Talk:History of free and open-source software

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References sought[edit]

We'll need references for this, so if you know of books and essays that are available that document the history of free software, particularly in the 70s and 80s, please add those links here or to the "External links" section. Links about the 60s and 90s are also sought, but are probably less important because less happened in the 60s, and links about the 90s are easy to find. Gronky 23:00, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

I find that a targeted google book search is often a goldmine for sourcing. Once you find sources there you can use {{cite book}} for the article's inline citations.--Fuhghettaboutit 23:33, 7 February 2007 (UTC)


—The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 03:29, 6 March 2007 (UTC).

An important part of the history of Free software is reflected in Why “Open Source” misses the point of Free Software and this Book has some useful information inside - starting this this chapter. Perhaps someone with the time can elaborate the article using these sources and then reference them? Kim 15:02, 2 December 2007 (UTC)
That book is interesting. This is the first time I've read (bits of) it. It's a pity about the click-through ad and that some of the links are broken. That makes it a bad candidate for the External links section, but it's still a good reference for us editors. --Gronky (talk) 08:30, 8 February 2008 (UTC)


There isn't a single mention of Debian in the entire current text. *gasp* --Joy [shallot] 22:26, 24 April 2007 (UTC)

Circumstance hereby elects you to make that edit. No gasping required, Debian should be mentioned. Gronky 07:29, 25 April 2007 (UTC)

Odd information[edit]

I cannot see how "Early versions of UNIX", can be free software and not free software in the text below:

Software was produced largely by academics and corporate researchers working in collaboration and was not itself seen as a commodity. Operating systems, such as early versions of UNIX, were widely distributed and maintained by the community of users. Source code, the human-readable version of software, was distributed with software because users frequently modified the software themselves to fix bugs, or add new functionality. Thus in this era, software was principally free software, not because of any concerted effort by software users or developers, but rather because software was developed by the user community.

Early versions of UNIX were distributed at no cost, however, these versions did not come with permission to redistribute or to distribute modified versions, and were thus not free software.

Another source for sources[edit]

Here are some other pages which might yield useful references:

Hope those are useful. Gronky 10:06, 16 July 2007 (UTC)

Free software laws (2000-)[edit]

It would be great to have this section completed with the history of the laws proposed in other countries. See this page for useful references: It doesn't matter if the laws were not implemented, the reasons for the law to be rejected are also interesting. --elopio (talk) 20:07, 16 January 2008 (UTC)

That info is currently in the free software movement article. --Gronky (talk) 08:30, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

Merge with History of Open Source?[edit]

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

Shouldn't History of Open Source be merged with this article? Azrael Nightwalker (talk) 14:22, 22 January 2008 (UTC)

It looks like it should be renamed to "History of Unix", and some content should be moved into this article. What do you think? --Gronky (talk) 15:15, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
History of Unix currently redirects to the Unix article, which has a better history section. I think that useful stuff from this article should be merged to History of free software, Open source, Open source software, and Open Source Initiative and the article should be deleted afterwards since it duplicates much stuff. Azrael Nightwalker (talk) 22:10, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
I knew something looked strange. That article is a copy of a paper someone wrote: [1] User:Irayna claims to be the author of the paper and to allow it's inclusion. That may be acceptable, I'm not sure (since it's not verified). Since this paper is online elsewhere already, maybe the best thing to do would be to merge the content into existing articles (where there is indeed new info) and add a link to the paper from this article. --Gronky (talk) 23:35, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
Disagree. Free software, either historically or contemporarily, is a concept completely different from Open Source. Look at a simple example: the powerful digital sound player Winamp is free software, but no one has said it is open source. Go ahead and try to convince AOL to furnish you the source code: you'll get an unpleasant surprise. Another one: back in the 1960s and 1970s, IBM licensed their System/360 (and even some System/370) operating systems (DOS/VS, OS/MFT, OS/MVS, VM/CMS, etc. and language compilers (RPG, COBOL, PL/1, etc.) for free, but never furnished the source versions to customers. If you merge the articles, you would be mixing two very different things and adding a lot of confusion where there is almost none. --AVM (talk) 01:44, 12 March 2009 (UTC)
Not taking issue with the agree/disagree, but your claim that IBM never furnished the source versions of software to their customers is just plain wrong. It wasn't until 1983 with their announcement of Object Code Only (OCO) that they didn't provide source. Look at some of the software distributed for Hercules. Ahwiv (talk) 17:56, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
Yes, free and open source are different concepts, but you are wrong. Winamp is NOT free software. It is available at no cost, making it freeware. Source code is a prerequisite to be Free Software. You are clearly confused. ~ 10nitro (talk) 03:37, 3 July 2010 (UTC)
Disagree. Free software is a totally different movement. In fact, this article is a mix between the history of free software and the history of open source. Quiliro (talk) 04:40, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
That's because the merge already happened. This discussion was started over 5 years ago!--greenrd (talk) 05:27, 3 September 2013 (UTC)

