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There has been over a decade of Linux development at Red Hat. This document describes that history, particularly focusing on the development themes for each release of Linux provided by Red Hat. Release History

“You know, it's a funny thing. We go ahead and do things, and afterward, people go and start making history out of it.” — Fred Weick, Aircraft Designer. For the first decade or so, we did not set out to write the history of Red Hat Linux, so some of this data is a bit fuzzy or conflicting. We hope to do more research into our own past to give more useful data. This history is embryonic. It is intended to give some sense of where we have been, to help build a shared understanding of what we did right, as well as what we have done wrong, in order to continue a tradition of excellence.

In the following table, the Version number is prefaced by "RHL" for Red Hat Linux, "RHEL" for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and "FC" for Fedora Core.

Date Version Code Name (or Release Name) Description
July 29 1994 n/a Preview (or Beta) Initial test release, not distributed widely or publicly, built on Red Hat's original package management system, RPP. This was called "Red Hat Software Linux" and abbreviated "RHS Linux" in the manuals and other accompanying documentation, and was provided on a single CD with an unmarked solid red label. The letter accompanying it thanked the recipient for purchasing the beta version and was signed by Marc Ewing (Red Hat's founder) and Damien Neil (Red Hat's first employee, a summer intern). It used a 1.1.18 development series kernel. Reports of a version number for this product appear to be exaggerated.
October 31 1994 RHL 0.9 Halloween First widely-available beta release of Red Hat Linux. It was still a purchased beta, but at least now it came with documentation. Users had their choice of the 1.0.9 (stable) or 1.1.54 (development) Linux kernel. The manual still referred in at least one place to the 1.1.18 kernel shipped just a few months previously. The manual also suggested that most users would not use the rpp program to install software; instead, they would use the Tcl/Tk LIM (Linux Installation Manager) graphical front end.

One of the critical factors that made RHS Linux a success even as a beta was the focus on graphical configuration tools; even this early beta had graphical tools to configure users and groups, /etc/fstab, time and date (this tool even had an easter egg!), and most importantly, networking. Few people today recall the pain of setting up networking on Linux completely from scratch, following steps in a long HOWTO document, and then going through the process again after installing (not upgrading to) every new version of their distribution they installed.
May 1995 RHL 1.0 Mother's Day First non-beta release of Red Hat Linux, it was not released on the 13th (Mothers' Day that year) but that was the closest holiday, and so it got its name. Built on the 1.2.8 kernel, this release introduced the name "Red Hat Commercial Linux" instead of "Red Hat Software Linux", and replaced the very tall top hat logo with an image of a man walking quickly, carrying a briefcase, and holding on to a red hat. This was the first release done after ACC Bookstores (Bob Young) bought out Red Hat Software, Inc. (Mark Ewing) and adopted the better name. (ACC Bookstores was so named in order to appear first alphabetically.)
Late Summer 1995 RHL 1.1 Mother's Day+0.1 Bug fix release. 1.2.11 or 1.2.13 kernel, depending on exactly which version you got! Known in at least one incarnation as "The Official Red Hat Commercial Linux". The name, for reasons lost in time has always been pronounced "Mother's Day Plus One".
Later Summer 1995 RHL 2.0 beta ? Beta of first release to use RPM, which meant that upgrades from earlier releases were not supported. This version of RPM was written in Perl for quick development. First release using the ELF format for libraries and executables; previous releases used the "a.out" format.
Early Fall 1995 RHL 2.0 ? First formal release using RPM. Marketing typography called this "Red Hat LiNUX".
November 1995 RHL 2.1 Bluesky Bug fix release. Digital (remember them?) did a promotional CD of "Red Hat 2.1 LiNUX" for the x86 platform as a teaser for the forthcoming release of a Red Hat Software product for their Alpha platform; "Red Hat Linux/Alpha 2.1" was released in January 1996. Included the 1.2.13 (stable) and 1.3.32 (development) kernels.
March 15 1996 RHL 3.0.3 Picasso Engineers intended this release to be called "2.2" but marketing (i.e. Bob Young) decided it would sell better if it were called "3.0.3" ("3.03" in some places). Red Hat is still in business today, so maybe Bob was right. The release was now called "Official" Red Hat LiNUX' (yes, the quotes around 'Official' were part of the name, at least on the CD and some of the box copy; in other places, it was in italic typeface instead). This was to separate the version Red Hat sold from the versions sold by third parties such as Infomagic. It was also called "Red Hat™; Software, Inc. LiNUX", "RED HAT LINUX", and "Red Hat Linux" on the box.

