How did you discover Linux?

The Queue: How did you discover Linux?

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Welcome to The Queue, a new Q&A column I'll be writing for Although typically I will be answering questions from readers, sometimes I'll switch that around and ask readers a question. With Linux turning 25 today, I thought it would be interesting to see how we all discovered the operating system. I'll start.

How I got into Linux

In the mid-1990s I worked for an ISP that used Unix almost exclusively. The "Unix way" just clicked and made a lot of sense to me. It wasn't long before I wanted to run something similar at home. The ISP used SCO (fairly ironic in retrospect), so home use really wasn't an option for licensing and cost reasons. Searching for an alternative quickly lead me to Linux. I purchased The Linux Bible from a local bookstore, so my first distro was Yggdrasil. Not long after, I purchased a book that came with Slackware, which was my daily distro for many years after. I like to tinker and understand how things work, so the fact that I could get an operating system that allowed me not only to see how things worked, but also to modify how things worked, enthralled me. It still does.

Interesting responses from LQ

I recently asked the question "How did you discover Linux?" over at, and here are a few of the more interesting responses:

  • beachboy2: The same way that a lot of people discovered it, via malware on Windows and regular daily truckloads of spam on email, all of which disappeared as soon as I switched to Linux (openSUSE initially).
  • M-Files: I originally was hired at Intel as an expert in win 3.51 installs and Intel hired me to make crash test dummys out of Windows, so they could create a crash resistant processor: P-6 Pentium pro - I was taught Linux - Red Hat 4.1 from the engineers to help create reliable system as a comparison that was very crash resistant...
  • thethinker: When I was an undergraduate student I did a summer research project in the Astronomy department, and all the computers ran Solaris (this is circa 2003). The next year, I switched groups and started using Debian.
  • jpollard: Worked on UNIX systems since 1985 (my first personal computer was a Motorola MVME-1000), HP/UX, a stint with VMS (second time), then various UNIX systems (Apollo, AIX, Tru64, SunOS). In 1991 started work with SunOS, UNICOS, IRIX... A co-worker mentioned it in 1992. As soon as SLS 1.2 (about 1992) was announced, started using it on a PC (which previously had DOS on it). Went through the floppy distribution til SLS 1.4 (after which it closed). Fortunately Slackware was up to 1.2 (1994) and I switched to that. Work started switching to PC based systems running Red Hat 3 - it was 3 or 4, don't clearly remember now - I was using Slackware specifically for network control/firewall use.
  • rrd: I was working in HP-UX, when someone posted a tip on the comp.os.hpux (I think) newsgroup about this kid, Linus Torvalds, and the Unix clone he was building from the ground up. I found an ftp site where I could download it, and I played with it on and off for several years as I watched it grow into what it is today.
  • notKlaatu: Find a tip on an OS X forum on how to play tetris "in the terminal" -> discover emacs -> read GPL in /usr/share/doc/emacs -> covert to Linux the next morning.

Now, it's your turn

So, how did YOU discover Linux? (Let me know in the comments.)

Fill The Queue

Lastly, what questions would you like to see answered in a future article? From questions on building and maintaining communities, to what you'd like to know about contributing to an open source project, to questions more technical in nature—submit your Linux and open source questions.

About the author

Jeremy Garcia - Jeremy Garcia is the founder of  and an ardent but realistic open source advocate. Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @linuxquestions