“Evolution is mandatory: the only process that keeps you clicking and alive in the race.” Linux has been no alien to this concept. Using the latest version of Ubuntu, Fedora or any other version of the Linux family, has it ever crossed your mind how the current version came into being? It’s so easy to sit down, relax and use the latest advancements, the adapting GUI grants on our comfortable desktops or laptops, which are tuned to be the latest in the market.

Have we ever taken a moment out of our lives and pondered over the thought that thousands of developers, some have worked and some are still working, to provide us with the best in the industry. The time taken and the effort put-in is commendable and requires appreciation. Just going through the firsthand account of Linux distros, made me think much deeper into the statistics. My mind was baffled by the synopsis that I got.

The whole scenario changed, many distros were responsible to bring about a change in the OS and there were some that fell flat. So, let’s take a U-turn and visit some memorabilia that was responsible to shape the current standing of the penguin.

A Silent Beginning:

Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie in 1969, had introduced Unix to the users. A number of projects came into being after that, in the eighties decade, but all were based on Unix. They included Richard Stallman’s GNU Project, the Berkley Software Distribution (BSD), the book- Operating Systems: Design and Implementation by Prof. Andrew S. Tanenbaum. This book introduced a new concept of MINIX ( Mini-Unix).

The Era Begins:

The developments were on a gradual up-gradation basis until 1991. The year marked a new beginning and installed fresh life to the OS. A young Finnish student, Linus Torvalds, used all the information available and turned them into a kernel, which shook the world over. There are many versions to the story on how he came about creating the environment.

One is that Linus ushered data to his hard drive instead of his modem and made sure that the MINIX partitions don’t exist. This created a sense of frustration within him for the limitations of the existing OS and he decided to make one on his own.
Another one, doing the rounds, is that he on-purpose wrote the kernel to have a better functionality of the just introduced Intel 386 machine.

A third-one proposes that he was restricted from improving on MINIX and thus went on to create something on his own.

25th August 1991, noticed a change that would create history. Linus created a free terminal emulator that had its basics derived from MINIX and UNIX, but would eventually come up with an operating system kernel. He posted the message of his founding on the MINIX Newsgroup.

There was no holding back the new discovery. The FTP servers, all over, contributed to the expansion mode and were a-buzz with the version available for Linux.
Linux eventually came of age and evolved considerably into an OS when the Manchester Computing Center created the first distribution that made use of a combined boot/root disk, coined as MCC Interim Linux.

The Saga Continues With the Desktop Founders

1992 to 1994 saw an evolution that marked the difference. The most influential founders of the modern-day Linux desktop were established. Slackware, Red Hat and Debian along with the newly introduced 0.95 Linux kernel came into existence. 0.95 was the first one capable of running the X Windows System.

Peter MacDonald founded Slackware way back in 1992. Though the software faced rough waters initially, it started as SLS, the Softlanding Linux System and was the first system to adopt the Linux kernel at that time. SLS was ahead of its time and was the first Linux distribution to incorporate not only the 0.99 Linux kernel, but also the TCP/IP stack and the X Window System. Present of too many bugs led to its downturn and was succeeded by Patrick Volkerding’s Slackware, the longest-running distro, till now.

Ian Murdoch, in 1993, frustrated from the heavy-bugged interface of the SLS, went forth and created the Debian Linux Release. It was a new branch of the Linux distribution system.

With the evolution of Slackware, companies thronged to support the software. In 1994, the Software und System-Entwicklung, or S.U.S.E Linux was born.
Red Hat Commercial Linux was introduced to the world on 3rd November, 1994 and was the offering by Marc Ewing.

14th March, 1994, saw something being introduced that was tested and stood the rough patches. Linux 1.0.0 was launched and it marked the inauguration of something spectacular.

The Birth of Gnome and KDE

The period, 1995-1999, witnessed the interception of the dot com technology together with the invention of some great Linux distributions and also the infamous penguin attack, in 1996. There were also some noticeable off-shoots of the Linux family tree and all this got tagged in the pages of history.

Jurix Linux was introduced during this period and was noticed for a good number of reasons. Features like being the first distro to include a scriptable installer, which allowed an admin install to copy the installation process across various similar machines. Bootp and NFS got total and excellent support from this distro as it was the first one to do so. It also marked itself as the first one to use EXT2. But, what helped it to create a niche in the history, was the fact that it was the base system used for creating the SUSE Linux, a part of modern-day requirement.

