After 30 Years, Here’s what the Linux Legacy Means at Pluralsight

Oct 4, 2021

Last month marked the 30-year anniversary of the launch of the Linux operating system. Created by Linus Torvalds in 1991, Linux is a free and open-source operating system that allows users to customize their computing interface for a variety of different use cases. It’s especially attractive to engineers who desire an operating system with greater flexibility than closed-license software.

The Linux kernel was developed to democratize and customize computing, and in its 30 years of existence, it's done just that. If you have engaged with the internet (the fact you are reading this blog would confirm that you have!), you have encountered Linux - even if you weren’t aware of it. Here are some of the most impactful uses of Linux throughout its lifespan:

  • Social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are all powered through the Linux operating system.
  • Server farms and super computers, which are the homes to many of the cloud-enabled tools we use daily, are also run on Linux.
  • The New York stock exchange and the Pentagon both use Linux distributions to run their enterprises and secure their data.
  • Popular streaming services such as SteamOS and Roku use Linux.
  • Many products considered to be a part of the internet of things use Linux, such as self-driving cars, e-readers, and smartwatches.

These examples show that the applications of Linux are nearly endless. To commemorate its 30th anniversary, we caught up with some of our Pluralsight authors to ask them what makes Linux so impactful.

The Linux Evolution
The open-source nature of Linux makes it unprecedentedly adaptable. Through the ingenuity of countless users who have fine tuned their Linux systems to suit their needs, its uses have grown exponentially.

“Linux is probably more important today than when it first launched,” said Michael McClaren, an author for the A Cloud Guru (ACG) platform. “It has been recognized as the go-to platform for running the infrastructure that makes up the cloud and all of the cloud’s associated technologies.”

This meteoric rise to prominence did not happen overnight. Because Linux is designed for customization, there can be a steep learning curve to using the system. Cara Nolte, an ACG author, explained, “When Linux first arrived, it was mostly a hobby for enthusiastic engineers and Computer Science students who could contribute by developing code.”

The knowledge gap required to utilize Linux began shrinking as more users configured their systems and shared their insights with other users.

“In many ways it was the catalyst for the now massive community of open source contributors,” said Aaron Rosenmund, Pluralsight author and Director of Security Research and Curriculum. “It created an opportunity and an outlet for individuals who potentially wouldn't otherwise have access to an OS to run on cobbled together computer components, or old PC's.”

The Model of the Modern Operating System
Linux’s legacy extends to how it has influenced the creation of other operating systems. Without Linux, many of the typical functions we enjoy in other operating systems - like Windows and MacOS - may not exist.

“On a MacOS you wouldn't have docker containers to install and likely no packages and repos to install third party software, because those third party repos would never have been made,” said Rosenmund. “Similarly, the code base for most applications would be dominated by the supported languages from Microsoft and Apple.”

Additionally, opportunities for customization of operating systems would have been slim to none. According to Nolte, “Customers would have to choose which OS to invest in based on which addresses some of their use cases, but none would be as beneficial as the Linux OS.”

Linux’s footprint reaches beyond just the world of operating systems. Many technological innovations have hinged on the existence of Linux.

Without Linux, “there would be no cloud as we know it, there would be no cellphones as we know them, and our homes and cars would not be as automated and safe as they are now,” said McLaren.

Linux’s Role in the Journey of Technologists
For technologists that were emerging in their craft with the dawn of the internet, Linux can hold sentimental meaning.

“My first exposure to Linux was back in college in 1999,” said Nolte. “I took an introductory Unix Shell Scripting class and Fedora was installed on the lab servers because it was free and easily scalable. I’m passionate about Linux because it has literally changed how the world processes information and It’s changed my life personally by allowing me to share that passion.”

Learning Linux was also a launching pad for many technologists' careers. It’s open-access nature and potential for innovation drew many people without tech experience into the tech world.

“I got into Linux desktop around Y2K,” said McLaren. “At the time I was not working with computers and Linux is what got me interested in pursuing a career… my Linux roots are what made me successful.”

In some cases, Linux was simply a free and open-source way to solve technological problems. For Rosenmund, “I was exposed to Linux in the early 2000s, using an old hand-me-down laptop that was so very slow when running Windows 95. I wanted to learn to develop code, but didn't have a compiler and visual studio wasn't as accessible as it is now. I got a live boot disk from one of my dad's friends for a distro of KNOPPIX and loaded it on the old IBM machine and it came alive!”

Continuing the Legacy
Our authors predict that Linux will continue to serve as an outlet for innovation for years to come. There is immense potential for Linux to continue refining the mobile computing space because of its scalability. Additionally, Linux will continue to lead in powering cloud computing efforts.

Linux may also become an even bigger player for edge users. “As I begin to reload yet another old laptop with Ubuntu Desktop, I think we will start to see additional adoption by edge users of Linux as a viable desktop option,” said Rosenmund.

The Linux operating system embodies what it means to democratize technology skills. Linux’s spirit of innovation, communal access and education, and continual adaptation resonate with everything we do here at Pluralsight, giving Linux a special place in our hearts. Here’s to 30 more!

About Pluralsight 

Pluralsight is the leading technology workforce development company that helps companies and teams build better products by developing critical skills, improving processes and gaining insights through data, and providing strategic skills consulting. Trusted by forward-thinking companies of every size in every industry, Pluralsight helps individuals and businesses transform with technology. Pluralsight Skills helps enterprises build technology skills at scale with expert-authored courses on today’s most important technologies, including cloud, artificial intelligence and machine learning, data science, and security, among others. Skills also includes tools to align skill development with business objectives, virtual instructor-led training, hands-on labs, skill assessments and one-of-a-kind analytics. Flow complements Skills by providing engineering teams with actionable data and visibility into workflow patterns to accelerate the delivery of products and services. For more information about Pluralsight, visit