Pat Gelsinger and Linus Torvalds Geek Out over Open Source

Nov 2, 2022

Intel’s CEO and Linux’s creator talk about the history of the open source operating system, technology and more.

At Intel Innovation 2022, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger sat down with Linus Torvalds, the “godfather of open source” who created the Linux operating system. Their wide-ranging conversation during the September developer-focused event covered the beginning of Linux, Torvalds’ advice for Intel and why he chose a penguin as the Linux mascot.

A highlight of the conversation took the two back more than three decades to the introduction of the Intel 386 microprocessor. At the time, Torvalds read Gelsinger’s book, “Programming the 80386.”

“I really wanted to learn how it worked, and that’s where your book comes in,” he told Gelsinger. The book helped Torvalds learn his new machine and start writing low-level code. “It wasn’t just the CPU,” Torvalds said. “It was all the PC peripheral components around it too.”

“If I took this to the next step, I realized that I actually could use this – not just teaching myself how the system worked, but also use it as a daily driver,” Torvalds said. That’s when he actively began developing his own operating system – the one that would evolve into the open source Linux OS.

“Did you have any idea what you were unleashing?” Gelsinger asked.

“It wasn’t initially about open source for me,” explained Torvalds. But he was still proud of what he started, so he put it out in the world to see if anyone else found it interesting. That’s when everything changed. “This project that was my small thing that I expected to go away, suddenly the open source part made it so much more motivational.”

Toward the close of the conversation, Gelsinger requested feedback on how Intel can do better for all developers: “Other advice for me?”

“Put good hardware out there and document it enough that it will be the standard. That’s all I ask for because that makes my job so much easier.”

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