Linus Torvalds crowned joint winner of 1.2m euro tech prize

Linus Torvalds crowned joint winner of 1.2m euro tech prize

Summary: Linux creator Linus Torvalds has won the prestigious Millennium Technology Prize alongside stem cell researcher, Dr Shinya Yamanaka

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Linus Torvalds has today collected his Grand Prize in Finland's 2012 Millennium Technology Prize - tech's equivalent of a Nobel Prize - for his creation of the Linux kernel.

Following the announcement of Torvalds' victory back in April, the prize was officially awarded on Wednesday afternoon at the Technology Academy Finland in Torvalds' city of birth, Helsinki. Torvalds returned to Helsinki for the ceremony from his current place of residence, Portland, Oregon.

The Grand Prize has traditionally gone to one laureate. However, this year, Torvalds shares the title with fellow laureate, Japanese stem cell researcher Dr Shinya Yamanaka, who is credited with discovering a new method to develop "induced pluripotent stem cells" from non-pluripotent cells.

"The International Selection Committee has to judge whether an innovation has had a favourable impact on people's lives and assess its potential for further development to benefit humanity in the future. The innovations of both this year's winners embody that principle," Dr Ainomaija Haarla, President of Technology Academy Finland said in a statement.

"Dr Shinya Yamanaka's discovery of a new method to develop pluripotent stem cells for medical research could help combat intractable diseases. And Linus Torvalds's work has kept the web open for the pursuit of knowledge and for the benefit of humanity - not simply for financial interests."

Although the joint crowning means the two will share the €1.2m prize pool, the winner would normally share the prize money with fellow laureates in any case.

The inaugural winner of the prize, which has been awarded every two years since 2004, was inventor of HTML, Tim Berners Lee.

At the ceremony Torvalds thanked the "thousands of contributors" to Linux and said he was grateful to have been the conductor of the project.

Torvalds said he started developing the Linux kernel and operating system as a "test project" to begin learning about his computer.

"It changed from being something to teach me about the computer into me actually trying to make it into a full operating system."

He released the kernel in 1991 consisting of 10,000 lines of code, which has now grown 15 million lines in what's considered one of the largest collaborative development projects in computing history.

Besides the desktop, Linux's popularity as a platform for servers and embedded devices in routers, phones and GPS systems, mean that people likely use the operating system whether they know it or not.

"You might use when you're using your cell phone if you have an Android cell phone. If you're on the net, you probably use Google to look things up. Google uses Linux. Even if you don't run Linux yourself on your own machines, the servers at the other end run Linux," said Torvalds.

That includes Facebook too, but also for example, ATMs and in-flight entertainment systems.

"People never notice."

Topic: Operating Systems

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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27 comments
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  • 1.4 Billion Windows systems

    Still way more than all the Linux systems out there. Whatever powering the Internet is ultimately not interesting, its the devices that are accessing it.
    adacosta38
    • Huh?

      Client is more interesting than content creation and delivery system? How's that working? Let's see: no client - content creation and delivery system still exist, no server - client is pretty much a brick (in today's world anyway).
      vgrig
    • You say that now

      But what will you be saying when the day soon comes when the vast majority of the world's 7 billion inhabitants are accessing the Internet from mobile devices running on Linux kernels?

      1.4 Billion Windows systems almost sounds somewhat impressive...but how does the number of computations done globally on those Windows machines stack up against the total number of global computations done on everything from home appliances running Linux, to smartphones running Linux, to routers running Linux, to Web servers running Linux, to supercomputers (which overwhelmingly run on Linux and are used for oil and gas exploration, weather forcasting, climate research, molecular modeling, quantum physics...you know...stuff that's vitality important to our continued existence)? At the end of the day, Linux is on more vital devices than Windows, while Windows gets much of its use from people who simply waste computing power doing absolute nonsense with their machines.
      eMJayy
    • this is not a contest

      I think the point about Linux is that it is part of common good. It belongs to you and me, and nobody can force you to pay more, upgrade, pay for whatever restrictive option etc.
      In today's world that's so refreshing, I feel one day I'll have to pay patent fees, commercial rights and sign a NDA just to breathe...

      Linus's achievement is as much about tech achievement than about the ability to drive a community of contributors
      pweltz
    • By devices:

      At 900000 activations/day, I guess you mean Android devices.
      anothercanuck
  • Linus Torvalds picks up award in 1.2m euro Finnish tech prize

    I now have to put very little value into this reward if they are giving it to something as feeble as linux. I thought it was supposed to be for technology that impacted our lives and linux has done anything but that. Most likely the committee was paid off by the linux foundation.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • RE: Linus Torvalds picks up award in 1.2m euro Finnish tech prize

      Loverock Davidson- wrote:
      [i]Most likely the committee was paid off by the linux foundation.[/i]

      Seriously, I don't think that the Linux Foundation sells nearly enough T-shirts to play in that league. That said, a T-shirt with Geckos on the front and back along with metallic green sunglasses would be a perfect match for you Mr. Davidson.

      P.S. Congratulations, Linus. And good luck finding a suitable desktop environment for your creation.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • No need for a Windows vs Linux fight here.

    Kudos to Linus T.
    owllnet
  • See, you CAN make money from Linux!

