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May 5th, 2017

Sex, Love & Software: History of Free Software, Linux and Open Source

Take a trip through the history of free software, Linux and open source, starting from the early days in the 1980s through 2001, when this film was made.

free software Linux open source

The Screening Room

A few weeks back, when we featured Brian Lunduke’s interview with Richard Stallman, we lamented the fact that most users who come to GNU/Linux these days seem to have little knowledge of the history of free software, Linux and open source. This is not good, for without a community of supporters, free tech cannot survive.

This is much different than it was 10 or 15 years ago, when the main reason for adopting Linux was because of its connection with the free software movement, which began in the 1980s under Richard Stallman, and spurred on by the GNU Project which he founded.

If you had gone online around the turn of the century looking for information on Linux, your search would have led you to hundreds of blogs published by “citizen journalists,” people enthused about the ideas behind free software and the GPL, and expounding on them. Linux wasn’t so much about being an operating system as it was about putting power in people’s hands. This isn’t so true anymore. Most of the few websites that remain are commercial endeavors that often confuse “software freedom” with the mere availability of source code and a free price tag.

The movement that Stallman and others inspired was to the home computer revolution of the 1990s through the first decade of this century, what the consciousness movment had been to the 1960s. And just as supporters of the status quo have reduced the history of 60s hippiedom to “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll,” — a slogan that was meant to be a slap in the face of straight establishment types, which is now used to define and defame an entire generation — the ideas behind the free software movement are now in danger of being reduced to merely a business model for managing software in the corporate world.

Just as free love was reduced to free sex, free and open source software is being reduced to permissive open source licenses.

That’s why we are happy today to introduce you to “Revolution OS,” a 2001 documentary film that traces the twenty-year history of GNU, Linux, open source, and the free software movement. In this film, you will meet a lot of people who play large rolls in the effort to pry the creation of software out of the clutches of the proprietary crowd, to bring the power of software creation, distribution and use to the people — folks like Stallman, Linus Torvalds, Eric S. Raymond, Bruce Perens and others.

If you use Linux and FOSS, it’s important that you understand this history and that you become a part of the community of people dedicated to keeping technology in the hands of the people. Without community, the free tech movement will disappear — of that, you can be certain.

1 comment to Sex, Love & Software: History of Free Software, Linux and Open Source

  • jbiddy

    I’m so happy to see Foss Force highlighting this excellent film!

    I’ve probably watched this half a dozen times, introduced it to half a dozen other people.

    I haven’t watched it in half a decade, I got a little emotional the last time.