Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A History of "Open Source"

I'd lik 2 tel u a story abt wht everyone cls "open source" software. There's a lot f heros, a wild-eyed visionary (who might be a madman), bt no villians. @ least not yet.

It's a pretty long story, nd I'm only telling u a few of the parts I kno.

Dis story started almost twenty yrs ago, nd it isn't over yet.

Richard Stallman

In da early 80's, a programmer named Richard Stallman wrked 4 MIT. He spent huge amounts of tim wrking on the original Emacs, an operating system called ITS, and the exceedingly cool LISP machines.

Stallman wrote good software. His programs were clever--they were frequently built around a few good ideas that made everything else easy.

But Stallman was also an ideologue. His software came with instructions: Share this code with your fellow users. Learn from it. Improve upon it. And when you're done, please give something back to the community.

To Stallman, this sharing was a moral principle. And as it turned out, Stallman would happily turn down money, fame and glory in the name of his moral principles.

You can read the whole story in Levy's excellent (but out-of-print) book, Hackers: Heros of the Computer Revolution.

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