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Everyone can and should learn to code? RUBBISH, says Torvalds

Some people won't 'have the aptitude,' Linux creator claims

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Outspoken Linux creator Linus Torvalds has taken issue with the oft-repeated assertion that in today's world everybody should learn computer programming, saying he just doesn't believe in it.

In an interview with Business Insider over the weekend, the Linux kernel king said that even though he grew up with computers and he enjoys "tinkering with them," not everyone will be the same.

"I actually don't believe that everybody should necessarily try to learn to code," Torvalds said. "I think it's reasonably specialized, and nobody really expects most people to have to do it. It's not like knowing how to read and write and do basic math."

In this, he differs with folks like Rohan Silva (among others) – who, as chairman of the UK government's "Year of Code" initiative, has championed using public funds to promote the idea that "getting to know code is really important" and that "not just rocket scientists" should learn programming.

Torvalds – who also developed the Git source code management system, which powers GitHub – is known for his high standards when it comes to code contributions. He has occasionally even lashed out at other developers with profanity-filled rants in public forums when he thinks their work seems amateurish.

Last year, he even threatened kernel developers that if they didn't shape up their acts he would be forced to "come up with new ways to insult you, your mother, and your deceased pet hamster."

Despite his objections to cramming coding down people's throats, however, the fiery Finn said that he felt making basic programming education available in a more relaxed way is still valuable.

"That said, I think people should have some way of getting exposure to it, just so that people who find that they enjoy it and have the aptitude know about the possibility," Torvalds said. "Not because everybody will want to or need to learn, but just because it is a great vocation, and there may well be lots of people who never realized that they might actually like telling computers what to do." ®

Bootnote

Never one to resist an opportunity to share his views, Torvalds also used his Business Insider interview to rail against patents and the US patent system in particular, as he has done many times in the past. Linux has a long history of being forced to defend itself against patent shenanigans, particularly from Microsoft, which only recently seems to have softened its position on the OS and free/open source software in general.

"How do I love patents? Let me count the ways," Torvalds said on Saturday, adding that the patent system exists today is "all bullshit, sane people know it's bullshit."

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