbolt.nl.linux.org/lists/
Web site:     http://www.i-want-a-website.com/about-linux/