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Andrew Stuart Tanenbaum
Born March 16, 1944 (1944-03-16) (age 65)
White Plains, New York
Residence Amsterdam, Netherlands
Nationality United States
Other names Andy
ast (internet handle)
Occupation Professor
Employer Vrije Universiteit
Known for MINIX, Microkernels

Andrew Stuart "Andy" Tanenbaum (sometimes referred to by the handle ast)[1] (born March 16, 1944) is a professor of computer science at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam in the Netherlands. He is best known as the author of MINIX, a free Unix-like operating system for teaching purposes, and for his computer science textbooks, regarded as standard texts in the field. He regards his teaching job as his most important work.[2]



Tanenbaum was born in New York City and grew up in suburban White Plains, New York. He received his B.Sc. degree in Physics from MIT in 1965. He received his Ph.D. degree in physics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1971. He moved to the Netherlands to live with his wife, who is Dutch, but he retains his United States citizenship. He teaches courses about Computer Organization and Operating Systems and supervises the work of Ph.D. candidates at the VU University Amsterdam.


He is well recognized for his textbooks on computer science:

  • Computer Networks, ISBN 0-13-066102-3
  • Operating Systems: Design and Implementation, (co-authored with Albert Woodhull), ISBN 0-13-142938-8
  • Modern Operating Systems, ISBN 0-13-031358-0
  • Distributed Operating Systems, ISBN 0-13-219908-4
  • Structured Computer Organization, ISBN 0-13-148521-0
  • Distributed Systems: Principles and Paradigms, (co-authored with Maarten van Steen), ISBN 0-13-239227-5

Operating Systems: Design and Implementation and MINIX[3] were Linus Torvalds' inspiration for the Linux kernel. In his autobiography Just For Fun, Torvalds describes it as "the book that launched me to new heights".

His books have been translated into many languages including Basque, Bulgarian, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mexican Spanish, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish[4]. They have appeared in over 120 editions and are used at universities around the world.[5]

Amsterdam Compiler Kit

The Amsterdam Compiler Kit is a toolkit for producing portable compilers. It was started sometime before 1981,[6] and Andrew Tanenbaum was the architect from the start until version 5.5.


In 1987, Tanenbaum wrote an clone of UNIX, called MINIX (MIni-uNIX), for the IBM PC. It was targeted at students and others who wanted to learn how an operating system worked. Consequently, he wrote a book[7] that listed the source code in an appendix and described it in detail in the text. The source code itself was available on a set of floppy disks. Within three months, a USENET newsgroup, comp.os.minix,[8] had sprung up with over 40,000 readers discussing and improving the system. One of these readers was a Finnish student named Linus Torvalds who began adding new features to MINIX and tailoring it to his own needs. On October 5, 1991, Torvalds announced his own (POSIX like) kernel, called Linux, which originally used the MINIX file system but is not based on MINIX code.[9]

Although MINIX and Linux have diverged, MINIX continues to be developed, now as a production system as well as an educational one.[10] The focus is on building a highly modular, reliable, and secure, operating system. The system is based on a microkernel, with only 5000 lines of code[11] running in kernel mode. The rest of the operating system runs as a number of independent processes in user mode, including processes for the file system, process manager, and each device driver. The system continuously monitors each of these processes, and when a failure is detected is often capable of automatically replacing the failed process without a reboot, without disturbing running programs, and without the user even noticing. MINIX 3, as the current version is called, is available under the BSD license for free at

Research projects

Tanenbaum has also been involved in numerous other research projects in the areas of operating systems, distributed systems, and ubiquitous computing, often as supervisor of Ph.D. students or a postdoctoral researcher. These projects include:

Ph.D. students

Tanenbaum has had a number of Ph.D. students who themselves have gone on to become famous computer science researchers. These include Henri Bal, a professor at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, Frans Kaashoek, a professor at MIT, Sape Mullender, a researcher at Bell Labs, Robbert van Renesse, a professor at Cornell University, Leendert van Doorn, a fellow at the AMD Corporation, and Werner Vogels, the Chief Technology Officer at

Dean of the Advanced School for Computing and Imaging

In the early 1990s, the Dutch government began setting up a number of thematically oriented research schools that spanned multiple universities. These schools were intended to bring professors and Ph.D. students from different Dutch (and later, foreign) universities together to help them cooperate and enhance their research. Tanenbaum was one of the cofounders and first Dean of the Advanced School for Computing and Imaging (ASCI). This school initially consisted of nearly 200 faculty members and Ph.D. students from the Vrije Universiteit, University of Amsterdam, Delft University of Technology, and Leiden University working in the areas of advanced computer systems, especially parallel computing, and image analysis and processing. Tanenbaum remained Dean for 12 years, until 2005, when he was awarded an Academy Professorship by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, at which time he became a full-time research professor. ASCI has since grown to include researchers from nearly a dozen universities in The Netherlands, Belgium, and France. ASCI offers Ph.D. level courses, has an annual conference, and runs various workshops every year.

In 2004 Tanenbaum created, a web site analyzing opinion polls for the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election, using them to project the outcome in the Electoral College. He stated that he created the site as an American who "knows first hand what the world thinks of America and it is not a pretty picture at the moment. I want people to think of America as the land of freedom and democracy, not the land of arrogance and blind revenge. I want to be proud of America again."[12] The site provided a color-coded map, updated each day with projections for each state's electoral votes. Through most of the campaign period Tanenbaum kept his identity secret, referring to himself as "the Votemaster" and acknowledging only that he personally preferred John Kerry. A libertarian who supports the Democrats, he revealed his identity on November 1, 2004, the day prior to the election, also stating his reasons and qualifications for running the website.[12] Through the site he covered the 2006 midterm elections, correctly predicting the winner of all 33 Senate races that year.

