Wed . 19 Jun 2019

Andrew S. Tanenbaum

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Andrew Stuart "Andy" Tanenbaum sometimes referred to by the handle ast6 born March 16, 1944 is an American computer scientist and professor emeritus of computer science at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands78910

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 work11 Since 2004 he has operated Electoral-votecom, a website dedicated to analysis of polling data in federal elections in the United States


  • 1 Biography
  • 2 Teaching
    • 21 Books
    • 22 Doctoral students
    • 23 Dean of the Advanced School for Computing and Imaging
  • 3 Projects
    • 31 Amsterdam Compiler Kit
    • 32 MINIX
    • 33 Research projects
    • 34 Electoral-votecom
  • 4 Tanenbaum–Torvalds debate
  • 5 Awards
    • 51 Honorary doctorates
  • 6 Keynote talks
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links


Tanenbaum was born in New York City and grew up in suburban White Plains, New York

He received his bachelor of Science degree in Physics from MIT in 1965 and his PhD degree in astrophysics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1971 Tanenbaum also served as a lobbyist for the Sierra Club12full citation needed

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 PhD candidates at the VU University Amsterdam On 9 July 2014, he announced his retirement13



Tanenbaum is well recognized for his textbooks on computer science They include:

  • Computer Networks, co-authored with David J Wetherall 14 1st ed 1981, 2nd ed 1994, 3rd ed 1996, 4th ed 2002, 5th ed 2010
  • Operating Systems: Design and Implementation, co-authored with Albert Woodhull15
  • Modern Operating Systems3
  • Distributed Operating Systems4
  • Structured Computer Organization16
  • Distributed Systems: Principles and Paradigms, co-authored with Maarten van Steen2

His book, Operating Systems: Design and Implementation and MINIX 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 Arabic, Basque, Bulgarian, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Macedonian, Mexican Spanish, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, and Spanish17 They have appeared in over 175 editions and are used at universities around the world18

Doctoral studentsedit

Tanenbaum has had a number of PhD students who themselves have gone on to become widely known 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
  • Werner Vogels, the Chief Technology Officer at Amazoncom5

Dean of the Advanced School for Computing and Imagingedit

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 PhD 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 PhD students from the Vrije Universiteit, University of Amsterdam, Delft University of Technology, and Leiden University They were especially working on problems in advanced computer systems such as 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 PhD level courses, has an annual conference, and runs various workshops every year


Amsterdam Compiler Kitedit

The Amsterdam Compiler Kit is a toolkit for producing portable compilers It was started sometime before 1981 and Andrew Tanenbaum was the architect from the start until version 5519


In 1987, Tanenbaum wrote a 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 that listed the source code in an appendix and described it in detail in the text20 The source code itself was available on a set of floppy disks Within three months, a Usenet newsgroup, composminix, had sprung up with over 40,000 subscribers discussing and improving the system One of these subscribers 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 it is not based on MINIX code21

Although MINIX and Linux have diverged, MINIX continues to be developed, now as a production system as well as an educational one22 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 running in kernel mode23 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

Research projectsedit

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 PhD students or a postdoctoral researcher These projects include:

  • Amoeba24
  • Globe25
  • Mansioncitation needed
  • Orca26
  • Paramecium27
  • RFID Guardian28
  • Turtle F2F


In 2004, Tanenbaum created Electoral-votecom, a web site analyzing opinion polls for the 2004 US 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"29 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 before the election, also stating his reasons and qualifications for running the website29

Through the site he also covered the 2006 midterm elections, correctly predicting the winner of all 33 Senate races that year

For the 2008 elections, 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 01% He correctly predicted all the winners in the Senate except for Minnesota, where he predicted a 1% win by Norm Coleman over Al Franken After 7 months of legal battling and recounts, Franken won by 312 votes 001%

In 2010, he correctly projected 35 out of 37 Senate races in the Midterm elections on the website The exceptions were Colorado and Nevada

Tanenbaum–Torvalds debateedit

The Tanenbaum–Torvalds debate was a famous debate between Tanenbaum and Linus Torvalds regarding kernel design on Usenet in 199230


  • Fellow of the ACM
  • Fellow of the IEEE
  • Member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences 199431
  • Eurosys Lifetime Achievement Award, 2015
  • Honorary doctorate from Petru Maior University, Targu Mures, Romania, 2011
  • Winner of the TAA McGuffey award for classic textbooks for Modern Operating Systems, 2010
  • Coauthor of the Best Paper Award at the LADC Conference, 2009
  • Winner of a 25 million euro European Research Council Advanced Grant, 2008
  • USENIX Flame Award 2008 32 for his many contributions to systems design and to openness both in discussion and in source
  • Honorary doctorate from Polytechnic University of Bucharest, Romania
  • Coauthor of the Best Paper Award at the Real-Time and Network Systems Conf, 2008
  • Winner of the 2007 IEEE James H Mulligan, Jr Education Medal33
  • 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
  • Academy Professor, 2004
  • Winner of the 2003 TAA McGuffey award for classic textbooks for Computer Networks
  • 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 doctoratesedit

Tanenbaum in Târgu Mureș Tanenbaum is 4th from left
  • On May 12, 2008, Tanenbaum received an honorary doctorate from Universitatea Politehnica din București 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
  • On October 7, 2011, Universitatea Petru Maior din Târgu Mureș Petru Maior University of Târgu Mureș granted Tanenbaum the Doctor Honoris Causa honorary doctorate title for his remarkable work in the field of computer science and achievements in education The academic community is hereby honoring his devotion to teaching and research with this award At the ceremony, the Chancellor, the Rector, the Dean of the Faculty of Sciences and Letters, and others all spoke about Tanenbaum and his work The pro-rector then read the 'laudatio,' summarizing Tanenbaum's achievements These include his work developing MINIX the predecessor to Linux, the RFID Guardian, his work on Globe, Amoeba, and other systems, and his many books on computer science, which have been translated in many languages, including Romanian, and which are used at Petru Maior University