The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

Please add {{fact}} tags[edit]

This article needs references, but it's hard to see which statements need references and which are patently obvious. If you want to help, please add {{fact}} tags to the statements that need citations. Then I can find references to cite. Gronky 15:11, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

I've removed the {{refimprove}} tag that was on this article. Without more specific indications, it's just too hard to know what parts need improved references. So I'll reiterate this call for people to add {{fact}} tags to anything they think needs it. I don't mind doing the work of finding the necessary references. --Gronky (talk) 08:30, 8 February 2008 (UTC)
I've added the {{expert-subject}} tag instead. I've added my explanation on the this talk page below. --Quinn d (talk) 15:27, 10 May 2012 (UTC)

Books on the topic[edit]

I'd be interested to know what printed books are available on the history of free software. I've started a list with those that I know of. If anyone knows others, please add them to the list. Thanks. Gronky (talk)

You're lucky that I'm writing a thesis about Free Software, so I have gathered lots of resources for it. I've expanded your list with more books, most of them are available online. Azrael Nightwalker (talk) 12:53, 12 February 2008 (UTC)
Thanks. And if you publish your thesis online, don't forget to add it to this article as an external link or a reference :-) --Gronky (talk) 13:35, 12 February 2008 (UTC)
Unfortunately my university requires me to wait 6 months before publishing my thesis, because they have the right to publish it first. Besides, my thesis is in Polish so I guess it won't be much use to you ;) Anyway, you can check out my blog [2] for more links to online books (the links are in english so you won't have problems with understanding). Azrael Nightwalker (talk) 14:18, 21 February 2008 (UTC)

Merge in history of Open Source[edit]

The article History of Open Source (previously titled "Open Source History"), was made in December 2006 by some one copy-and-pasting this paper: [14] into Wikipedia. The person, User:Irayna, claims to be the author of that paper, so maybe this is ok from a copyright standpoint - or maybe not, we'd have to confirm somehow that User:Irayna really is the author, and really is the copyright holder.

But, either way, that paper is available online, and can be found from the External links section of this article. It's also worth noting that the right WikiMedia service for mirroring freely distributeable texts is WikiSource.

Not much has changed in that article since it was pasted in in December 2006, so there is not much original content to be merged. At a glance, the only original content is about Unix (not actually about open source / free software anyway), plus a sentence about a project by some people in the Netherlands to make an "open-source car". I'll have to look into that one. --Gronky (talk) 12:51, 29 February 2008 (UTC)

Merged. I didn't find any original content that could be added to this article, so the merge consisted of making History of Open Source a redirect here. Here are the edits that were made to the article between when the above-mentioned paper was pasted in and when I added the merge tag: [15]. Maybe someone else will see something that I missed that is worth integrating here. --Gronky (talk) 11:30, 10 March 2008 (UTC)
Beware of assuming open source is the same as free software. I don't think the open source beer and open source car are for example not relevant to the History of Free Software but perhaps they could go somewhere else?--Darrelljon (talk) 12:40, 10 March 2008 (UTC)
The open source beer (whose name is "Free Beer") was inspired by the free software movement and was made as a way of explaining free software. This is explained on their website
--Gronky (talk) 11:59, 26 March 2008 (UTC)

Some "customers"[edit]

