L’histoire de Tux, la mascotte de Linux

I. Histoire

Nous sommes en 1996, une discussion, que dis-je, un débat, commence sur la mailing list linux-kernel à propos d’un logo, d’une mascotte pour Linux.
Beaucoup de propositions ont été suggérées, notamment, des parodies des logos des OS existants ou des animaux grands, forts et rapides tels que des aigles ou des requins. Puis, un jour, Linus Torvalds a annoncé qu’il aimerait bien un manchot. Cela a directement mis fin au débat.

Après plusieurs tentatives de dessins de manchots, quelqu’un a suggéré un manchot portant le monde sur ses épaules. Voici l’e-mail de Linus en réponse à cette personne :

  • Re: Linux Logo prototype.
    Linus Torvalds ( [email protected] )
    Thu, 9 May 1996 17:48:56 +0300 (EET DST)

    Somebody had a logo competition announcement, maybe people can send their
    ideas to a web-site..
    .
    Anyway, this one looks like the poor penguin is not really strong enough to
    hold up the world, and it’s going to get squashed. Not a good, positive logo,
    in that respect..
    .
    Now, when you think about penguins, first take a deep calming breath, and
    then think "cuddly". Take another breath, and think "cute". Go back to
    "cuddly" for a while (and go on breathing), then think "contented".
    .
    With me so far? Good..
    .
    Now, with penguins, (cuddly such), "contented" means it has either just
    gotten laid, or it’s stuffed on herring. Take it from me, I’m an expert on
    penguins, those are really the only two options.
    .
    Now, working on that angle, we don’t really want to be associated with a
    randy penguin (well, we do, but it’s not politic, so we won’t), so we
    should be looking at the "stuffed to its brim with herring" angle here.
    .
    So when you think "penguin", you should be imagining a slighly overweight
    penguin (), sitting down after having gorged itself, and having just burped.
    It’s sitting there with a beatific smile – the world is a good place to be
    when you have just eaten a few gallons of raw fish and you can feel another
    "burp" coming.
    .
    (
    ) Not FAT, but you should be able to see that it’s sitting down because
    it’s really too stuffed to stand up. Think "bean bag" here.
    .
    Now, if you have problems associating yourself with something that gets
    off by eating raw fish, think "chocolate" or something, but you get the
    idea.
    .
    Ok, so we should be thinking of a lovable, cuddly, stuffed penguin
    sitting down after having gorged itself on herring. Still with me?
    .
    NOW comes the hard part. With this image firmly etched on your eyeballs, you
    then scetch a stylizied version of it. Not a lot of detail – just a black
    brush-type outline (you know the effect you get with a brush where the
    thickness of the line varies). THAT requires talent. Give people the
    outline, and they should say [ sickly sweet voice, babytalk almost ]"Ooh,
    what a cuddly penguin, I bet he is just stuffed with herring", and small
    children will jump up and down and scream "mommy mommy, can I have one too?".
    .
    Then we can do a larger version with some more detail (maybe leaning
    against a globe of the world, but I don’t think we really want to give
    any "macho penguin" image here about Atlas or anything). That more
    detailed version can spank billy-boy to tears for all I care, or play
    ice-hockey with the FreeBSD demon. But the simple, single penguin would
    be the logo, and the others would just be that cuddly penguin being used
    as an actor in some tableau.
    .
    Linus *

    Pour les non-anglophones, Linus voulait simplement un manchot un peu grassouillet qui serait assis en l’attente d’un rot (à cause d’un excès de poisson). Il ne faudrait pas trop de détails, qu’il donne l’impression qu’il s’agit d’une petite peluche que les enfants voudraient acheter (enfin faire acheter à leurs parents) 🙂

II. Pourquoi un manchot ?

La grande question… Elle a été posée à Linus et voici sa réponse :

  • Re: Linux Logo
    Linus Torvalds ( [email protected] )
    Sun, 12 May 1996 09:39:19 +0300 (EET DST)
    .
    Umm.. You don’t have any gap to fill in.
    .
    "Linus likes penguins". That’s it. There was even a headline on it in
    some Linux Journal some time ago (I was bitten by a Killer Penguin in
    Australia – I’m not kidding). Penguins are fun.
    .
    As to why use a penguin as a logo? No good reason, really. But a logo
    doesn’t really ave to mean anything – it’s the association that counts.
    And I can think of many worse things than have linux being associated
    with penguins.
    .
    Having a penguin as a logo also gives more freedom to people wanting to
    use linux-related material: instead of being firmly fixed with a specific
    logo (the triangle, or just "Linux 2.0" or some other abstract thing),
    using something like a penguin gives people the chance to make
    modifications that are still recognizable.
    .
    So you can have a real live penguin on a CD cover, for example, and
    people will get the association. Or you can have a penguin that does
    something specific (a Penguin writing on wordperfect for the WP Linux CD,
    whatever – you get the idea).
    .
    Compare that to a more abstract logo (like the windows logo – it’s not a
    bad logo in itself). You can’t really do anything with a logo like that.
    It just "is".
    .
    Anyway, go to "" for some nice examples..
    .
    Linus *

    En gros, "Linus aime les manchots et c’est tout" 🙂
    Plus sérieusement, Linus a été mordu par un manchot en Australie et il trouve ça marrant (allez trouver le rapport) 🙂 Bref, il dit (à juste titre) que le logo en lui-même importe peu, c’est l’association de ce logo et de ce qu’il représente qui est important. Par exemple, vous pouvez voir un vrai manchot sur un CD, vous ferez tout de suite le rapprochement avec Linux.
    De plus, il est préfèrable d’avoir un logo dans ce genre, qui est très facile à modifier, à transformer en fonction des besoins (du genre ajouter un accessoire, voici des ) plutôt qu’un logo "texte" qui ne peut se modifier (du genre le logo windows).

C’est finalement le qui l’emporta.

III. Pourquoi est-il appelé Tux ?

Voici à nouveau le mail d’origine :

  • Re: Let’s name the penguin! (was: Re: Linux 2.0 really is released..)
    .
    James Hughes ( [email protected] )
    Mon, 10 Jun 1996 20:25:52 -0400
    .
    (T)orvolds (U)ni(X) –> TUX! *

    Je pense que je n’ai pas besoin d’en dire plus à ce sujet 🙂

IV. Petite controverse

Une petite controverse a fait parler à cette époque. Nous avons vu que c’était le qui fut adopté par les linuxiens. Hé bien, pas tout à fait…

En fait, pour désigner un logo, un . Et figurez-vous que ce n’est pas notre manchot préféré qui fut désigné à l’origine. En effet, voici le logo qui l’emporta :

Ce logo, dessiné par Matt Ericson l’emporta avec 785 votes contre 541 pour le manchot de Larry Ewing. Voici l’avis de Linus :

  • "Compare that to a more abstract logo (like the windows logo – it’s not
    a bad logo in itself). You can’t really do anything with a logo like
    that. It just ‘is’." *

    C’est ce que j’expliquais ci-dessus, aucune modification ne serait possible avec ce logo. C’est donc pour cela que Tux fut adopté par la plupart des linuxiens.

Voila, j’espère que vous avez apprécié cette petite présentation.
A bientôt 🙂

  • (courage…) *