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Linus Torvalds

Torvalds fathered Linux, the very popular Unix-based operating system. He calls himself "an engineer," and has said that his aspirations are simple, "I just want to have fun making the best damn operating system I can."

Torvalds got his start in computers with a Commodore VIC-20, an 8-bit home computer. He then moved on to a Sinclair QL. Wikipedia reports that he modified the Sinclair "extensively, especially its operating system." Specifically, Torvalds hacks included "an assembler and a text editor as well as a few games."

Torvalds created the Linux kernel in 1991, using the Minix operating system as inspiration. He started with a task switcher in Intel 80386 assembly and a terminal driver. After that, he put out a call for others to contribute code, which they did. Currently, only about 2 percent of the current Linux kernel is written by Torvalds himself. The success of this public invitation to contribute code for Linux is touted as one of the most prominent examples of free/open source software.

Currently, Torvalds serves as the Linux ringleader, coordinating the code that volunteer programmers contribute to the kernel. He has had an asteroid named after him and received honorary doctorates from Stockholm University and University of Helsinki. He was also featured in Time Magazine's "60 Years of Heroes."

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