The sentence simply ludicrous. Why, other than perhaps NASA and MIT, plus a few similar research and university sites just might have been in such a position... ...but the immense majority of computer installations, the average commercial users, such as banks, insurance companies, industries, supermarket chains, etc. decidedly had nothing to do with such pursuits such as to build basic software from scratch "to better meet their own needs", and certainly were not able to. They had enough trouble and expense handling massive projects aimed at building real-world applications, based on the available basic support software & tools: operating systems, utility programs, programming languages, transaction processing monitors (remember CICS?) and later on, database products, etc. No need to invent, or worse, to build those basic tools by themselves —again. Can you envision the Ford Motor Company developing a better, more powerful COBOL Language compiler "to better meet its own needs"? --AVM (talk) 02:56, 12 March 2009 (UTC)

It is a very fair statement. Ford had mods into IBM software to make it do what they wanted. Amoco was one of the largest users of PROFS and they had lots of mods into it, almost more mods than original code. The CBT Tape is a major sharing of mods and open source (free) software for MVS and some for VM. CBT stands for Connecticut Bank and Trust. Look at the names listed as contributors in File 001. John Hancock, Warner Brothers, Food Lion, Bell & Howell, Citibank, CocaCola, Hartford Insurance, State of Wisconsin, State of Connecticut, and so on. Why are you so hostile to the idea that maybe IBM did offer source to people, and that people used it? Ahwiv (talk) 18:20, 18 March 2009 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: page moved. Anthony Appleyard (talk) 16:23, 19 January 2010 (UTC)

History of free and open source softwareHistory of free and open-source software — like Open-source software — Neustradamus () 20:24, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

official website: () 22:16, 12 January 2010 (UTC)

oppose Most common usage of the term is not hyphenated. --Hamitr (talk) 03:27, 13 January 2010 (UTC)

Do not mix Open Source and open-source, it is not same (name and adjective) — Neustradamus () 04:02, 13 January 2010 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.


I removed the sentence:

(called GLAMP by the free software community, see GNU/Linux naming controversy) systems.

No one calls it that. The term does not appear in either the naming controversy article or the LAMP article. It was likely added by a zealous editor who was trying to ridicule those advocating the term GNU/Linux, and the free software community in general. ~ 10nitro (talk) 04:37, 3 July 2010 (UTC)

Some sections seem out of place[edit]

The "Desktop" section seems out of place, and the "Recent developments" aren't anymore. I don't want to jump in and edit it but do want to suggest that people who have been more involved with this page consider doing so. Espertus (talk) 21:33, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

I think the desktop section seems out of place due to the relative lack of coverage of software that people actually use today. I have tried to remedy this by including a section on Mac OS X (I am not trolling).--greenrd (talk) 20:53, 3 September 2013 (UTC)

Added {{expert-subject}} tag[edit]

The historiography on this page is problematic. Factually, there is plenty of good stuff, but without expert attention the page gives a skewed understanding of the history of free and open source software. Discussions of conflict, revolution,and eventual synthesis and teleological improvement need to be removed and replaced with neutral, fact-based history. --Quinn d (talk) 15:32, 10 May 2012 (UTC)

NCSA httpd and before apache (<1995)[edit]

What was the license on NCSA httpd in the earlier version? My understanding is that it hard early released on what we today would call free and open source license, but I can't find a reference for any version beyond the one made 1995. Since NCSA was one of the most used webservers of it times, it might be worth an inclusion in the article if the details can be figured out. Belorn (talk) 15:42, 20 November 2012 (UTC)

Early software[edit]

In the earlier days of computing prior to IBM's unbundling in 1969 most vendor software was distributed for free, usually with source. There was an independent software industry that sold their stuff as closed source, but the majority was open source. It seems to me that the "history" in this article starts with RMS. Peter Flass (talk) 13:13, 23 May 2013 (UTC)

