The history of open source

原创 2007年09月21日 09:12:00

I'd like to tell you a story about what everyone calls "open source" software. There's a lot of heroes, a wild-eyed visionary (who might be a madman), but no villians. At least not yet. It's a pretty long story, and I'm only telling you a few of the parts I know. This story started almost twenty years ago, and it isn't over yet.

At the beginning of the 1960s, researchers from MIT and engineers from Bell Lib and GE Company planned to develop a new time-sharing system. Unfortunately, this project was claimed as a failure in the spring of 1969. However, two researchers from Bell Lib decided to develop a new and simpler operating system, and they completed the initial version software called UNIX in the summer.

In the 1970s, UNIX was broadcasted fast to at least 40 American institutions, even to Japan. More and more developers and develop organizations started to care about it.

In the early 1980's, a programmer named Richard Stallman worked for MIT. He spent huge amounts of time working on an operating system called ITS. 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. Stallman found some volunteers, set up the Free Software Foundation, and started writing software.

By 1991, the GNU Project had either written or located most of the parts of a complete UNIX system. But they were having problems with the kernel.

Meanwhile, young Linus Torvalds was hacking on a tiny kernel, just a toy. He announced it on comp.os.minix:

But despite Linus's debt to the GNU project, he made a much better leader than Stallman. Linus was a software guy, pure and simple. He never spent much time writing polemics or arguing philosophy. And he never planned very far ahead. He just did his thing, and argued for his beliefs by example. Linus could convince people, many of whom were frightened by Stallman. And Linux grew from "just a hobby" to the third most popular operating system in the world.

  Nowadays, we can find many open source communities on the internet. Apache may be the most famous one. More and more developers around the world work together by Email and IM tools. They develop free software and share it with other people. This activity has been changing the conventional way of software development. Maybe one day we can use all software in our computers without pay. That will be true in the future, I believe. 

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