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"I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu)...”
- Linus Torvalds; Posting to comp.os.minix; 25 Aug. 1991

Linux is the first truly free Unix-like operating system. In 1991, a student at the University of Helsinki in Finland named Linus Torvalds who had been using Minix, a non-free Unix-like system, began writing his own kernel. He started by developing device drivers and hard-drive access, and by September had a basic design that he called Version 0.01.

Torvalds released Version 0.11 under a freeware license of his own devising, but then released Version 0.12 under the GPL License, making available the world's first (very basic) Free Open Source Software computer operating system. Linux continued to be improved through the 1990's, and started to be used in large-scale applications like web hosting, networking, and database serving, proving ready for production use. Version 2.2, a major update to the Linux kernel, was officially released in January 1999. By the year 2000, most computer companies supported Linux in one way or another, recognizing a common standard that could finally reunify the fractured world of the Unix Wars.

Although Torvalds continued to function as the Linux kernel release manager, he avoided work at any of the many companies involved with Linux in order to avoid showing favoritism to any particular organization, and instead went to work for a company called Transmeta and helped develop mobile computing solutions, and then made his home at the Linux Foundation.