In 2008 he tracked the presidential, Senate, and House races. For the presidential election, he got every state right except for Indiana, which he said McCain would win by 2% (Obama won by 1%) and Missouri, which he said was too close to call (McCain won by 0.1%). He correctly predicted all the winners in the Senate races except for Minnesota, where he predicted a 1% win by Norm Coleman. After 7 months of legal battling, Al Franken won this race by 312 votes (0.01%).


  • Fellow of the ACM
  • Fellow of the IEEE
  • Member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Coauthor of the Best Paper Award at the LADC Conference, 2009
  • Winner of a 2.5 million euro European Research Council Advanced Grant, 2008
  • USENIX Flame Award 2008 [13] for his many contributions to systems design and to openness both in discussion and in source.
  • Coauthor of the Best Paper Award at the Real-Time and Network Systems Conf., 2008
  • Coauthor of the Best Paper Award at the USENIX LISA Conf., 2006
  • Coauthor of the Best Paper for High Impact at the IEEE Percom Conf., 2006
  • Winner of the 2006 IEEE James H. Mulligan, Jr. Education Medal
  • Academy Professor, 2004
  • Winner of the 2003 TAA McGuffey Award for classic textbooks
  • Winner of the 2002 TAA Texty Award for new textbooks
  • Winner of the 1997 ACM SIGCSE for contributions to computer science education
  • Winner of the 1994 ACM Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award
  • Coauthor of the 1984 ACM SOSP Distinguished Paper Award

Honorary doctorate

Tanenbaum is 4th from left

On May 12, 2008, Tanenbaum received an honorary doctorate from Polytechnic University of Bucharest Universitatea Politehnică din București (Polytechnic University of Bucharest). The award was given in the academic senate chamber, after which Tanenbaum gave a lecture on his vision of the future of the computer field. The degree was given in recognition of Tanenbaum's career work, which includes about 150 published papers, 18 books (which have been translated into over 20 languages), and the creation of a large body of open-source software, including the Amsterdam Compiler Kit, Amoeba, Globe, and MINIX.

Keynote talks

Tanenbaum has been keynote speaker at numerous conferences, most recently


See also


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Andrew Stuart "Andy" Tanenbaum (born 1944) is an American computer scientist living in the Netherlands. He is best known as the author of Minix, a free Unix-like operating system for teaching purposes, and for his computer science textbooks.



  • I had never engaged in remote multishrink psychoanalysis on this scale before, so it was a fascinating experience.
    • Ken Brown's Motivation, Release 1.2 [1]
  • Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.
    • Computer Networks, 4th Ed. p. 91
  • Fight Features. ...the only way to make software secure, reliable, and fast is to make it small.
    • Some Notes on the "Who wrote Linux" Kerfuffle, Release 1.5 [2]
  • However, as every parent of a small child knows, converting a large object into small fragments is considerably easier than the reverse process.
    • Computer Networks, 4th ed. p. 428
  • The nice thing about standards is that you have so many to choose from.
    • Computer Networks, 2nd ed, p.254

The "Linux is Obsolete" Debate

  • "Linux is a leprosy; ..." This statement is not grammatically, politically, or factually correct.
    • Rebuttal to Ken Brown [3]
  • A lot of other people wanted a free production UNIX with lots of bells and whistles and wanted to convert MINIX into that. I was dragged along in the maelstrom for a while, but when Linux came along, I was actually relieved that I could go back to professoring.
    • Ken Brown's Motivation, Release 1.2 [4]
  • I REALLY am not angry with Linus. HONEST. He's not angry with me either.
    • Ken Brown's Motivation, Release 1.2 [5]
  • LINUX is obsolete
    • In a Usenet message, 29 Jan 1992 [6]
  • The only real argument for monolithic systems was performance, and there is now enough evidence showing that microkernel systems can be just as fast as monolithic systems.
    • In a Usenet message, 29 Jan 1992
  • But in all honesty, I would suggest that people who want a **MODERN** "free" OS look around for a microkernel-based, portable OS, like maybe GNU or something like that.
    • In a Usenet message, 29 Jan 1992
  • Be thankful you are not my student. You would not get a high grade for such a design :-) […] Writing a new OS only for the 386 in 1991 gets you your second 'F' for this term.
  • A multithreaded file system is only a performance hack.
  • Writing a portable OS is not much harder than a nonportable one, and all systems should be written with portability in mind these days.
    • In a Usenet message, 3 Feb 1992
  • While most people can talk rationally about kernel design and portability, the issue of free-ness is 100% emotional.
    • In a Usenet message, 3 Feb 1992
  • Will we soon see President Bush coming to Europe with Richard Stallman and Rick Rashid in tow, demanding that Europe import more American free software?
    • In a Usenet message, 3 Feb 1992
  • If you just want to USE the system, instead of hacking on its internals, you don't need source code.
    • In a Usenet message, 5 Feb 1992
  • Microkernels are not a pipe dream. They represent proven technology.
    • In a Usenet message, 5 Feb 1992


  • Security, like correctness, is not an add-on feature.
  • Unfortunately, the current generation of mail programs do not have checkers to see if the sender knows what he is talking about.
  • If anyone had realized that within 10 years this tiny system that was picked up almost by accident was going to be controlling 50 million computers, considerably more thought might have gone into it.
    • talking about MS-DOS

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