This was the first approximately concurrent multi-architecture release; the (then) Digital Alpha platform was supported. (The binary file format was still a.out for the Alpha platform because the ELF standard for Alpha was not yet ratified; there were no shared libraries on Alpha, either.)

This was also the first release to feature the proprietary Metro-X accelerated X server as a feature of the release. It was also the first to include glint, the "Graphical Linux INstallation Tool", as a graphical front end for RPM. It also included graphical printer configuration.
July-August 1996 RHL 3.0.4/3.95 Rembrandt Beta leading up to the 4.0 release. RPM re-written in C (I think for this beta). First release with Pluggable Authentication Modules (PAM). New configuration tools being written in Python with TkInter instead of TCL/TK; first example was a new network configuration tool. Thanks to the new 2.0 kernel, this was the first release to use kernel modules; before this, there were 72 different kernels from which users had to choose to match their hardware. Now, hardware differences could be handled by loading different modules.
October 3 1996 RHL 4.0 Colgate Three architectures supported: x86, Alpha, and SPARC. Alpha was able to use the ELF file format in this release, since the standard was ratified and tool support implemented. This release also introduced our current Shadowman™ logo. Based on the 2.0.18 kernel. First release to include documentation freely available in electronic form as well as "dead tree" format in the box. First release to ship the spyglass-derived "Red Baron" browser as a proprietary value-add.
February 3 1997 RHL 4.1 Vanderbilt Bug fix release. Kernel 2.0.27.

InfoWorld, Best of 1996, Operating Systems.
May 19 1997 RHL 4.2 Biltmore Continued to use a slightly old version of libc (5.3) instead of newer 5.4 version because of instability and gratuitous incompatibility in the new version. One of the first really widely-criticized technical decisions between versions of software in Red Hat Linux, this decision was vindicated, at least for the distribution developers, by the flood of bug reports and demonstrated instability on other distributions that shipped libc 5.4. Last release to ship the Red Baron browser, which proved very buggy.
August 27, September 16 1997 RHL 4.8/4.8.1/4.95 Thunderbird First release to use glibc 2.0. First formal beta release program.
October 7, 16 1997 RHL 4.9/4.9.1/4.96 Mustang Another set of beta releases; the massive changes introduced by changing C library versions made it critical that Red Hat ran a two-cycle beta instead of just one or even zero cycles as before. The experience we had of the gain in quality from this very public beta process was a formative experience and cemented a resolve to have strong beta processes for future releases.
December 1 1997 RHL 5.0 Hurricane Released in time for Christmas sales, Hurricane was named partly in recognition (it is hard to call it honor) of the hurricane that had swept over Red Hat a few months before and done a great deal of damage to the surrounding area, but essentially spared the Red Hat offices. First release to include BRU2000-PE™ backup and Real Audio™ client and server software as proprietary value-add components.

1997 InfoWorld Product of the Year.
June 1 1998 RHL 5.1 Manhattan Debuted the Linux Applications CD, a disk with primarily proprietary applications from third-party companies that worked on Red Hat Linux. Some pieces of GNOME were included for building a few applications, and a preview release of GNOME was included in a separate directory, though it wasn't part of the installation. First release to ship linuxconf as a centralized configuration tool. First release to include the proprietary Netscape browser. Last release to have a live filesystem tree on the CD; after this the size of the software outgrew the space for it.

