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The history of GNU

From: Dora Scilipoti
Subject: The history of GNU
Date: Wed, 18 May 2022 02:10:55 +0200
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:91.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/91.8.0

Hello all,

the GNU history section at was incomplete without this.

Richard Stallman at the First Hackers Conference in 1984

The first Hackers Conference was held in Sausalito, California, in
November 1984. The makers of the documentary Hackers: Wizards of the
Electronic Age interviewed Richard Stallman at the event. They included
only parts of the interviews in the film, but made some other footage
available. Stallman's statements at the conference went beyond what he
had written in the initial announcement of GNU.

It was at this conference that Richard Stallman first publicly and
explicitly stated the idea that *all software should be free*, and makes
it clear that “free” refers to freedom, not price, by saying that
software should be *freely* accessible to everyone. This was probably
the first time he made that distinction to the public.

Stallman continues by explaining why it is wrong to agree to accept a
program on condition of not sharing it with others. So what can one say
about a business based on developing nonfree software and luring others
into accepting that condition? Such things are bad for society and
shouldn't be done at all. (In later years he used stronger condemnation.)

Here are the things he said:

    “My project is to make all software free.”
(0:00 - 0:03)

    “If I'm offered a chance to use a piece of software provided I would
agree not to share it with anyone, I feel that it would be wrong, it
would spiritually hurt me to agree. So I don't want them investing in
software that's owned. And I don't believe that anything is justified to
encourage them to invest in software that's owned. I think the really
great software has been done by hackers who were doing it because they
loved it, because it was playful cleverness, and that will continue in
any case. I think there are alternative ways of arranging for some
amount of money to go into paying salaries of people, paying them to
spend their time writing programs. If people want certain kinds of
programs to be written, they can come up with other forms of
organization—I can suggest a few—but the important thing is there are
lots of alternative ways of doing things. This one has been chosen
because it gets the people investing in software companies the most
profits of any of the available ways.”

    “I don't think it's a social imperative to give them the most
possible profit. I think the social imperative is that information
that's developed should be accessible to everyone as freely as possible.
If we look at the principle underlying—the incentive principle, give
people incentives to do the things you wish to encourage—and then we
say, ‘what are we giving people incentives for?’ we see that we are not
giving them any incentives to do the things that benefit society most.
If a person has a choice, he can write a program and then encourage
everyone to use it in any way that's good for him or he can write the
program and then market it hoarding the plans, telling people they are
not allowed to share it with their neighbors, being very obnoxious and
obstructive. We see he has an incentive to be obnoxious and obstructive,
he doesn't have an incentive to cooperate. I think that's sick, I think
that's a bad social organization, because we are encouraging most what's
not good for us.”

    “Imagine if you bought a house and the basement was locked and only
the original building contractor had the key. If you needed to make any
change, repair anything, you'd have to go to him, and if he was too busy
doing something else he'd tell you to get lost and you'd be stuck. You
are at that person's mercy and you become downtrodden and resigned.
That's what happens when the blueprints to a computer program are kept
secret by the organization that sells it. That's the usual way things
are done.”
(1:59-2:13 / 2:28-2:41)

Dora Scilipoti -- Disinformation succeeds because so many people
care deeply about injustice but do not take the time to check the facts.

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