March 3, 2021
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Mark Fidelman's Brief History of the Free and Open Source Software Movement

  • By Developer.com Staff

For all intents and purposes, Richard Stallman created the modern open source movement that is revolutionizing technology in ways most couldn't imagine just a few years ago when open source was still a niche.

MindTouch's Mark Fidelman begins his brief history of free and open source software series with Richard Stallman's frustration with proprietary software in the early 1980s.

"Richard Stallman had asked a Carnegie Mellon Professor (and former Xerox Parc researcher) for the source code to a Xerox laser printer that was causing the MIT AI lab problems. Problems that caused a jammed printer to back up print jobs. Stallman wanted to fix the issue and give the solution back to Xerox.

The Professor refused citing a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) he had signed. 'I was so angry I couldn't think of a way to express it. So I just turned away and walked out without another word,' Stallman recalls. 'I might have slammed the door. Who knows? All I remember is wanting to get out of there.'"

Stallman created the GNU Public License and the concept of copyleft. Now 30 years later, software behemoths like Microsoft, IBM and Oracle are forced to take notice.

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This article was originally published on April 16, 2010

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