PC Magazine Technical Innovation Awards: Editorial Fellows' Award Winner, 1998; Australian Personal Computer, Editor's Choice, and Just Plain Cool Award, 1998.
October 12 1998 RHL 5.2 Apollo Technology preview of GNOME included in a separate directory.

LinuxWorld, Show Favorite: Software.
March 17, 1999 RHL 5.9 Starbuck
April 19 1999 RHL 6.0 Hedwig glibc 2.1, egcs, 2.2 kernel, GNOME integrated.

Desktop Engineering, Readers' Choice Award, 1999; Wired for 3D, 1999 Editor's Choice Award Winner
September 6 1999 RHL 6.0.50 Lorax First beta release with graphical installer (anaconda); the installer was completely re-written, including implementing graphical mode and reimplementing text mode, in Python.
October 4 1999 RHL 6.1 Cartman InfoWorld, 1999 Product of the Year, Operating Systems; Information Week, 1999 Product of the year; Internet Week, 1999 Best of Breed and 1999 Approved; Popular Science, 1999 Award for Computer and Software; International Engineering Consortium, Infovision 2000 Award, Private Networks; Network Magazine, 2000 Product of the Year, Server OS.
February 9 2000 RHL 6.1.92 Piglet The world did not end.
March 27 2000 RHL 6.2 Zoot First release to ship ISO images for FTP download.
July 31 2000 RHL 6.9.5 Pinstripe
September 25 2000 RHL 7.0 Guinness glibc 2.2. 2.4 kernel just didn't make it in time, we decided that glibc version was a bigger user-space distinguisher than kernel version. First release that supported Red Hat Network out of the box.

This release introduced what Red Hat called gcc 2.96 in this release, and later re-named gcc 2.96RH. The gcc developers who had been working for Cygnus Solutions when it was a separate company recommended that Red Hat base its work on a stabilized snapshot in order to get much better C++ support. Due to misunderstanding, this was not discussed with other gcc maintainers first, and a flame war erupted afterward about Red Hat using this version number, thus the renaming to gcc 2.96RH in future versions. Red Hat provides an official response to this altercation.
January 31 2001 RHL 7.0.90 Fisher Introduced the 2.4 kernel.
February 21 2001 RHL 7.0.91 Wolverine
April 16 2001 RHL 7.1 Seawolf First non-"point-zero" release to include a new stable kernel stream. This release was considerably delayed internally, but barely externally due to heroics on the part of project management, by a major fight to resolve a very subtle data corruption issue in the kernel. This was also the first release to simultaneously support all supported languages, including CJK (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean).

This was the first release to ship with Mozilla.
August 2, 21 2001 RHL 7.1.93, 7.1.94 Roswell The ext3 journaling filesystem become the default filesystem, and the installer offers to convert ext2 filesystems to ext3 as part of the installation process. Grub replaces LILO as default boot manager.
October 22 2001 RHL 7.2 Enigma GNOME 1.4, KDE 2.2. This was the development basis for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2.1 AS, originally marketed as Red Hat Advanced Server 2.1, though RHEL 2.1 AS also included some fixes that also ended up being included in Red Hat Linux 7.3.

Network Computing, 2002 Well-Connected Awards Finalist.
March 22 2002 RHL 7.2.91 Skipjack Despite the fact that we always said that we did not pre-announce version numbers, and that there was no guarantee that we would always do a ".0" release, a ".1" release, and a ".2" release, there had been a strong pattern so far through the 4, 5, 6, and 7 releases. We finally broke the mold when it became obvious that it was going to take too long to get gcc3, GTK+ 2, Python2, etc. all mature for a timely Red Hat Linux 8.0 release. Therefore, not long before this beta, we cut out the new stuff, rebuilt with the old compiler, and set off to chart new ".3" territory.
May 6 2002 RHL 7.3 Valhalla The last release to carry the proprietary Netscape browser.
May 6 2002 RHEL 2.1 AS (Pensacola) Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2.1 AS (originally launched as Red Hat Linux Advanced Server 2.1), Red Hat's first Enterprise offering (Red Hat Linux 6.2E was essentially a version of Red Hat Linux 6.2 with different support levels, and was not separately engineered) was based on Red Hat Linux 7.2, but included important fixes from Red Hat Linux 7.3. Explicitly supported by many ISVs, it provided much higher support levels with smaller changes than Red Hat had provided in the past. Red Hat has concentrated its commercial support activities on this line of products.
July 4, 29; August 19 2002 RHL 7.3.29, 7.3.93, 7.3.94 Limbo/(null) Due to the circumstances causing this name change in the middle of this release cycle, all our code names now need to be approved by Red Hat's legal department. Tested 700MB ISO images, but they caused too much trouble.
September 30, 2002 RHL 8.0 Psyche Lots of new technology in this release. gcc 3.2, glibc 2.3 release candidate (officially approved and requested by upstream maintainer!), 1.0.1, GNOME 2, KDE 3.0.3.

