WHAT IS LINUX?
Linux is a clone of the operating system Unix, written from scratch by Linus Torvalds with assistance from a loosely-knit team of hackers across the Net. It aims towards POSIX and Single UNIX Specification compliance.
It has all the features you would expect in a modern fully-fledged Unix, including true multitasking, virtual memory, shared libraries, demand loading, shared copy-on-write executables, proper memory management, and multistack networking including IPv4 and IPv6.
It is distributed under the GNU General Public Licens.
ON WHAT HARDWARE DOES IT RUN?
Although originally developed first for 32-bit x86-based PCs (386 or higher), today Linux also runs on (at least) the Compaq Alpha AXP, Sun SPARC and UltraSPARC, Motorola 68000, PowerPC, PowerPC64, ARM, Hitachi SuperH, Cell, IBM S/390, MIPS, HP PA-RISC, Intel IA-64, DEC VAX, AMD x86-64, AXIS CRIS, Xtensa, AVR32 and Renesas M32R architectures.
Linux is easily portable to most general-purpose 32- or 64-bit architectures as long as they have a Paged Memory Management Unit (PMMU) and a port of the GNU C compiler (gcc) (part of The GNU Compiler Collection, GCC). Linux has also been ported to a number of architectures without a PMMU, although functionality is then obviously somewhat limited.
Linux has also been ported to itself. You can now run the kernel as a userspace application – this is called UserMode Linux (UML).