Indeed. Old-timers like us still remember the old Connecticut Bank and Trust Mods Tape, now still around as a web site. Funny thing is, the CBT Mods Tape has outlived the CBT, which went into liquidation in the early 1990s. TJRC (talk) 17:00, 23 May 2013 (UTC)
Software at the beginning was by default what we today would describe "open/free", but it was not called that. Software just were software through before 1960 it wasn't even called that. It would however be interesting if the section history of Proprietary software and history of software was expanded so a summery can be added here. So long the article is clear that the terminology of calling something free software started with RMS (feel free to contradict me with sources), and open source software started with ESR, such additions to the article would be enhancing. Belorn (talk) 10:23, 25 May 2013 (UTC)
I think this is misleading. I worked in the late 60s as a systems programmer. Indeed, vendor operating systems and compilers were open source. But, applications were not at all free. Also, in order to use the “free” operating software and compilers, you had to purchase highly expensive equipment and pay highly expensive maintenance fees. Often in the millions. So, the concept that it was ”free,” sounds a bit naive. Objective3000 (talk) 00:19, 22 June 2013 (UTC)
Spent some more time looking at this article. It's nearly all WP:OR and very little of it has any relationship to reality.Objective3000 (talk) 01:04, 20 July 2013 (UTC)
I have removed a few sentences which were more or less contradicted by what you said, and which were not supported by the citation given. As for "very little of it has any relationship to reality", I strongly disagree - you'll have to be more specific in your criticisms of the other material - such vague criticisms are unhelpful.--greenrd (talk) 20:55, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
IMHO, an encyclopedia needs refs to its accuracy, not refs to its inaccuracy.Objective3000 (talk) 00:16, 4 September 2013 (UTC)
But if you're making the argument that this article is nonsense with little connection to reality - which you are - you need some evidence to support that assertion, otherwise I predict no-one who doesn't already agree with you will take your argument seriously.--greenrd (talk) 21:46, 6 September 2013 (UTC)
The entire article is presented as in favor of an idea. You admitted yourself that you wrote most of it. Words like even don't belong in an encyclopedia as they suggest a POV. We are not here to push concepts that we like.Objective3000 (talk) 00:00, 7 September 2013 (UTC)
I wrote about half of it - a bit less than half, actually. I would like to divide neutrality issues into two: tone and balanced coverage. In terms of balanced coverage, as we have just seen with my attempted addition of balancing information about Mac OS X, it is not always trivial to introduce balancing information as it has to be well-sourced, which may mean more effort on the part of the editor attempting to introduce the information. Furthermore, even if the balancing information is well-sourced, there may be a dispute over the very subjective question of whether the material is "encyclopedic", which discourages contributions of balancing information. If you want to introduce some well-sourced balancing information, I would support that, though I recognise that it does take time and you might not have the time to do so. In terms of article tone - words like "even" and so on - the word "even" is used in several places in the article, and not all of those "evens" were added by me. Let's take a specific example. In the section entitled "Distributed version control (c. 2005-)" I am attempting to present the fact that technological and usability progress has gradually, over time, reduced the barriers to contributing changes to free software projects, and to put DVCSs in this wider context. So the word "even" is used to highlight that a particular change took that progression even further. I am happy to change that "even" to some other wording that implies taking the progression even further - would you like to suggest a suitable alternative wording, or would such a change not be sufficient to satisfy your objections, in regards to that section?--greenrd (talk) 06:54, 7 September 2013 (UTC)

Please stop this[edit]

This entire article is patent nonsense. DECUS, SHARE, I was part of all of these organizations and much more. You had to pay millions of dollars to use any of this. Calling this FREE is absurd. Yes, many of us gave away our software in those days. But, there was a quid pro quo. The article is complete, utter nonsense with no valid refs written by someone trying to push a concept that mostly died in the 80s, with absolutely zero reference to the enormous backlash by both educational and corporate organizations in those days. Nearly every large institution in the 80s came out against open-source due to the problems with upgrading to new versions. IBM starting developing in PLS, and refused to release the PLS compiler. When the mid-frames were replaced by the AS/400 a decade or so later, IBM refused to release the assembler, or even the instruction set. Apple is one of the most closed software corporations in history. Look at the most popular forum software. Vbulletin refuses to release the code to the core, only releasing templates and less important modules. And those modules, in the last two weeks, have caused 0day exploit problems from Syrian government sympathizers. Forget about any semblance of balance, this article looks like it was written decades in the past. Objective3000 (talk) 01:28, 12 September 2013 (UTC)

Dozens of refs, all with the same POV on a complex subject, as if no one has an opposing view. This is an article for a blog, not an encyclopedia.Objective3000 (talk) 01:44, 12 September 2013 (UTC)

GitHub part under Git removed[edit]

Completely removed, it was an advertising and the problem was noted in December 2012, 3 years ago. --Jacobubus (talk) 22:27, 28 September 2015 (UTC)

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