[SASAG] Proprietary Formats on Public Mailing Lists -- Was: Re: System Admin Job opportunity

Rich Alderson sage at alderson.users.panix.com
Tue Sep 4 00:20:58 PDT 2007

> From: "Ken Meyer" <kmeyer at blarg.net>
> Date: Mon, 3 Sep 2007 19:36:28 -0700

> You're honestly enough of a fanboy that you think RMS is going to be
> remembered in history along side of disparate historic figures such
> as Washington, Oppenheimer, and Gandhi? I can imagine it now, my
> grandchildren  reading about the great RMS and his heroic, and tragic
> fight against soap, shoes, and the evil giant of Redmond that he
> failed to slay, or even annoy.

Wow.  You're too young to remember, apparently, just who RMS was fighting with.
At the time, Microsoft was a language shop out on the West Coast, with a boss
famous for calling computer hobbyists thieves in a full-page advertisement in
the technical press--and nothing else.

RMS was taking on IBM and DEC, which were undergoing an "object code only"
phase, not allowing customers the right to see sources.  Since a number of the
things both companies sold as products started out as customer-contributed
code, he didn't see that as a good way for the computing culture, such as it
was then, to grow.  The fight was sparked, as it happens, by the actions of a
group of entrepreneurs who left the AI Lab to found a computer company whose
products were derived from the free labor of dozens of AI Lab programmers who
had worked in an atmosphere in which anyone could make changes to anyone's
sources (leaving more than adequate footprints in the process), without any
recompense to those programmers, and without sharing the changes that were made
at the company.

RMS actually lost that fight.

But in the process, he created a mindset that continues to this day, inspiring
programmers around the world to create and share their creations.  Not everyone
who does so agrees with everything he wrote then, or writes today, but rather
than rejecting his ideas _in toto_, they choose those that seem to them to work
best, and so we get the BSD license, and Larry Wall's Artistic License, and so
on and so forth.

No, I'm not an RMS fanboy.  I met him once, I didn't particularly like him at
the time, and I'm not a fan of the GPL in any of its versions, but I understand
where he came from and what drove him to do and write what he did.  And I know
the actual history, at least.

Rich Alderson                   Last LOTS Tops-20 Systems Programmer, 1984-1991
                                Current maintainer, MIT TECO EMACS (v. 170)
                                www.PDPplanet.com Systems Administrator

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