From the kitty of Red Hat- based Linux OSs cropped up Caldera, Mandrake, TurboLinux, Yellow Dog and Red Flag. Linux kernel also introduced versions ranging from 1.2.0 to 2.2. Thus, started the process of evolution and all started thrusting new life to Linux.

The version 2.0, in 1996, saw 41 releases in the series. Such an outburst advancement and incorporation of important features brought out a rock-solid Linux OS, which was preferred the world over. Features like SMP support and better memory management helped further. The 2.2 version made use of an improved SMP, support for the PowerPC architecture and a read-only capability for NTFS.

Systems that made use of Debian had a more user-friendly server room approach for their distros. They were more desktop-oriented and brought about introductions like Libranet, Storm, Finnix and Corel Linux.

Together with these up-gradations, the period witnessed the birth of KDE and Gnome. Mattthias and Ettrich, in 1996, founded KDE (Kool Desktop Environment). This gave the users a break from the age-old CDE or X11-based environments. In 1998, KDE version 1.0 was first made use by Mandrake. The year 2000, saw version 2.0 and it featured great improvements like Konqueror, Koffice and KIO networking.

Gnome was first announced and made live by Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena. It was based on GTK+ and was a completely new desktop environment. Red Hat was the first Linux OS to feature Gnome. Due to its advanced, quick and user-friendly environment it was fast becoming acceptable all over. May 2000, saw the release of Gnome 1.2 Bongo.

Live distros came into Existence

The period 2000-2005 saw something that helped Linux surge ahead. Advanced improvements to the kernel, new applications and the birth of live distros, this era marked everything.

A Debian -based distro, Knoppix, developed by Klaus Knopper was the most popular distro of this period. The noticeable feature- it could boot directly from the CD. This raised the bar for the other inventions that were due to take place later on.
Linux From Scratch (LFS) introduced a method to users to build their own Linux systems right from the source. It was accompanied with a book by Gerard Beekmans, which helped with the instructions.

The year 2000, saw the formation of Linux Foundation that was formed to sponsor and protect the growing environment of Linux. The next change was brought about by version 2.4, which was released on the 4th of January. It provided support for USB, PC Cards, ISA Plug and Play. Additions like Bluetooth, RAID and EXT3 were also a part. From 2.4 x to, in 2011, the Linux kernel evolved drastically.

Red Hat introduced two more versions- the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2.1, with kernel 2.4.9 and the Fedora Core. The first one provided stability and long-term support for the enterprise user whereas, the latter one provided support for the community distribution. CentOS, Oracle Linux, CERN and Scientific Linux were also introduced during this period. They had the good quality of a distro, but lacked the expertise of knowledge and software.

CRUX, another noticeable distro, cropped up in December 2002. It was a simple, lightweight distro which focused entirely on the developer and not on the end-user. It served as a base for Arch-Linux.

The version 2.6 came into being on 18th December and it supported PAE, new CPUs, an improved support for 64-bit, 16TB file-system sizes, EXT4 and many more. Users were being left behind, so the next invention required something human. This formed the launch for Ubuntu.

Ubuntu was Debian-based and focused on creating an easy-to-use Linux desktop that could be easily updated by the user who had minimum knowledge about the subject. 20th October, 2004 saw the release of Ubuntu 4.10.

Ubuntu- Crestfallen

2006-2012, marks the present day status for Linux. There has been an innumerable number of distros making its way to the surface. 2006 saw the launch of Linux Mint 1.0, Ada, which is the fourth most-used OS in the world. It was a brainwave of FOSS and proprietary software. It functioned on the Ubuntu base and the Debian-base and was touted to be something uncommon.

The period also marked the release of KDE4, but wasn’t stable and faced criticism. 23rd September saw the launch of something that would capture the market. Android was shown daylight and yes, it is based on Linux.

HTC Dream helped with the launch of the first version 1.0, but it catered to a lot of bugs. Version 1.1 took notice of all the bugs, but it was the version 1.5, Cupcake which caught the eye and spread like wildfire.

Ubuntu, in the meanwhile was also faring well and topping the charts. The 14th of April, saw the release of Unity. It had a slightly different look, but was faced with criticism all over written on it. Ubuntu, thus lost its glory and the fan-base.

What Be-holds in the Coming Years?

Ubuntu, though has seen a downfall, might re-surface and win the confidence back. Linux Mint, still offers an alternative desktop environment, in the form of MATE and Cinnamon, but the damage has been done. The left-users have resorted back to using the earlier versions of Gnome for safety.

But, what the future beholds cannot be predicted at the present. Let’s wait and watch……