February 10, 1992: Linux is Obsolete
1992 - Comp.os.minix was the location for famous thread “Linux is Dead”. 73 Posts went back and forthe before Bill Mitchell closes it. Â Andy Tanenbaum (MINIX) started the thread and Linus Torvolds shot back. This is how the thread started out:Wikazine â€“ Full show notes forÂ February 10
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I was in the U.S. for a couple of weeks, so I haven’t commented much onÂ LINUX (not that I would have said much had I been around), but for whatÂ it is worth, I have a couple of comments now.
As most of you know, for me MINIX is a hobby, something that I do in theÂ evening when I get bored writing books and there are no major wars,Â revolutions, or senate hearings being televised live on CNN. My realÂ job is a professor and researcher in the area of operating systems.
As a result of my occupation, I think I know a bit about where operatingÂ are going in the next decade or so. Two aspects stand out:
1. MICROKERNEL VS MONOLITHIC SYSTEM
The alternative is a microkernel-based system, in which most of the OSÂ runs as separate processes, mostly outside the kernel. They communicateÂ by message passing. The kernel’s job is to handle the message passing,Â interrupt handling, low-level process management, and possibly the I/O.Â Examples of this design are the RC4000, Amoeba, Chorus, Mach, and theÂ not-yet-released Windows/NT.
While I could go into a long story here about the relative merits of theÂ two designs, suffice it to say that among the people who actually designÂ operating systems, the debate is essentially over. Microkernels have won.Â The only real argument for monolithic systems was performance, and thereÂ is now enough evidence showing that microkernel systems can be just asÂ fast as monolithic systems (e.g., Rick Rashid has published papers comparing
MINIX is a microkernel-based system. The file system and memory managementÂ are separate processes, running outside the kernel. The I/O drivers areÂ also separate processes (in the kernel, but only because the brain-deadÂ nature of the Intel CPUs makes that difficult to do otherwise). LINUX isÂ a monolithic style system. This is a giant step back into the 1970s.Â That is like taking an existing, working C program and rewriting it inÂ BASIC. To me, writing a monolithic system in 1991 is a truly poor idea.
MINIX was designed to be reasonably portable, and has been ported from theÂ Intel line to the 680×0 (Atari, Amiga, Macintosh), SPARC, and NS32016.Â LINUX is tied fairly closely to the 80×86. Not the way to go.
Don`t get me wrong, I am not unhappy with LINUX. It will get all the peopleÂ who want to turn MINIX in BSD UNIX off my back. But in all honesty, I wouldÂ suggest that people who want a **MODERN** “free” OS look around for aÂ microkernel-based, portable OS, like maybe GNU or something like that.
Andy Tanenbaum (firstname.lastname@example.org)
P.S. Just as a random aside, Amoeba has a UNIX emulator (running in userÂ space), but it is far from complete. If there are any people who wouldÂ like to work on that, please let me know. To run Amoeba you need a few 386s,Â one of which needs 16M, and all of which need the WD Ethernet card.