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Linux is a Unix-like computer operating system. Linux is one of the most prominent examples of free software and open source development; typically all underlying source code can be freely modified, used, and redistributed by anyone.
The Linux kernel was first released to the public on 17 September 1991, for the Intel x86 PC architecture. The kernel was augmented with system utilities and libraries from the GNU project to create a usable operating system, which led to an alternative term, GNU/Linux. Linux is packaged for different uses in Linux distributions, which contain the sometimes modified kernel along with a variety of other software packages tailored to different requirements.
Predominantly known for its use in servers, Linux is supported by corporations such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Novell, Oracle Corporation, Red Hat, and Sun Microsystems. It is used as an operating system for a wide variety of computer hardware, including desktop computers, supercomputers, video game systems, such as PlayStation 2, 3, several arcade games, and embedded devices, such as mobile phones and routers.
The Unix operating system was conceived and implemented in the 1960s and first released in 1970. Its wide availability and portability meant that it was widely adopted, copied and modified by academic institutions and businesses, with its design being influential on authors of other systems.
One so-called Unix-like system was GNU, started in 1984, which had the goal of creating a "complete Unix-compatible software system" made entirely of free software. In 1985, Richard Stallman created the Free Software Foundation and developed the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL), in order to spread software freely. Many of the programs required in an OS (such as libraries, compilers, text editors, a Unix shell, and a windowing system) were completed by the early 1990s, although low level elements such as device drivers, daemons, and the kernel were stalled and incomplete. Linus Torvalds has said that if the GNU kernel had been available at the time, he would not have decided to write his own.