School of Information Science - Hall of Fame

Andrew S. Tanenbaum
  • Andrew S. Tanenbaum
  • Born: 1944
  • Field: Operating systems; computer networks
  • Focus: Developed the Minix operating system. Author of many well-known textbooks on operating systems and networks.
  • Country: United States
  • Era: 1970 to 1989

Andy Tanenbaum is famous for the development of Minix, a UNIX-like operating system intended primarily for teaching purposes, and for his research and many computer science textbooks on the design and implementation of computer operating systems and networks. He currently heads the Department of Computer Science at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, in the Netherlands.

Tanenbaum's Minix is also well known as the inspiration for Torvalds' Linux kernel. Though Linux contains no Minix source code, Torvalds did learn a considerable amount from studying Minix. The relationship between the two operating systems and the merits of microkernel (Minix) versus monolithic kernel (Linux) approaches was debated famously on Usenet in 1992. The primary contributors to the debate were Tanenbaum and Torvalds themselves, who appear to have reached an understanding of mutual respect over the course of the discussion and ensuing exchanges.

Tanenbaum has also developed the Amoeba distributed operating system and and the Paramecium extensible kernel based on an object-based architecture, which is intended at least partly for exploration of the boundaries between kernel- and user-space software. More recently, Tanenbaum became famous for hosting the Web site, which offered timely analysis of the 2004 U.S. presidential election via the relationship between opinion polls and the electoral college.

Tanenbaum received his bachelor's degree from the Massachusets Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1971. He is a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery and of the IEEE, and he has received multiple awards and honors. He is also the author of numerous books and papers.

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