[SASAG] Proprietary Formats on Public Mailing Lists

Ken Meyer kmeyer at blarg.net
Tue Sep 4 10:10:42 PDT 2007

Rich --

Very interesting history.

For the record, the quote was not from my message; I only suggested that RMS
also stands for "Root Mean Square".  It was a joke, honestly.

I fully understand that it often takes really irascible folks to shake the
foundations of power, if only to set-up the scene for a "good cop" to come
in and negotiate a better outcome.  In fact, in my dotage, I take advantage
of the "nothing much to lose" syndrome to make a few waves myself:  open
government, petroleum facility safety, technical direction of the Seattle
city government, promotion of Linux and Linux education.... etc.

FYI, I'm old enough to remember the abacus wars and loading the boot loader
from the switches on the panel of a PDP-8.  DEC's story is one of the
saddest of any in the computer industry.  What a bunch of good stuff down
the drain!

-----Original Message-----

From: members-bounces at lists.sasag.org
[mailto:members-bounces at lists.sasag.org]
On Behalf Of Rich Alderson
Sent: Tuesday, September 04, 2007 12:21 AM
To: members at lists.sasag.org

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

> 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
At the time, Microsoft was a language shop out on the West Coast, with a
famous for calling computer hobbyists thieves in a full-page advertisement
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
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
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,
programmers around the world to create and share their creations.  Not
who does so agrees with everything he wrote then, or writes today, but
than rejecting his ideas _in toto_, they choose those that seem to them to
best, and so we get the BSD license, and Larry Wall's Artistic License, and
on and so forth.

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