THE NEWSGROUP POST began "Free Unix!" And with that, the promise of software freedom that gave rise to the free and open source software (FOSS) movement and Linux was born, 30 years ago this month.
It was 27 September 1983 when Richard M Stallman, then a programmer at MIT, made that bold proclamation, along with a request for anyone and everyone to help build and maintain it.
Three decades later, and GNU - which stands recursively for "GNU's Not Unix" - has evolved into something almost unrecognisable. When Linus Tovalds created the Linux kernel in 1991, it provided the kernel that the GNU software toolchain and utilities were lacking.
Today, what we know as Linux is actually GNU with a Linux kernel, incorporating thousands of revisions by thousands of contributors. But more importantly, Stallman introduced the concept of free software, sometimes termed open source software - a term that to this day he refuses to use.
"I consider that the golden rule requires that if I like a program I must share it with other people who like it. I cannot in good conscience sign a nondisclosure agreement or a software licence agreement," he wrote. "So that I can continue to use computers without violating my principles, I have decided to put together a sufficient body of free software so that I will be able to get along without any software that is not free."
Of course, other operating systems continue as proprietary software, but with Linux servers driving the overwhelming majority of internet systems as well as Google and social networks, the Linux based mobile operating system Android saturating the portable device market and free software predominating on the Google Play Store, the ethos of free software that started 30 years ago with GNU is alive and well. µ
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