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Re: Matt Assay Tells the Truth

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: Matt Assay Tells the Truth
Date: Thu, 26 Feb 2009 23:50:04 +0100

Hyman Rosen wrote:
> Notice that Stallman does nothing at all to prevent software
> developers from doing anything they wish, as long as they do
> not involve themselves with GPLed code.

The circumstances of the so-called "Symbolics War" of 1982-1983 depend
heavily on the source doing the telling. When Symbolics executives
noticed that their latest features were still appearing in the AI Lab
Lisp Machine and, by extension, the LMI Lisp machine, they installed a
"spy" program on Stallman's computer terminal. Stallman says he was
rewriting the features from scratch, taking advantage of the license's
review clause but also taking pains to make the source code as different
as possible. Symbolics executives argued otherwise and took their case
to MIT administration. According to 1994 book, The Brain Makers: Genius,
Ego, and Greed, and the Quest for Machines That Think, written by Harvey
Newquist, the administration responded with a warning to Stallman to
"stay away" from the Lisp Machine project.8 According to Stallman, MIT
administrators backed Stallman up. "I was never threatened," he says. "I
did make changes in my practices, though. Just to be ultra safe, I no
longer read their source code. I used only the documentation and wrote
the code from that." 

Whatever the outcome, the bickering solidified Stallman's resolve. With
no source code to review, Stallman filled in the software gaps according
to his own tastes and enlisted members of the AI Lab to provide a
continuous stream of bug reports. He also made sure LMI programmers had
direct access to the changes. "I was going to punish Symbolics if it was
the last thing I did," Stallman says. 

Such statements are revealing. Not only do they shed light on Stallman's
nonpacifist nature, they also reflect the intense level of emotion
triggered by the conflict. According to another Newquist-related story,
Stallman became so irate at one point that he issued an email
threatening to "wrap myself in dynamite and walk into Symbolics'
offices."9 Although Stallman would deny any memory of the email and
still describes its existence as a "vicious rumor," he acknowledges that
such thoughts did enter his head. "I definitely did have fantasies of
killing myself and destroying their building in the process," Stallman
says. "I thought my life was over."5 


(GNG is a derecursive recursive derecursion which pwns GNU since it can 
be infinitely looped as GNGNGNGNG...NGNGNG... and can be said backwards 
too, whereas GNU cannot.)

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