Historian Peter H. Salus is writing "A History of Free and Open Source", and I'm delighted to tell you that he is going to be publishing it in serialized form here on Groklaw. We thought that, with ADTI back with its Grim Fairy Tales, it would be useful to tell the FOSS story truthfully and in a scholarly way, so readers now and historians in the future can rely on the facts. Here's the first installment, the Introduction, and I know you will enjoy it. Look for the next episode on the 6th or 7th of April and every Wednesday or Thursday after that.
Dr. Salus is the author of "A Quarter Century of UNIX" and several other books, including "HPL: Little Languages and Tools", "Big Book of Ipv6 Addressing Rfcs", "Handbook of Programming Languages (HPL): Imperative Programming Languages", "Casting the Net: From ARPANET to INTERNET and Beyond", and "The Handbook of Programming Languages (HPL): Functional, Concurrent and Logic Programming Languages". There is an interview with him, audio and video,"codebytes: A History of UNIX and UNIX Licences" which was done in 2001 at a USENIX conference. Dr. Salus has served as Executive Director of the USENIX Association.
The daemon, the gnu, and the penguin
A History of Free and Open Source
Peter H. Salus
The activities of a distributed and unorganized band of scholars
led to the conceptual revolution that produced the modern world.
For example, Copernicus (1473-1543) observed the heavens and recorded
his measurements. In 1563, Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) noted that Copernicus'
figures weren't quite right, so, from 1577 to 1597, Tycho recorded
extraordinarily accurate astronomical measurements. In 1599 Tycho
moved from Denmark to Prague, where Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) was
his assistant, until he succeeded him in 1601, when Tycho died.
Copernicus established heliocentricity. Tycho found that circular orbits
just didn't work, and devoted decades to better measurements, which Kepler
later used to determine that the orbits were ellipses, not circles. (In
1610, Galileo [1564-1642] pointed out that one could observe phases on Venus,
and that therefore Venus must be nearer the Sun than the Earth was.) And,
Newton (1643-1727) showed us the force (gravity) that held everything in place.
Poland. Denmark. Austria. Italy. Germany. England. Despite the Papacy, the 30
Years' War, turmoil in the Netherlands, in France, and in England, thought moved
in print and in correspondence. Though countries were at war and religions
were in conflict, scientific exchange of ideas and sharing of data persisted.
During the Renaissance it could take months for findings to reach those interested
in other countries. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries lengthy epistles
between scholars were distributed to others beyond the addressees. Scientific journals
followed. Thanks to the progress of communications media, it now takes seconds
where it once took decades for an idea or a discovery to proliferate. The fact
is undeniable: Invention and scholarship have been the motor driving the development
of civilization and culture.
The revolution of knowledge has led us to exploration and discovery. The computer,
the Internet, and the Web have led to a similar revolution. While certainly no computer
user, Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Isaac McPherson (13 August 1813), wrote:
If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others
of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called
an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he
keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself
into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess
himself of it.
My aim is to show how the advent of the computer and the Internet have
given rise to the expansion of the academic/scholarly notions of sharing, and how
this in turn has brought us free and open software, which will bring about a major
change in the way we do business.
This effort is more than a history of Linux, of the Free Software Foundation (FSF),
the Internet, software licensing, and myriad other topics. It will contain a number
of histories within it, which (I hope) will serve as an antidote to the cloud of
FUD stirred up by those who fear that change will mean that their businesses will
fail (certainly more a sign of lack of imagination and flexibility than of anything else).
On the contrary: change yields opportunity. But change also requires adaptability.
We are embarking on a new business model, which will change the way we do business as
much as mass production and global electronic communication did over the 19th and
Since 1990, there has been an insistent drumbeat of anti-FSF FUD. Since 2000,
this has focused on Linux. Some examples of this are:
- On June 1, 2001, Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, told the Chicago Sun-Times:
"Linux is cancer."
- On October 15, 2002, Darl McBride, CEO of The SCO Group, said: "We are more committed
to Linux than ever before."
- On March 4, 2003, Blake Stowell, SCO director of Public Relations, said: "C++ is one
of the properties SCO owns."
- On May 14, 2004, the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution issued a press release in which
it revealed that its Director, Ken Brown, had discovered that Linus Torvalds had not
- On August 26, 2004, Kieran O'Shaughnessy, director of SCO Australia and New Zealand,
told LinuxWorld: "Linux doesn't exist. Everyone knows Linux is an unlicensed version
The remarks are noise. But though ludicrous, statements like these make businessfolk
fearful. They then hug Windows the way a different Linus clutches his blanket. My goal
here is to show a wider audience just what went into the creation of open source and
its worldwide network of contributors and users over the past 50 years.
Over four centuries have passed since our static heliocentric universe was replaced by
a dynamic one. Today, the business model that has persisted since the late eighteenth
century is being replaced. Here's how it's happening.