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While Linux is arguably the most popular open source operating system, its history is actually quite short considering the timeline of operating systems. In the early days of computing, programmers developed on the bare hardware in the hardware's language. The lack of an operating system meant that only one application (and one user) could use the large and expensive device at a time. Early operating systems were developed in the 1950s to provide a simpler development experience. Examples include the General Motors Operating System (GMOS) developed for the IBM 701 and the FORTRAN Monitor System (FMS) developed by North American Aviation for the IBM 709.

In the 1960s, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a host of companies developed an experimental operating system called Multics (or Multiplexed Information and Computing Service) for the GE-645. One of the developers of this operating system, AT&T, dropped out of Multics and developed their own operating system in 1970 called Unics. Along with this operating system was the C language, for which C was developed and then rewritten to make operating system development portable.

Twenty years later, Andrew Tanenbaum created a microkernel version of UNIX®, called MINIX (for minimal UNIX), that ran on small personal computers. This open source operating system inspired Linus Torvalds' initial development of Linux in the early 1990s



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