Interview with Linus Torvalds -- "On Being Linus" (page 3)

Interview with Linus Torvalds

Apr 9, 2001

Q: Since Transmeta is both a hardware and software company, have you found the two to be different cultures? I would think a project like this would bring together two cultures that normally don't work together so well.

A: One of the things we've certainly noticed is that software people are less controlled. Because if you have a bug, you can fix it, and it's fixed in the next version. In hardware, if you have a bug, it takes half a year until the next tapeout (initial chip - editor). I think hardware people tend to be much more careful, [LAUGHTER] while software people tend to be more let's try this. I think it works fairly well. But there certainly have been cases where software people say, hey, this is really hard to do in software. Couldn't you just redesign your hardware and do it this way and we'd be really happy and the hardware people say, mmm, that sounds dangerous. I think software people also, especially the people who have been most involved in defining the architecture, have become more careful. But that's been fun sometimes.

On Silicon Valley

Q: So what's you're here, what do you see as your next challenge, the next crazy task for you?

Linus: Well, that's kind of what the advanced development group does. And that's one of the reasons I'm in that group is because we can think of slightly crazy things that may not actually be useful in practice. I like moving to Silicon Valley, but at the same time, I have to say I almost expected more of Silicon Valley in some sense because I haven't seen any crazy projects. I mean last year you saw tons of crazy Internet startups. However, they were crazy in the wrong way. They weren't interesting technology crazy. They were just the market is crazy crazy. And I still think that from what I've seen at Transmeta, it is the most interesting project out here. Maybe crazy is the wrong word. It's just that in order to be really interesting, it has to be something that people think is slightly off the wall. It's not something every day boring, right? So when I say crazy, I mean that in a good way. Don't get me wrong.

Q: You mentioned that there's not as many crazy technology projects going on right now. Do you think that's a because of the times?

Linus: No. I mean times were really good two years ago. You could get money for anything. So in that sense it's calmed down a bit. I think it's really mainly the fact that the only company I came to look at here was Transmeta. I kind of got this notion that the whole Valley is 10,000 companies just like Transmeta and it turned out that it isn't. There's a lot of interesting stuff going on here, but at the same time, a lot of it is just engineering. Which is good, but it's not really exciting.

MALE: How about living here in Silicon Valley? Is this an area you need to be to do what you want to do now?

Linus: I really like it here. It started out as being a safe place to go because when you move to another country, you really don't know how you'll adapt to a new work environment and things like that. Silicon Valley seemed to be a safe bet in that, okay, if Transmeta doesn't work out, there's a lot of other stuff going on in this area. So it started out that way, knowing that a lot of the technology was done here. Then we got used to the weather which was a big factor. And there's actually a lot of things you can do here. There's a surprising amount of nature not that far away. You can go windsurfing, you can do stuff like that, which I never do because I'm too busy.