When Xerox donated a new laser printer to MIT in 1980, the company couldn’t have known that the machine would ignite a revolution.
While the early decades of software development generally ran on a culture of open access, this new printer ran on inaccessible proprietary software, much to the horror of Richard M. Stallman, then a 27-year-old programmer at the university.
A few years later, Stallman released GNU, an operating system designed to be a free alternative to one of the dominant operating systems at the time: Unix. The free-software movement was born, with a simple premise: for the good of the world, all code should be open, without restriction or commercial intervention.
Forty years later, tech companies are making billions on proprietary software, and much of the technology around us is inscrutable. But while Stallman’s movement may look like a failed experiment, the free and open-source software movement is not only alive and well; it has become a keystone of the tech industry. Read the full story.
Rebecca’s story is from the next upcoming issue of our print magazine, which is all about ethics. If you don’t subscribe already, sign up to receive a copy when it publishes.
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