Keynote talksedit

Tanenbaum has been keynote speaker at numerous conferences, most recently

  • FrOSCon 2015 Sankt Augustin, Germany, Aug 22, 2015
  • BSDCan 2015 Ottawa, Canada, June 12, 2015
  • HAXPO 2015 Amsterdam May 28, 2015
  • Codemotion 2015 Rome Italy, March 28, 2015
  • SIREN 2010permanent dead link Veldhoven, The Netherlands, Nov 2, 2010
  • FOSDEM Brussels, Belgium, Feb 7, 2010
  • NSCNE '09permanent dead link Changsha, China, Nov 5, 2009
  • E-Democracy 2009 Conference Athens, Greece, Sept 25, 2009
  • Free and Open Source Conference Sankt Augustin, Germany, August 23, 2008
  • XV Semana Informática of the Instituto Superior Técnico, Lisbon, Portugal, March 13, 2008
  • NLUUG 25 year anniversary conference, Amsterdam, November 7, 2007
  • linuxconfau in Sydney, Australia, January 17, 2007
  • Academic IT Festival in Cracow, Poland, February 23, 2006 2nd edition
  • ACM Symposium on Operating System Principles, Brighton, England, October 24, 2005


  1. ^ Bal, H E; Steiner, J G; Tanenbaum, A S 1989 "Programming languages for distributed computing systems" ACM Computing Surveys 21 3: 261 doi:101145/7255172552 
  2. ^ a b Steen, Maarten van; Tanenbaum, Andrew S 2007 Distributed systems: principles and paradigms Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall ISBN 0-13-239227-5 
  3. ^ a b Tanenbaum, Andrew S 2008 Modern operating systems Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall ISBN 0-13-600663-9 
  4. ^ a b Tanenbaum, Andrew S 1995 Distributed operating systems Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall ISBN 0-13-219908-4 
  5. ^ a b Vogels, Werner 2003 Scalable Cluster Technologies for Mission Critical Enterprise Computing PhD thesis Vrije Universiteit 
  6. ^ A S Tanenbaum 1992-01-29 "LINUX is obsolete" Newsgroup: composminix Usenet: 12595@starcsvunl Retrieved 2006-11-27 
  7. ^ Works by Andrew S Tanenbaum at Open Library
  8. ^ Andrew S Tanenbaum at DBLP Bibliography Server
  9. ^ List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  10. ^ Andrew S Tanenbaum's publications indexed by Google Scholar
  11. ^ 2004 article about Linux, the Usenet debate, and the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution
  12. ^ "Man Comes Forward As Web Site Originator" Associated Press November 1, 2004 
  13. ^ Retirement of Prof Andy Tanenbaum Archived July 12, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ David Wetherall; Tanenbaum, Andrew S 2011 Computer networks Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall ISBN 0-13-212695-8 
  15. ^ Albert S Woodhull; Tanenbaum, Andrew S 2006 Operating systems: design and implementation Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall ISBN 0-13-142938-8 
  16. ^ Tanenbaum, Andrew S 2006 Structured computer organization Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall ISBN 0-13-148521-0 
  17. ^ Andrew S Tanenbaum's FAQ
  18. ^ Andrew S Tanenbaum - Publications Archived May 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Andrew S Tanenbaum - Publications, Colloquia section Archived May 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Amazoncom: Operating Systems Design and Implementation 3rd Edition Prentice Hall Software Series: Andrew S Tanenbaum, Albert S Woodhull: Books
  21. ^ Some notes on the "Who wrote Linux" Kerfuffle Archived September 11, 2010, at WebCite
  22. ^ USENIX April 06
  23. ^ Andrew S Tanenbaum, Professor at the Vrije Universiteit
  24. ^ Tanenbaum, A S; Van Renesse, R; Van Staveren, H; Sharp, G J; Mullender, S J 1990 "Experiences with the Amoeba distributed operating system" Communications of the ACM 33 12: 46 doi:101145/9626796281 
  25. ^ Van Steen, M; Homburg, P; Tanenbaum, A S 1999 "Globe: A wide area distributed system" IEEE Concurrency 7: 70 doi:101109/4434749137 
  26. ^ Bal, H E; Kaashoek, M F; Tanenbaum, A S 1992 "Orca: A language for parallel programming of distributed systems" IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering 18 3: 190 doi:101109/32126768 
  27. ^ Van Doorn, L; Homburg, P; Tanenbaum, A S 1995 "Paramecium: an extensible object-based kernel" Proceedings 5th Workshop on Hot Topics in Operating Systems HotOS-V p 86 doi:101109/HOTOS1995513460 ISBN 0-8186-7081-9 
  28. ^ Mitrokotsa, A; Rieback, M R; Tanenbaum, A S 2009 "Classifying RFID attacks and defenses" Information Systems Frontiers 12 5: 491 doi:101007/s10796-009-9210-z 
  29. ^ a b The Votemaster FAQ at the Wayback Machine archived November 2, 2004
  30. ^ "LINUX is obsolete" Usenet Debate Text
  31. ^ "Andrew Tanenbaum" Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences Retrieved 17 July 2015 
  32. ^ USENIX Flame Award
  33. ^ "IEEE James H Mulligan, Jr Education Medal Recipients" PDF IEEE Retrieved November 24, 2010 

External linksedit

  • Minix Article in Free Software Magazine contains an interview with Andrew Tanenbaum
  • Andrew S Tanenbaum at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  • The MINIX 3 Operating System MINIX Official Website

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