Bluecurve™ was also introduced with the goal of providing a pleasant, unified look across the two desktops and many applications included in the release. Despite being slightly controversial to a select few, Bluecurve™ was a smashing success. Several other distributions took notice and began to follow in the footsteps of providing a better user experience through cohesive cross-desktop default themes, which was the major rationale of the Red Hat Artwork project.
March 31 2003 RHL 9 Shrike Start of some new directions. In the past, Red Hat worked to maintain both forward and backward compatibility within a major version series. In the future, Red Hat will not be trying to enable building software on newer releases that runs on older releases, thus the change in versoning.

First release to include NPTL (Native POSIX Thread Library) support, using glibc 2.3.2 and kernel 2.4.20 with NPTL support backported from the 2.5.x development kernels. Also, KDE 3.1 and GNOME 2.2.

This release is the basis of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.
July 21 2003 RHL 9.0.93 Severn Final Red Hat Linux beta release; this release started Red Hat's process of creating an open development process.
September 25 2003 FC 0.94 Severn A week after Red Hat announced that its open development process was in the process of merging with the pre-existing Fedora Linux project to create the Fedora Project, the renamed second beta came out: Fedora Core 1 test 2, version 0.94. This was the first test release to have a really functional version of the exec-shield security-enhancing patch.
N/A Fedora Release .. See Historical Fedora Release Schedules for its Date and Code Name.

Naming convention

Starting with Picasso, Red Hat has given releases of Red Hat Linux code names. (These names are included in the /etc/redhat-release file, with the version number.) The code names follow a strict pattern — at least, we have tried to make them follow a strict pattern. Name n and n+1 must share an is-a (not a has-a) relationship, but n and n+2 must not share an is-a relationship. (Extra credit for finding the small mistakes we made; we are now aware that we have at least one case where n and n+2 share an is-a relationship. The best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft a-gley.) Sometimes the name has changed from one beta release to another; more often it has not. There is no subtle message encoded in whether the name changes from one beta release to the next. Red Hat Enterprise Linux releases have not had code names; only release names which have also been used in place of code names.

In the past few years, there have also been a set of release names applied to each release by product management; these names are per formal release, where the beta has the same name as the follow-on product. Red Hat has not formally published these names, but several of them have become common knowledge anyway. These names have been geographical; they were originally the birthplaces of various members of the product management team, but those ran out and we had to find other geographical names.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux have only release names, no code names. Fedora Core will have only code names, not release names, except that we had already chosen the name "Cambridge" as a release name for the project that became Fedora Core 1.

Neither set of names has a long queue of new names already chosen and waiting for it. Therefore, as common practice, we use C syntax to refer to future releases. For example, the release code-named "Shrike" has the release name "Gin Gin"; the next release we informally referred to as "Gin Gin++" until we chose the release name "Cambridge."

Other Historical Information

For historical information specific to the Fedora logo, please refer to the Fedora logo history page.


For several years, there have been at least two web pages maintaining a bit of history of Red Hat Linux, one by Stephen Smoogen one by Matthias Saou that were valuable summaries we used while writing this document. Kudos to Smooge and Matthias for maintaining them! Thanks to Thomas Chung for writing this page.