    :D
    William Farrel
  • It's hard to agree with this choice

    If Linus Torvalds had come up with the idea of open source software or had developed something technologically innovative, this choice would make more sense. On the technical side, everything important in Linux is copied from Unix, which was developed at Bell Lab and UC Berkeley, by people like Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie and Bill Joy. On the development side, open source has its roots in academic research, including the BSD code written by the Berkeley CSRG in the 1970s-90s, as well as Richard Stallman's GNU Project, started in the 1980s.

    If the award is for technical contributions, it should really go to Thompson, Ritchie and the Berkeley CSRG. If it's for the development model, it should go to the Berkeley CSRG and Richard Stallman. Torvalds is certainly far more likeable than Stallman, and a pragmatist instead of an ideologue, which I think helped Linux to succeed where GNU failed. At the same time, there just isn't anything technically or organisationally innovative about Linux. It really just filled the gap left when BSD Unix was temporarily held up by legal issues. Torvalds himself has said that if BSD had been available, he probably wouldn't have written Linux. Would a world in which BSD rather than Linux had become the open source standard be much different? I doubt it.
    WilErz
    • That's the whole point...

      ...filling an important gap left by legal, technical, closed source, etc. issues with UNIX. No kernel meant GNU software was useless unless you had UNIX, and you couldn't get UNIX.
      But instead of just complaining about situation and throwing his hands in the air - Linux wrote the kernel and licensed it under GPL.
      vgrig
      • An unencumbered BSD was available less than a year after Linux

        Linux 1.0 was released in March of 1994. A complete, unencumbered FreeBSD 2.0 was released in January 1995. Without Linux, all the Linux users would just have had to wait a few more months for FreeBSD. If the GPL is your concern, the GNU Project could have released a GNU FreeBSD under the GPL the day FreeBSD was released, and probably within a few months could have replaced the BSD userland tools with GNU alternatives. Was the extra year or so really so important? Why?
        WilErz
      • Not just about a "free" OS..

        Some how Linus built a community... a community with the energy and life necessary to propel a obscure OS to large scale adoption. That isn't just a technical accomplishment.. it is much more.
        It's success gave credibility to open source and related concepts...
        Not just anyone can get thousands to give skilled talent and time freely - to any common goal.

        Congrats Linus!
        jrlambert
      • So Linus is a 'community leader'?

        That's his big contribution? I like Linus, and think he's a much better example than someone like Stallman, but the fact is that his contribution is negligible, no matter how much Linux zealots want to pretend otherwise.

        Open source communities existed before Linux. Who do you think developed all the GNU software that allowed Linux to work? GNU was started as a volunteer project in 1983. BSD was originally a state-funded academic project, so a different story, but it also developed a volunteer community after the Berkeley CSRG was wound down and eventually (1995) disbanded.
        WilErz
    • BSD versus...

      ...the Blue Screen of Death. That would be confusing.
      james.vandamme
  • Linux got much more dominance than folk tend to think about

    -dominates supercomputers
    -dominates servers
    -greatest stock markets are using Linux
    -over 50% slice of smartphone markets (Q1 2012, 56,1%)
    - some 30% of tablets
    - most of the internet is running by Linux
    -main military powers and security forces are using Linux (while those using Windows are hacked like hell)

    Only exception is old-form desktops where Linux got only about 3-4%. Desktops are dominated by worst possible OS system. Why has God punished mankind by giving Microsoft a chance to cheat business, folk and politicians?

    Windows is awful OS.
    Matsi66
    • All the analysts show Windows Server way ahead of Linux

      According to IDC, Windows Server had a market share of 50.2 per cent in 2012Q1, up 1.8 percentage points from 2011Q1. Note also that this is server hardware revenue, not server units or software revenue (which would be nonsense since Linux is free).

      h t t p : / / w w w . eweek.com/c/a/Enterprise-Networking/Windows-Server-Sales-Flat-in-Q1-Compared-to-Linux-Models-IDC-705101/

      Linux does dominate in smartphones and supercomputers, and the first at least is a market that really matters, but making up nonsense about the server market does nothing to help your argument.
      WilErz
      • You missed one little fact:

        The IDC stats are compiled from data collected from Windows VARS sales, only including servers sold with an installed OS, thereby skewing the facts toward Windows. The IDC figures areuseless as a real world measure. Talk about making up nonsense.
        anothercanuck
      • You said it yourself- not units

        So if Linux has 20% in revenue, what does it have in units? BTW there is software revenue with Linux- support.
        Linux definitely has the edge as a server OS, no matter how you try to spin it.
        kirovs@...
      • Wrong.

        @ anothercanuck

        According to Channel Register -- not exactly a hotbed of Windows zealots -- IDC figures include servers shipped without an OS. IDC use statistical methodology (probably corporate surveys) to estimate which operating systems are used on these servers.

        h t t p : / / w w w . channelregister.co.uk/2011/03/02/idc_q4_2010_server_numbers/

        Are you deliberately lying, or just too lazy to do basic research before spouting off nonsense?

        @ kirovs@...

        By units, Windows Server had over 75% market share in 2010Q1, when its revenue share was only 48.9%. In other words, you've got things backwards as usual.
        WilErz