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Richard Stallman

Richard Matthew Stallman (RMS; born March 16, 1953) is a central figure of the free software movement, founder of the GNU project and the Free Software Foundation. He invented the concept of copyleft to support this movement, and embodied the concept in the widely-used GNU General Public License (GPL) software license. He is also a notable programmer with his major accomplishments including the text-editor Emacs, the compiler GCC, and the debugger GDB, all of which are part of the GNU project.

His influence was essential for establishing the moral, political, and legal framework for the free software movement, as an alternative to proprietary software development and distribution.

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Stallman was born in 1953 in Manhattan.

In 1971, as a freshman at Harvard University, Stallman became a hacker at the MIT AI Laboratory.

Decay of the hacker culture

In the 1980s, the hacker community which was Stallman's life began to dissolve under the pressure of the commercialization of the software industry.

In particular, other AI Lab hackers founded the company Symbolics, which actively attempted to replace the free software in the Lab with its own proprietary software.

For two years, from 1983 to 1985, Stallman single-handedly duplicated the efforts of the Symbolics programmers to prevent them from gaining a monopoly on the Lab's computers. By that time, however, he was the last of his generation of hackers at the Lab. He was asked to sign non-disclosure agreements and perform other actions he considered betrayals of his principles of sharing with others and helping his neighbor.

Founding GNU

In 1985, Stallman published the GNU Manifesto, which asserted his intentions and motivations for creating a free alternative to the Unix operating system, which he dubbed GNU (GNU's Not Unix).

Soon after he incorporated the non-profit Free Software Foundation to coordinate the effort.

He invented the concept of copyleft which was embodied in the GNU General Public License (commonly known as the "GPL") in 1989.

Most of the GNU system, except for the Hurd kernel, was completed at about the same time.

In 1991, Linus Torvalds released the Linux kernel under the GPL, creating a complete and operational GNU system, the GNU/Linux (generally referred to as simply Linux) operating system.

Free software vs. Open source

Richard Stallman's political and moral motivations have made him a controversial figure. Many influential programmers who agree with the concept of sharing code disagree with Stallman's moral stance, personal philosophy, or the language he has used to describe his positions.

One result of these disputes was the establishment of an alternative to the free software movement, the open source movement.


Stallman has received numerous prizes and awards for his work, amongst them:

See also

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All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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