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Born of a Cuddly Penguin: TUX, Linux Mascot

Have you ever wondered how TUX borned? Yes, I have. Yesterday night, I performed a little search on net and here is the result:

Everthing starts with a debate on the linux-kernel mailing list about a suitable logo/mascot for Linux. Many many different ideas including noble beasts such as Sharks or Eagles and inspirations from other operating system logos suggested before Linus Torvalds (the father of Linux) said: “I am rather fond of Penguins”. :D

After several attempts to draw Penguins in various poses, someone suggested a Penguin holding up the world. Here is the part of famous email from Linus as a response:

So when you think “penguin”, you should be imagining a slighly overweight penguin (*), sitting down after having gorged itself, and having just burped. It’s sitting there with a beatific smile – the world is a good place to be when you have just eaten a few gallons of raw fish and you can feel another “burp” coming.

(*) Not FAT, but you should be able to see that it’s sitting down because it’s really too stuffed to stand up. Think “bean bag” here.

Now, if you have problems associating yourself with something that gets off by eating raw fish, think “chocolate” or something, but you get the idea.

Ok, so we should be thinking of a lovable, cuddly, stuffed penguin sitting down after having gorged itself on herring. Still with me?

OK, but why penguins? Linus explains his love of Penguins in another e-mail as follows:

“Linus likes penguins”. That’s it. There was even a headline on it in some Linux Journal some time ago (I was bitten by a Killer Penguin in Australia – I’m not kidding). Penguins are fun.

As to why use a penguin as a logo? No good reason, really. But a logo doesn’t really ave to _mean_ anything – it’s the association that counts. And I can think of many worse things than have linux being associated with penguins.

Having a penguin as a logo also gives more freedom to people wanting to use linux-related material: instead of being firmly fixed with a specific logo (the triangle, or just “Linux 2.0″ or some other abstract thing), using something like a penguin gives people the chance to make modifications that are still recognizable.

So you can have a real live penguin on a CD cover, for example, and people will get the association. Or you can have a penguin that does something specific (a Penguin writing on wordperfect for the WP Linux CD, whatever – you get the idea).

Compare that to a more abstract logo (like the windows logo – it’s not a bad logo in itself). You can’t really do anything with a logo like that. It just “is”.


Where does the name TUX come from? The first person to call the penguin TUX was James Hughes, who said that it stood for Torvalds UniX in a thread called “Let’s name the penguin” and it is accepted. However, many people observe that TUX is also an abbreviation of tuxedo, the outfit which springs to mind when they see a penguin.

And lastly, you can find lots of funny TUX pics from here. Enjoy it…


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