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Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- raya's research on "The Four Freedoms"

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- raya's research on "The Four Freedoms"
Date: Fri, 06 Oct 2006 15:21:04 +0200

David Kastrup wrote:
> GNU Emacs 

In September of 1984, Stallman shelved compiler development for the near
term and began searching for lower-lying fruit. He began development of
a GNU version of Emacs, the program he himself had been supervising for
a decade. The decision was strategic. Within the Unix community, the two
native editor programs were vi, written by Sun Microsystems cofounder
Bill  Joy, and ed, written by  Bell Labs scientist (and Unix cocreator)
Ken  Thompson. Both were useful and popular, but neither offered the
endlessly expandable nature of Emacs. In rewriting Emacs for the Unix
audience, Stallman stood a better chance of showing off his skills. It
also stood to reason that Emacs users might be more attuned to the
Stallman mentality.

Looking back, Stallman says he didn't view the decision in strategic
terms. "I wanted an Emacs, and I had a good opportunity to develop one."

Once again, the notion of reinventing the wheel grated on Stallman's
efficient hacker sensibilities. In writing a Unix version of Emacs,
Stallman was soon following the footsteps of Carnegie Mellon graduate
student James Gosling, author of a C-based version dubbed Gosling Emacs
or GOSMACS. Gosling's version of Emacs included an interpreter that
exploited a simplified offshoot of the Lisp language called MOCKLISP.
Determined to build GNU Emacs on a similar Lisp foundation, Stallman
borrowed copiously from Gosling's innovations. Although Gosling had put
GOSMACS under copyright and had sold the rights to UniPress, a privately
held software company, Stallman cited the assurances of a fellow
developer who had participated in the early MOCKLISP interpreter.
According to the developer, Gosling, while a Ph.D. student at Carnegie
Mellon, had assured early collaborators that their work would remain
accessible. When UniPress caught wind of Stallman's project, however,
the company threatened to enforce the copyright. Once again, Stallman
faced the prospect of building from the ground up.

In the course of reverse-engineering Gosling's interpreter, Stallman
would create a fully functional Lisp interpreter, rendering the need for
Gosling's original interpreter moot. Nevertheless, the notion of
developers selling off software rights-indeed, the very notion of
developers having software rights to sell in the first place-rankled
Stallman. In a 1986 speech at the Swedish Royal Technical Institute,
Stallman cited the UniPress incident as yet another example of the
dangers associated with proprietary software.

"Sometimes I think that perhaps one of the best things I could do with
my life is find a gigantic pile of proprietary software that was a trade
secret, and start handing out copies on a street corner so it wouldn't
be a trade secret any more," said Stallman. "Perhaps that would be a
much more efficient way for me to give people new free software than
actually writing it myself; but everyone is too cowardly to even take


                       Free as in Freedom                       

          Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software

                       ISBN 0-596-00287-4


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