Linus Torvalds Receives IEEE's Computer Pioneer Award


Linus Torvalds
Linus Torvalds

Linus Torvalds has been given the 2014 IEEE Computer Society Computer Pioneer Award, 20 years after the release of the Linux kernel 1.0 that he developed as a University of Helsinki student in his native country of Finland. In the two decades that followed, shock waves spread far beyond the humble Linux kernel, spawning a worldwide open-source development movement that today shows no signs of slowing.

The IEEE Computer Society recognizes industry figures in a broad array of categories, including technical and pioneering achievements, and entrepreneurial activities.

Linux forms the basis for 79 percent of all mobile devices and 96 percent of the world's supercomputers, according to Net Applications, a web analytics company. In April of 2014, there were 959 million web servers in the world, according to a Netcraft report.  And of those, 38.6 percent use Linux and 60.6 percent use the open-source Apache web server.

[Related: Intel All-In On Embedded Linux Development]

Linux also represents the fastest-growing segment of the embedded device industry. A recent statement from embedded-industry researcher VDC predicts that by 2015, worldwide shipments of Android-based devices will grow by more than 71 percent in medical machines, by 62 percent in connected cars and by about 47 percent in military communications devices. Android is based on Linux.

Now a fellow at the Linux Foundation, Torvalds still controls what new code gets incorporated into the standard Linux kernel. With the IEEE's award, he joins such prestigious industry figures as David Kuck, a parallel computing trailblazer; Edward Feigenbaum, who pioneered artificial intelligence; and Cleve Moler, inventor of the MATLAB numerical libraries that revolutionized computational programming.

In 2012, Torvalds received the Millennium Technology Prize from the Technology Academy of Finland; in 2010, NEC's C&C Prize; in 2008, the Takreda Award for Social/Economic Well-Being; in 2000, the British Computer Society's Lovelace Medal; and in 1998, the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award. In 2008, he also was inducted into the Computer History Museum's Hall of Fellows, and in 2012 into the Internet Hall of Fame.

Yet the name Linus Torvalds is, perhaps, not as commonly associated with the Internet as, say, that of Mark Andreesen, Tim Berners-Lee, or even Al Gore. But unless the subject turns to servers, and specifically the system that operates most servers on the Internet, Linus Torvalds gets nary a mention. And it's Linux that powers most of the devices that encompass the trend we're now calling the Internet of Things.

PUBLISHED MAY 2, 2014