In 1984, Richard Stallman, a former worker at the MIT Artificial Intelligence lab, founded the GNU project. GNU is a recursive acronym for Gnu’s Not UNIX. Stallman held the belief that ideas should be shared and that proprietary software (software owned and developed by a single company or individual) was unethical, antisocial and immoral. He developed a C compiler called GCC (for GNU C Compiler) and began working on other development and application tools with the idea of building a UNIX-like operating system that was free. He was faced with a moral dilemma; he wanted to provide “free” software but needed to pay the bills. How do you keep something free but make enough money so you can continue your work?
The Free Software Foundation
In 1985 Stallman decided to seek funding, so he created the Free Software Foundation (FSF), – a tax-exempt charity dedicated to the purpose of providing royalty-free software to programmers and developers. The FSF does accept contributions, but relies on most of its income from the sales of free software, training and instructional manuals, and other related services. Since it was created, many programmer packages and toolkits have been developed and assigned to FSF for distribution.
Since UNIX was the operating system on most of the research and university computers at the time, the tools and applications being developed for GNU ran on a UNIX computer. In 1991, the applications and programs under GNU combined with Linus Torvalds new kernel (Linux) to create the GNU/Linux operating system. The FSF continues to support development applications for the GNU/Linux system.
For more information on GNU and the Free Software Foundation, visit the web page at http://www.gnu.org/gnu/the-gnu-project.html. GNU’s web site is https://www.gnu.org.