Debian Project mourns the loss of Ian Murdock

January 5th, 2016

The Debian Project sadly announces that it has lost the founder of its community and project, Ian Murdock.

Debian is only a part of Ian's legacy but perhaps the one that he is most known for.

Ian was introduced to computers early in his life, and his curiosity turned to familiarity which led him to start actively programming at nine years of age. Later as a young adult at the Krannert School of Management a mandatory programming class rekindled his fascination with computer programming along with an idea and an opportunity to make something better.

Ian started the Debian Project in August of 1993, releasing the first versions of Debian later that same year. At that time, the whole concept of a distribution of Linux was new. Inspired as he said by Linus Torvalds' own sharing of Linux, he released Debian with the intention that this distribution should be made openly, in the spirit of Linux and GNU.

With that simple gesture Ian started a movement in the world of software. Many developers joined him in this task of creating better software in a better world.

From his Debian Manifesto: The Debian design process is open to ensure that the system is of the highest quality and that it reflects the needs of the user community. By involving others with a wide range of abilities and backgrounds, Debian is able to be developed in a modular fashion. […] Involving others also ensures that valuable suggestions for improvement can be incorporated into the distribution during its development; thus, a distribution is created based on the needs and wants of the users rather than the needs and wants of the constructor.

His sharp focus was on creating a distribution and community culture that did the right thing, be it ethically, or technically.

Releases went out when they were ready, and the project's staunch stance on Software Freedom was and is still a gold standard in the Free and Open Source world.

Debian 0.01 through Debian 0.90 were released between August and December of 1993. Ian Murdock writes:

Debian 0.91 was released in January 1994. It had a primitive package system […]. By this time, there were a few dozen people working on Debian, though I was still mostly putting together the releases myself. 0.91 was the last release done in this way.

Most of 1994 was spent organizing the Debian Project so that others could more effectively contribute, as well as working on dpkg […].

Debian 0.93 Release 5 happened in March 1995 and was the first "modern" release of Debian: there were many more developers by then (though I can't remember exactly how many), each maintaining their own packages, and dpkg was being used to install and maintain all these packages after a base system was installed.

Debian 0.93 Release 6 happened in November 1995 and was the last a.out release. There were about sixty developers maintaining packages in 0.93R6. If I remember correctly, dselect first appeared in 0.93R6.

Ian Murdock also notes that Debian 0.93R6 … has always been my favorite release of Debian, although he admits to the possibility of some personal bias, as he stopped actively working on the project in March 1996.

Ian Murdock led Debian until March 1996, when he appointed Bruce Perens as the next leader of the project.

The devotion to the right thing guided Ian's work, both in Debian and in the subsequent years, always working towards the best possible future.

Debian would go on to become the world's Universal Operating System, found on everything from the smallest embedded devices to the largest cluster systems, to the Space Station because of course it runs Debian which has been ported across multiple architectures and types of hardware.

Ian's dream lives on: Debian is made up of a strong community that has fostered development, growth, and wonder. It remains incredibly active with thousands of developers working untold hours to bring the world a reliable and secure operating system. Debian has sparked the interest, curiosity, and passion of those who want to make something better. Then, now, and far into the future.

From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you Ian.

Throughout the Debian infrastructure our websites and services mark our reflection and mourning with a darkened homepage banner and ribbons on our logos. The thoughts of the Debian Community are with Ian's family in this difficult time.

His family has asked for privacy and we very much wish to respect their desires.

Within our Debian community and for the Linux community condolences may be sent to where they will be kept and archived.

This email address will be active until the end of January 2016. The Debian Project will then provide the archive to the family and publish the contents later this year if it is with the wishes of the family.

About Debian

The Debian Project is an association of Free Software developers who volunteer their time and effort in order to produce a completely free operating system known as Debian.

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