History of Open Source

Open Source didn't begin with Linux nor it began with the first Unix Operating System. The philosophy of what is called today Open Source was already present, under some aspects, since the begining of the IT history. So to be complete, an history of Open Source need to start at a time were nobody was thinking that one day there will be one or more computer in almost each house of the world and that all of them would be interconnected by a worldwide network.

In the 50's, software was developped by communities and distributed for free with the hardware. For the computer company's like IBM, only the hardware was important. So to reduce the cost of the hardware, they was offering almost all software for free. Also, at this time, computers reached only the universities, they were research tools. And because scientists often try to reuse what has been made before instead of reinventing the wheel, software source code was then freely passed around, and programmers were paid for the act of programming, not for the programs themselves.

In 1965, this model changed when a company called ADR developed the first licensed software, independantly of any hardware. Their were no more sharing the software at all. ADR was the first commercial company to become a software only company.
The Open Source world is evolving
This evolution, I call it from .org to .com.
She shows how the Open Source ideal, who started with developers and engineers has quickly reached the sphere of the commercial and marketing guru's.
  • At first, Open Source projects were imagined by developpers, led by developpers and supported by developpers. It was something difficult to get a good documentation, issued from the project itself.
  • Then, the Open Source projects reorganized themselves with project management, incorporating in their team people who were no more developpers but project leader, translators or documentation writers.
  • Next, we see service companies emerging and selling professional support and expertise on Open Source software. These companies were created by hiring experts on the subject and by hiring developpers of one or more projects.
  • Today, there are a lot of new ISV who arrive on the market with a new solution and who distribute it under an Open Source license instead of the classical closed-source commercial model.

In 1968, AT&T decide to leave the group formed by them, General Electric and the MIT who were developping an operating system called Multics. Their reason, it was found to be time-consuming and expensive.

In 1969
, as a direct consequence of the decision of AT&T, some people at AT&T's Bell Labs (Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie and others) became very disapointed by this decision. So they decided to work on a new operating system. They started their work on a small DEC PDP-7 and named it Unics, in remembrance of the more sophisticated Multics they were all missing. After some time, the definitive name of Unix was chosen.

In 1969
, after a lawsuit, IBM was obliged by an anti-trust american commission to unbundled the free software from its hardware, it was the time when software became independant from the hardware. It was the time when more and more software-only companies, selling licensed software, were appearing.

In 1972
, the group that were developing Unix at Bell Labs decided to switch to a new promising programming language, the "C", originaly created by Dennis Ritchie, member of the group. This visionary choice had two important consequences :
  • the portability of Unix to other hardware become easy, you just need a C-to-machine-code compiler for your plateform
  • the improvability becomes easier as the programming language is the same on all plateform and is becoming a programming standard, known by every developper and teached in schools.

In 1979
, the seventh edition (V7) of AT&T Unix was released. This version resulted from common work between Bell Labs and the academic community. Since this version 7, we assist to the creation of different forks. The most important of them being the one led by University of Berkeley, a variant called Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD). In the meanwhile, AT&T was still developing Unix under the name "System III" then "System V".
After a lot of lawsuits (between Berekeley and AT&T) and forks, the BSD family ends up by three OS : OpenBSD, FreeBSD and NetBSD. And the other branch, the System V from AT&T, was sold to a company called Santa Cruz Operation (SCO).

In 1984
, Richard Stallman created the Free Software Foundation and the GNU Project. His idea is that people should have more freedom, and should appreciate their freedom. He invented the GNU Public License to codify what he tought to be the rights that the users should have. The goal of the GNU Project was to build a complete operating system that would be free and with the source code available. Piece after piece, the blocks of this operating system are created, using Unix operating system as a building base. Stallman himself created one of the most important components : a C compiler, GCC. He also created EMACS, a well-known text editor.

In 1990
, almost all the pieces of this GNU OS were in place, except the core of it, the kernel. So Stallman began to work a new project called Hurd. But the work on it was going on slowly.
In August 1991, a finnish student, Linus Torvald, announces on the Minix user group that he's starting working on Unix-like kernel.

In 1997
, Eric Raymond publish "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", a comparison between the classical approach to software development (the Cathedral) and a development issued from big communities of developpers, spread over the world (The Bazaar).

The 22 january 1998
, Netscape creates a shock in the world of software by releasing to the public the source code of their web browser. They were helped in this task by Eric Raymond.

In February 1998
, Eric S. Raymond found the Open Source Initiative organization, to present "Open Source" cases to the commercial world.

In April 1998
, during an event organized by O'Reilly, where a lot of developpers - known and unknown - were present, after a vote, the name "Open Source" is officialy chosen to define this new way of thinking software developpement.