Andrew S. Tanenbaum

Andrew Stuart "Andy" Tanenbaum (sometimes referred to by the handle ast) (born 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.


Tanenbaum was born in New York City and grew up in suburban White Plains, New York. He received his S.B. 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. As of 2004 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 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".

These five books have been translated into 20 languages: Basque, Bulgarian, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Polish, Portuguese (for Brazil), Portuguese (for Portugal), Romanian, Russian, Spanish (for Latin America), Spanish (for Spain), and Thai. They have appeared in over 120 editions and are used at universities around the world.

Amsterdam Compiler Kit

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 5.5.


In 1987, Tanenbaum wrote the first open-source 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 text. The source code itself was available on a set of floppy disks. Within three months, a USENET newsgroup, comp.os.minix, 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) operating system, called Linux, which originally used the MINIX file system but is not based on MINIX code.

Although MINIX and Linux have diverged, MINIX continues to be developed, now as a production system as well as an educational one. The focus is on building a highly modular, reliable, and secure, operating system. The system is based on a microkernel, with only 4000 lines of code 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

In 2004 Tanenbaum created, a popular web site analyzing opinion polls for the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election, using them to project the outcome in the Electoral College. According to Andrew 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. The site also provided an electoral map. Through most of the campaign period he kept his identity secret, referring to himself as "the Votemaster" and acknowledging only that he personally preferred John Kerry. Tanenbaum, a libertarian who supports the Democrats, revealed his identity on November 1, 2004, the day prior to the election, also stating his reasons and qualifications for running the website. The site also covered the 2006 midterm elections and correctly predicted the winner of all 33 Senate races that year. In 2008 the site began tracking the Presidential, Senate, and House races.


  • Fellow of the ACM (1996)
  • Fellow of the IEEE
  • Member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Academy Professor
  • Coauthor of the Best Paper Award at the USENIX LISA Conference in Dec. 2006
  • Coauthor of the Best Paper for High Impact at the 2006 IEEE Percom conference
  • Winner of the 2006 IEEE James H. Mulligan, Jr. Education Medal
  • 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

On May 12, 2008, Tanenbaum received an honorary doctorate from Universitea Politehnica din Bucuresti (University Politehnica 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, including Romanian), 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

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