My last blog entry about Linus Torvals' thoughts on the goto statement brought and old email interview back to my mind, which I had the honor to have with him a long time ago in 1994.
From cs.Helsinki.FI!Linus.Torvalds Wed Jun 22 20:45:59 1994
From: torvalds@cs.Helsinki.FI (Linus Torvalds)
Date: Wed, 22 Jun 1994 21:45:52 +0300
In-Reply-To: Kai Seidler's message as of Jun 22, 12:13
X-Mailer: Mail User's Shell (7.2.4 2/2/92)
To: email@example.com (Kai Seidler)
Subject: Re: Qs about you and linux
Kai Seidler: "Qs about you and linux" (Jun 22, 12:13):
> Did your role as linux programmer has changed over the time? From the
> alone linux programmer (1991) to a linux god? How much time do you
> spend today in programming in opposition to manage kernel-patches,
> answer stupid questions (about bugs, and like this one :), visit
Oh, it has changed, all right. In 1991, I essentially coded 8 hours a
day and didn't mind about other people or "secondary" stuff like
portability etc. As it stands now, I get to code occasionally when I
find some time and have something interesting to do, but most of my
linux time is simply "management" these days. I'm not wearing any
suits, though :-)
Just reading mail takes about 2 hours a day - I also read the newsgroups
when I can, but that usually means just col.announce and selected
articles from col.development. Applying patches isn't that bad: I have
people I trust that do the large patches and then I just need to check
them over against obvious problems. The "un-trusted" patches are much
Actually, the above sounds worse than it is. The fact is that the basic
kernel mostly works well enough and one reason for me not coding quite
as much as I use to do is simply that the basic functionality that I've
personally always concentrated on doesn't need that much care any more.
The patches these days are mostly networking and device drivers with the
occasional smaller stuff elsewhere.
Conferences haven't been a problem until recently, and on the whole they
haven't really proved too distractive. I don't really like giving
talks, but I like meeting people and traveling and I also feel it's
simething that needs to be done at this point.
> Why do you, and all the other people, such an enormous work for free?
> What do you mean? Is it fame? What did you get back from the Linux
Well, the fame certainly doesn't hurt, of course: I expect to be able to
get a good job once I get my studies completed and decide to leave the
university. But mostly it's just a project I like doing, and one which
people appreciate. A hobby of the best kind, in short.. I think that's
true for most of the kernel developers.
> How is your relation to the FreeBSD community? As far as I see, the
> Linux and FreeBSD don't like each other very much, but I may be wrong.
> Maybe it's "only" the old "war" between SysV and BSD?
Actually, we are on a friendly standing with the FreeBSD people (I
haven't been much in contact with NetBSD). The communities easily get
inte flames over which is better, but I know both the linux and BSD
kernel developers are much too involved with their (our) own projects to
really mind any of the flames.
I've met with some of the FreeBSD people a few times (on conferences),
and they are nice (jkh has something like 11 cats: I just have two).
It's hard to co-operate too much, though: it takes a lot of time and it
seems to actually be easier just to concentrate on your own project.
That was 15 years ago. Nobody would have thought at that time that Linux would later become such a big competitor for commercial Unix-esque operating systems.