13 Feb 2020

Penguin Tux - An Interesting story behind Linux Mascot

Any personalized character associated with a group of companies, a corporation, entity, or team is called a mascot. Ever came to think of it how some of the world's most recognizable brands, all have a mascot. Figures like The Michelin Man, Mr. Peanut, and of course, the talking M&Ms are some of the most famous brand mascots we see. In fact, they are almost or even more popular than the actual company logos. With Mickey Mouse turning 90 in 2018 and still having an impressive 98% recognition rate among all age groups, it is safe to say that mascots have a huge role to play in the branding of an organization.

One such old and well-recognized mascot is Tux. Tux is a cutesy, chubby penguin that is sitting down and is an official mascot to Linux Kernel, one of the oldest open source monolithic, Unix-like operating system kernel. The Linux family that is represented by this little waterfowl is based on this kernel and developed on both traditional as well as personal computers and servers, usually in the same format of other Linux distributions on different embedded devices like.

The Penguin Origin Tale

Originally developed by developer Linus Torvalds in 1991, Linux got its official mascot much after in 1996 created as an entry to a Linux logo competition. The idea generated when a British programmer Alan Cox envisions a penguin to be considered as the official Linux kernel mascot and logo. The idea behind the Linux mascot being a penguin originated when Linus Torvalds disclosed an image he found on an FTP site that showed a penguin figurine depicted in a similar fashion as a character of Creature Comforts created by Nick Park. Larry Ewing took the inspiration from the picture Torvalds had shown and came up with Tux. The very first image he created, he did so by using GIMP after taking these clues by the two developers of the Linux kernel.

As 72% of all the best brand names are either made up of words or acronyms, the first time Tux was named Tux it was as an acronym for a tuxedo. When you see a penguin, a tuxedo is the first thing that comes in your mind is how the furry fellow is shown. It looks like it is wearing a tuxedo. However, the first person to call the penguin 'Tux' was James Hughes, who said that:
"It stands for Torvalds UniX."
Tux is now the most commonly used icon around the world, recognized globally for the association with the brand Linux and its distributed products. These distributions even depict it in many different types of characters to be used according to the various Linux programs and projects.

However, not all were happy for the decision being made in favor of Linux. One of the first questions that the mainstream media could ask was, why a penguin, and who owns it. Many developers were not happy with the cute image that the Linux kernel was going for. Before anybody could come up with Tux, the Linux kernel mailing list was full of suggestions of many fierce picks of our animal friends like foxes, eagles, hawks, and even sharks. Many developers thought that it was not good to give a weak impression to the industry with an image of a cute animal as mascot where there were that many options available to choose from. People claimed that Tux gave more of an impression of being associated with a toy company than to an intense, highly successful open-source software corporation.

However, where many stood against it, many even spoke in its favor. According to Robin Miller, Tux had a positive appeal attracting women in great numbers. Not being a serious big corporate logo and having a friendly ring to it, it attracted the female masses of connecting on an emotional basis to it.

Torvalds spoke up about his preference for having a penguin making a perfect mascot of Linux. He even specified that he wants to stay away from the macho penguin image and instead pushed the developers for focusing on a cute, cuddly, and contented character of a penguin that looks like it is probably sitting down after having a hearty meal of herring.

The Outcome and Feedback for the Mascot

Many people around Linux became suspicious of Torvalds choice and questioned him as to why he is so adamant about a certain way he would only wan a penguin. In answer to which Torvalds narrated an encounter; he had with a penguin at the National Zoo & Aquarium, Canberra, Australia. He said having a "fixation for flightless and fat waterfowl" stemmed when he was bitten by a penguin there and got infected by a disease called Penguinitis. Although the story turned out to be a bit exaggerated for the entertainment element on Torvalds's end, it still had a ring of truth to it as a timid little creature in the zoo did end up nibbling on Torvalds's finger. But there were no diseases involved.

Now, if we talk about the other frequently asked question that Linux faced when it came to Tux, then it was 'Who owned the penguin?' The answer to which is that just like Linux, Tux is an open-source image. The only condition that Larry Ewing set was:
"Permission to use and/or modify this image is granted provided you acknowledge me lewing@isc.tamu.edu and The GIMP if someone asks."
Usually, what happens is that corporations hire a big-budget lawyer to fig cases after their company trademarks, logos, and mascots. These lawyers are made to fiercely protect these emblems as they are sacred icons in the corporate culture. However, the idea of keeping Tux as an open-source image and allowing people to edit, add, pick, and adapt to it was an excellent and highly successful decision on Linux's behalf. It made the penguin a widely recognized, globally known character associated to Linux, its distributions and products. According to Marco Pastore, an open-source programmer:
"Tux is an excellent proof of concept of the whole rationale behind open source and free software development. Release your creation to the community, let them do with it as they see fit, and you'll end up with something wonderful."

Most Successful Free to Use Mascot

Tux is still not a product of any hired advertising agency. There were no investments made into its developments. It is stated on Erwing's website to this day that he has permitted usage and modification of the character. Anybody can use and edit it however they seem fit but must accredit him and the software GIMP that he used for its development into the successful widely acclaimed mascot that it has become over the years.


Author Bio: Claudia Jeffrey is currently working as a Content Strategist at Crowd Writer, an excellent platform that provides report writing service. She has a sufficient knowledge base to cover many different types of topics for her content. You can check out her further writing skills at her blog at Word Count Jet.

2 comments:

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