Linux kernel could finally discontinue 486 support

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Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux kernel, is seriously considering discontinuing the Intel 486 processor, 486 Linux and any other 486 architecture. The transition would occur after most users had upgraded to newer processor architectures.

Torvalds explained in a message to the Linux Kernel Mailing List, the main hub of Linux kernel development, that he considers the 486 architecture obsolete and museum material. “We got rid of i386 support back in 2012. Maybe it’s time to get rid of i486 support in 2022”? Torvalds also commented, “Not that I’m convinced most distros do 32-bit development anyway these days.”

For those who want a Unix-like operating system on their machines, the remaining Linux 486 has a few options for open-source operating systems such as NetBSD. NetBSD is known for its support of outdated systems, such as the VAX minicomputer line of the Digital Equipment Corporation. There is also FreeDOS, a 486-based MS-DOS clone. These two operating systems are both likely to be popular choices for embedded development.

“I really don’t think i486 class hardware is relevant anymore,” Torvalds wrote.

Kernel development will focus more on modern hardware in the future, if Torvalds’ answer is any indication.

Torvalds doesn’t seem to care about hardware. The kernel development team had already given up support for the predecessor of the 486, the 386, on which Torvalds had written his original kernel. “At some point, they’ll be museum pieces,” he says. “They could just as easily run museum kernels.”

The sources for this piece include an article in ZDNet.


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