Why Is the Linux Mascot a Penguin?

Linux Penguin Mascot Tux up close
Larry Ewing and The GIMP

If you’re a admirer of Linux, you could possibly have found “Tux,” the pleasant penguin mascot for the working method. But why a penguin, and why Tux? We’ll discover the history powering the semi-aquatic chicken mascot with a tiny enable from Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux himself.

Linus Torvalds Loves Penguins

As opposed to professional operating techniques backed by many million-dollar advertising and marketing strategies, early variations of Linux did not have any official branding. Linux commenced as a hobbyist project by Finnish university university student Linus Torvalds in 1991, and a team of volunteers around the environment formulated and managed it in its early many years. So when creating Linux’s general public picture, its builders went about it in a really informal way: by talking about it on the Linux-Kernel team email checklist.

Of system, one person’s voice—Torvalds—carried much additional bodyweight than the other people, and that voice cherished a certain type of animal. In the early 1990s, Torvalds frequently playfully referenced penguins on the mailing record. What was his attraction to the birds as a opportunity brand?

“Penguins are basically just exotic adequate to be interesting, but perfectly-acknowledged ample to not be obscure,” Torvalds told How-To Geek in an email.

In distinct, Torvalds’s really like of penguins slipped into legend soon after a 1995 interview with Linux Journal, in which Torvalds talked about staying bitten by a penguin though checking out a zoo in Australia.

“The most appealing parts of Australia weren’t desktops at all, but the smaller and furry (and sometimes feathered) animals there. I bought bitten by a penguin in Canberra (Killer Penguins Strike Once more), but it was a extremely small and timid one.”

The penguin bite only appeared to accelerate Torvalds’ playful curiosity in the birds. On April 29, 1996, Torvalds announced the 1.3.97 release of the Linux kernel and jokingly known as it the “Killer Penguin” launch.

But however, Torvalds claims the penguin chunk episode was not the major resource of Tux: “I favored penguins prior to too,” Torvalds told How-To Geek. “It’s real that I was bitten by (a incredibly timid) penguin at Australia National Zoo, but I assume one particular of the resources of inspiration—and possibly a extra important one—was Aardman Studios.”

How Tux Took Shape

By early 1996, the thought of an formal symbol for Linux had been floating around for a long time. Persons had created several mock-ups and fancy, ray-traced “Linux” letters with the graphics technology offered at the time—and somebody even tried to carry a platypus into the blend.

The final 1996 Tux created by Larry Ewing.
The last 1996 Tux produced by Larry Ewing. Larry Ewing and The GIMP

On May perhaps 1, 1996, anyone on the Linux-Kernel mailing record shared however an additional graphic of a prospective Linux symbol, and in reaction, Linux contributor Alan Cox questioned for an image of a penguin—a reference to Torvalds’ obsession—in boxing gloves punching out the BSD Daemon.

Soon just after that, Torvalds delivered the e mail listing with an image of a claymation penguin made by Aardman Animations, the studio driving Wallace and Gromit. “[Aardman] had a pair of claymation penguins (e.g. ‘The Completely wrong Trousers,’)” Torvalds tells How-To Geek. “Although that penguin was fewer of a ‘happy penguin in repose following feeding on a whole lot of herring,’ and far more of a Bond-film supervillain penguin.”

Image of an early Tux from Larry Ewing and and Aardman Animations penguin that inspired the final Tux
The authentic pugilist Tux by artist Larry Ewing (left) contrasted with the playful Aardman Animations penguin favored by Linus Torvalds (correct). Larry Ewing, Aardman Animations

Programmer Larry Ewing (who labored on The GIMP graphics editor project) took up the first problem from Cox and drew a penguin in boxing gloves. Some others submitted penguin artwork as properly. Torvalds supplied constructive feedback on the makes an attempt at penguin drawings manufactured by other individuals so significantly, recommending a new method with a gentler, contented penguin “stuffed to its brim with herring.”

Ewing went again to the drawing board. Just after a multi-move procedure refined over time in the GIMP image editor—from a black and white sketch to a colorful illustration with shading—Ewing designed what we now believe of as the archetypal “Tux” penguin. It fulfilled Torvalds’ criteria of a plump, non-intense, contented animal—and the picture stuck.

Tux bought its identify from James Hughes on June 10, 1996, when he wrote on the Linux-Kernel mailing listing that it stood for “(T)orvolds (U)ni(X).” Tux, usually quick for “tuxedo,” is also a reference to the simple fact that some species penguins appear like they are donning tuxedos since of their feather coloration.

Not every person beloved the penguin. Some on the mailing record have been unsatisfied with the animal selection (“Please, something but penguins,”) and anyone else pointed out that the “Penguin” identify was taken by an unrelated utility. But Torvalds’ voice and playful influence won out, and more than time, Ewing’s refined drawing turned the official graphic of Tux, the mascot of Linux.

The Penguin Legend Continues

Considering the fact that the 1990s, the lore of Tux (and Torvalds’ penguin zoo encounter) have only developed. By 2007, the zoo in Canberra in which Torvalds was initially nibbled by a penguin had erected a signal commemorating the episode, mentioning “It is our perception that the authentic Tux is nevertheless housed in this enclosure.”

Apparently, Torvalds says that, canonically, Tux isn’t a real penguin at all. “The Linux penguin is not specifically anatomically proper,” he instructed us. “It’s incredibly a great deal a plush toy kind of issue (and in actuality, people ended up making plush toys based mostly on it, and not just for Linux conferences).” This may well be why individuals send out him plush penguins all the time, as illustrated in this YouTube video.

In a mid-2000s email that receives commonly quoted online, Torvalds reported, “Don’t just take the penguin much too critically. It is meant to be sort of goofy and exciting, that is the complete stage.” He went on to say that Linux is meant to be goofy and pleasurable as properly. He wanted to make certain that Linux did not consider itself also critically.

“I required a delighted cuddly symbol, not a company just one,” Torvalds claims now. “And I consider the penguin worked truly very well.”

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