Interview with Linus Torvalds -- "On Being Linus" (page 2)

Interview with Linus Torvalds

Apr 9, 2001

Q: What were some of the things that excited you?

A: I was just thinking about some of the optimizations I could see us doing. It takes awhile to kind of understand the architecture, and realizing that the chip is actually kind of a small database engine. And it's a very limited database. From an OS designer viewpoint, it's kind of interesting what we actually do under the covers. So that was probably what made me the most excited, just thinking about what you can do with an architecture like ours.

Q: Why did you decide to join a hardware company and not a software company like Oracle or Microsoft?

A: Why didn't I join Microsoft? [LAUGHTER] We are a hardware company, but we do have a fairly strong software side, and I've never been on the hardware side of the company. It's been kind of interesting to be at a company where hardware is so important because it gives a different view to some of the problems. So in that sense, I did join a software company. The thing that made it interesting was I still think that Transmeta is one of those companies that are doing things that nobody else is doing.There are parallels to Linux in the sense that one of the reasons, actually maybe the major reason, why I started doing Linux in the first place was actually to learn about the x86 architecture, and through that, I had a lot of knowledge about the details of how an x86 works. There are a lot of details which, even if you're a programmer using PCs, you don't need to know. You don't need to know how paging works, what the bids and the segment tables are. So I had actually the right kind of background for Transmeta and Transmeta was actually doing something that was very interesting to me because it was one of the reasons I'd gotten into Linux in the first place, namely looking at x86 from a software viewpoint. This meant that I could actually do something interesting. Actually it was a very natural fit for me at the time.

Q: Did you interview with any other companies?

A: Not really. To me even the Transmeta thing didn't feel like an interview. I came over to listen to what crazy things people were doing. I didn't have to get a job. I took it more that, okay, maybe these people are doing something really interesting and maybe I'd like to be part of that. So I didn't actually have a curriculum vitae or anything like that. When the word spread that I was taking a job with Transmeta, there were a few companies who said, okay, if you're going away from the university, we'll take you. And I never actually interviewed of any of them because none of them really offered anything interesting. Some of them basically said come here and do whatever you want to do, right? Which a lot of people think is the dream job, right? But what was interesting, what made Transmeta much more interesting than that was the fact that, hey, I was already doing what I wanted to do. What Transmeta offered was a very specific goal and something different that I hadn't ever done before.

Q: If Transmeta didn't allow you to work on Linux while working here, would you have joined them?

A: That was one of my requirements, that I'd get to continue doing Linux. I could have done it on my own time. It just helps a lot, if the company allows me to do it at work time and I don't have to worry about having to use a different Internet account for my Linux work and my Work work because it becomes fairly nasty.