FreeBSD and the GPL

Linus Torvalds has said Linux wouldn’t have happened if 386BSD had been around when he started up. We trace the history of FreeBSD and how it’s affected the open source world.

The first free Unix-like operating system available on the IBM PC was 386BSD, of which Linus Torvalds said in 1993: “If 386BSD had been available when I started on Linux, Linux would probably never have happened.”

386BSD was a direct descendant of Bill Joy’s Berkeley Software Distribution, which was the core of SunOS and other proprietary Unix distributions. 386BSD and the patchkit for the port to the Intel chip formed the basis for FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD, which have carried the torch for BSD and open source Unix to this day.

Lars Wirzenius, a student friend of Linus Torvalds, recalled: “FreeBSD didn’t exist then. 386BSD did, but it wouldn’t have worked on my computer, since it required a 387 co-processor. I used SCO Xenix from fall 1991 to spring or summer of 1992, until Linux matured enough to be a usable environment for writing code.”

Alan Cox tells a similar story. When he saw the 386BSD announce he thought “Woah! – finally there is something worth running on a PC.” The trouble was that 386BSD needed floating point hardware, and Linux didn’t. “I hadn’t got the floating point chip, which was 70 quid at the time, so I installed Linux.”

386BSD was a long time coming. The first public release (Version 0.0) was on St. Patrick’s Day, 1991, and was barely functional, Most users had to wait until Bastille Day, 1992 for the first functional release (Version 0.1).

A year or two earlier, a couple of small fixes, and Linux may never have seen the light of day.

What ifs Continue reading.

Related Posts

Privacy by Design: The 7 Foundational Principles Privacy by Design is a concept I developed back in the 90’s, to address the ever-growing and systemic effects of Information and Communication Technol...
Web 2.0 versus Control 2.0 The fight for free access to information is being played out to an ever greater extent on the Internet. The emerging general trend is that a growing n...
Anonymity and the Internet Universal identification is portrayed by some as the holy grail of Internet security. Anonymity is bad, the argument goes; and if we abolish it, we ca...
Beware of Proprietary Drift The Free Software Foundation (FSF) announced yesterday a campaign to collect a clear list of OpenOffice.Or...
A Bill of Privacy Rights for Social Network Users Social network service providers today are in a unique position. They are intermediaries and hosts to our communications, conversations and connection...
Federal Intellectual Property Enforcement Gears Up The Obama Administration has been slowly ramping up its attention to intellectual property issues. Over the past few months, we've seen an IP "summit"...

We Recommend These Vendors and Free Offers

ContainerizeThis 2016 is a free, 2-day conference for all things containers and big data. Featured, will be presentations and free, hands-on workshops. Learn more at

Launch an SSD VPS in Europe, USA, Asia & Australia on Vultr's KVM-based Cloud platform starting at $5:00/month (15 GB SSD, 768 MB of RAM).

Deploy an SSD Cloud server in 55 seconds on DigitalOcean. Built for developers and starting at $5:00/month (20 GB SSD, 512 MB of RAM).

Want to become an expert ethical hacker and penetration tester? Request your free video training course of Online Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking

Whether you're new to Linux or are a Linux guru, you can learn a lot more about the Linux kernel by requesting your free ebook of Linux Kernel In A Nutshell.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *