Linus Torvalds interview: 'All my daughter wanted for Christmas was a polymerase chain reaction machine'

By Graeme Burton
04 Jan 2013 View Comments
linus-torvalds

I also have a personal suspicion that Finnish society is pretty tolerant of introverts (in fact, some people would probably half-jokingly argue that all Finns are introverts, although I think that's changing), and I do think that that is a fertile ground for tinkering with technology.

Further reading

Of course, the "introverted people living in a country with long dark winters" argument has been used as an explanation for pretty much every Finnish tradition, particularly drinking.

Q. What's the story behind the Linux logo and mascot ‘Tux'?

There are various stories behind it, including (the true story) that I was bitten by a penguin in real life. Admittedly the penguin was a small fairy penguin at a zoo (and at roughly half a kilo and 30 centimetres tall that really isn't very scary, nor did it hurt or draw blood), so it wasn't a traumatic or life-changing experience.

It all boils down to the fact that I wanted to have a friendly and very approachable logo for Linux, not something traditional and sterile. That kind of implies some kind of cute animal approach. And I like penguins, too...

I can't draw anything myself, but I posted a public message asking for people to draw a fat, happy penguin sitting down:

"... So when you think 'penguin', you should be imagining a slightly overweight penguin, sitting down after having gorged itself, and having just burped. It's sitting there with a beatific smile - the world is a good place to be when you have just eaten a few gallons of raw fish and you can feel another "burp" coming..."

The full original message is archived in various places.

Q. What's your take on some of the big names in modern computing, such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates?

I really don't think of myself in that group of people. To me, the "big names" in modern computing aren't actually the tycoons, it's the people like Dennis Ritchie (who passed away last year, who was very close to Steve Jobs, but without all the news brouhaha) and Ken Thompson - the two original authors of Unix.

I see myself more as a technical person than as an "industry" person, even if that does mean that I identify with a slightly less well-known group of people.

Q. There was almost something of a "cult of the personality" associated with Jobs and Gates, and their brands and employees. Do you feel there is a similar identification of yourself in the Linux community? 

I've certainly been more than just a technical person, but also a figurehead for the whole Linux thing.

I don't think I really can (or would want to) take the cult quite as far as Jobs, but clearly there's some similarity in the fact that I've been a focal point, not just in the technical sense, but also the "human face" for the stories around it. And while I consider my job as technical lead for the kernel to be my main "job", I do see talking with journalists (or preferably, emailing) to be part of my role when it comes to Linux.

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