Andrew S. Tanenbaum

Andrew Stuart Tanenbaum (born March 16, 1944), sometimes referred to by the handle ast,[6] is an American-Dutch computer scientist and professor emeritus of computer science at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands.[7][8]

Andy Tanenbaum
Andrew S. Tanenbaum 2012.jpg
Tanenbaum in 2012
Andrew Stuart Tanenbaum

(1944-03-16) March 16, 1944 (age 76)
New York City, New York, U.S.
NationalityDutch / American
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology
University of California, Berkeley
Known forMINIX
Scientific career
FieldsDistributed computing[1][2]
Operating systems[3][4]
ThesisA Study of the Five Minute Oscillations, Supergranulation, and Related Phenomena in the Solar Atmosphere (1971)
Doctoral advisorJohn M. Wilcox
Doctoral studentsHenri Bal
Frans Kaashoek
Werner Vogels[5]

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.[9] Since 2004 he has operated, a website dedicated to analysis of polling data in federal elections in the United States.


Tanenbaum was born in New York City and grew up in suburban White Plains, New York. He is Jewish.[10] His paternal grandfather was born in Khorostkiv in the Austro-Hungarian empire.[11]

He received his bachelor of Science degree in Physics from MIT in 1965 and his Ph.D. degree in astrophysics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1971. Tanenbaum also served as a lobbyist for the Sierra Club.[12][full 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 Ph.D. candidates at the VU University Amsterdam. On 9 July 2014, he announced his retirement.[13]



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

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 Spanish.[17] They have appeared in over 175 editions and are used at universities around the world.[18]

Doctoral studentsEdit

Tanenbaum has had a number of Ph.D. students who themselves have gone on to become widely known computer science researchers. These include:

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 Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. 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 5.5.[19]


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 text.[20] 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 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 is not based on MINIX code.[21]

Although MINIX and Linux have diverged, MINIX continues to be developed, now as a production system as well as an educational one.[22] 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 mode.[23] 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 Ph.D. students or a postdoctoral researcher. These projects include:


In 2004, Tanenbaum created, a web site analyzing opinion polls for the 2004 U.S. 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. Mentioning that he supported the Democrats, he revealed his identity on November 1, 2004, the day before the election, and also stating his reasons and qualifications for running the website.[29]

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 0.1%). 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 (0.01%).

In 2010, he correctly projected 35 out of 37 Senate races in the Midterm elections on the website. The exceptions were Colorado and Nevada. incorrectly predicted Hillary Clinton would win the 2016 United States presidential election. The website incorrectly predicted Clinton would win Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida. did not predict a winner for Nevada, which Clinton would win. The website predicted the winners of the remaining 44 states and the District of Columbia correctly.[30]

Tanenbaum–Torvalds debateEdit

The Tanenbaum–Torvalds debate was a famous debate between Tanenbaum and Linus Torvalds regarding kernel design on Usenet in 1992.[31]


  • Fellow of the ACM
  • Fellow of the IEEE
  • Member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (1994)[32]
  • 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 2.5 million euro European Research Council Advanced Grant, 2008
  • USENIX Flame Award 2008 [33] 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 Medal[34]
  • 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


  1. ^ Bal, H. E.; Steiner, J. G.; Tanenbaum, A. S. (1989). "Programming languages for distributed computing systems". ACM Computing Surveys. 21 (3): 261. doi:10.1145/72551.72552. hdl:1871/2587. S2CID 8028479.
  2. ^ a b Steen, Maarten van; Tanenbaum, Andrew S. (2007). Distributed systems: principles and paradigms. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-239227-3.
  3. ^ a b Tanenbaum, Andrew S. (2008). Modern operating systems. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-600663-3.
  4. ^ a b Tanenbaum, Andrew S. (1995). Distributed operating systems. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-219908-7.
  5. ^ a b Vogels, Werner (2003). Scalable Cluster Technologies for Mission Critical Enterprise Computing (PhD thesis). Vrije Universiteit. hdl:1871/10357.
  6. ^ A. S. Tanenbaum (1992-01-29). "LINUX is obsolete". Newsgroupcomp.os.minix. Usenet: Archived from the original on 2011-01-22. Retrieved 2006-11-27.
  7. ^ Works by Andrew S. Tanenbaum at Open Library
  8. ^ Andrew S. Tanenbaum at DBLP Bibliography Server  
  9. ^ 2004 article Archived 2004-05-24 at the Wayback Machine about Linux, the Usenet debate, and the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-08-01. Retrieved 2017-07-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Andrew S. Tanenbaum's FAQ". Archived from the original on 2017-08-01. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  12. ^ "Man Comes Forward As Web Site Originator". Associated Press. November 1, 2004. Archived from the original on January 26, 2013.
  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 978-0-13-212695-3.
  15. ^ Albert S Woodhull; Tanenbaum, Andrew S. (2006). Operating systems: design and implementation. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-142938-3.
  16. ^ Tanenbaum, Andrew S. (2006). Structured computer organization. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-148521-1.
  17. ^ "Andrew S. Tanenbaum's FAQ". Archived from the original on 2008-12-06. Retrieved 2008-11-30.
  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. ^ 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 August 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "USENIX April 06" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2007-08-07. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  23. ^ "Andrew S. Tanenbaum, Professor at the Vrije Universiteit". Archived from the original on 2010-01-11. Retrieved 2009-10-29.
  24. ^ Tanenbaum, A. S.; Van Renesse, R.; Van Staveren, H.; Sharp, G. J.; Mullender, S. J. (1990). "Experiences with the Amoeba distributed operating system" (PDF). Communications of the ACM. 33 (12): 46. doi:10.1145/96267.96281. hdl:1871/2583. S2CID 1147771. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-11-13. Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  25. ^ Van Steen, M.; Homburg, P.; Tanenbaum, A. S. (1999). "Globe: A wide area distributed system" (PDF). IEEE Concurrency. 7: 70. doi:10.1109/4434.749137. hdl:1871/12837.
  26. ^ Bal, H. E.; Kaashoek, M. F.; Tanenbaum, A. S. (1992). "Orca: A language for parallel programming of distributed systems" (PDF). IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering. 18 (3): 190. doi:10.1109/32.126768. hdl:1871/2576. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-11-13. Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  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:10.1109/HOTOS.1995.513460. hdl:1871/2565. ISBN 978-0-8186-7081-7. S2CID 10004092.
  28. ^ Mitrokotsa, A.; Rieback, M. R.; Tanenbaum, A. S. (2009). "Classifying RFID attacks and defenses". Information Systems Frontiers. 12 (5): 491. doi:10.1007/s10796-009-9210-z. S2CID 11923232.
  29. ^ a b "The Votemaster FAQ". Archived from the original on November 2, 2004. Retrieved 2017-02-26.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  30. ^
  31. ^ ""LINUX is obsolete" Usenet Debate Text". Archived from the original on 2012-12-19. Retrieved 2014-07-19.
  32. ^ "Andrew Tanenbaum". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 2015-07-21. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  33. ^ "USENIX Flame Award". Archived from the original on 2012-10-06. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
  34. ^ "IEEE James H. Mulligan, Jr. Education Medal Recipients" (PDF). IEEE. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2010-11-24. Retrieved November 24, 2010.

External linksEdit