GNU's Bulletin, vol. 1 no. 3, June, 1987
Table of Contents
Gnu's Bulletin is the sporadically published newsletter of the
Free Software Foundation, bringing you news about the GNU
The usual people are still working on GNU: Richard
Stallman recently returned from Korea, where he worked at
KAIST during the month of April. He also visited DECUS in Tokyo
and spoke there. He is currently continuing to develop the GNU C
compiler. Hackers Len Tower, Richard Mlynarik, and
Paul Rubin are doing various pieces of volunteer work as
their time permits it, and Jay Fenlason continues to work
full time on the GNU assembler and libraries. At the distribution
end, FSF treasurer Bob Chassell has just finished
coordinating production of another run of GNU Emacs manuals.
Jerry Puzo has been making sure that our correspondence
with the outside world is handled smoothly.
Some new people have also joined us: Mark D'Agostino is
now taking care of the FSF mail room, filling the tape and manual
orders which are coming in at an ever increasing rate. Mark is an
MIT student in Physics and Electrical Engineering. Peter
Deutsch, an old-time hacker from MIT, is in his spare time
writing a PostScript language interpreter for bitmap screens, for
use with GNU under the X window system. His interpreter will be
called "GhostScript" and will hopefully also be able to drive
printers. Peter is well known for his work on Lisp and Smalltalk,
and continues to do Smalltalk development as Chief Scientist at
ParcPlace Systems, a spinoff of Xerox PARC. Velu Sinha
wrote the GNU shell, which will be released for testing soon.
Rayan Zachariasen, whose name I hope I have not
misspelled, is writing a mailer. Finally, Kathy Hargreaves
and Karl Berry transcribed Richard Stallman's Microwave
Day lecture on how the GNU C compiler works; we hope to publish
an edited version of the transcript soon. Kathy and Karl are both
studying digital typography in the Brown University CS
department. They plan later to design some type fonts for use
with GhostScript. They also designed the new FSF order form that
appears at the end of this bulletin.
Copyright (C) June 1987 by the Free Software Foundation.
Editor: Paul Rubin
Writers: Richard M. Stallman, Paul Rubin Illustrations: Etienne
Suvasa, Jean-Marie Diaz.
Reproduction: Mark D'Agostino.
Permission is granted to anyone to make or distribute
verbatim copies of this document as received, in any medium,
provided that the copyright notice and permission notice are
preserved, and that the distributor grants the recipient
permission for further redistribution as permitted by this
What is the Free Software Foundation?
by Richard M. Stallman
The Free Software Foundation is dedicated to eliminating
restrictions on copying, redistribution, understanding and
modification of software.
The word "free" in our name does not refer to price; it refers
to freedom. First, the freedom to copy a program and redistribute
it to your neighbors, so that they can use it as well as you.
Second, the freedom to change a program, so that you can control
it instead of it controlling you; for this, the source code must
be made available to you.
The Foundation works to give you these freedoms by developing
free compatible replacements for proprietary software.
Specifically, we are putting together a complete, integrated
software system "GNU" that is upward-compatible with Unix. When
it is released, everyone will be permitted to copy it and
distribute it to others; in addition, it will be distributed with
source code, so you will be able to learn about operating systems
by reading it, to port it to your own machine, to improve it, and
to exchange the changes with others.
There are already organizations that distribute free CPM and
MSDOS software. The Free Software Foundation is doing something
- The other organizations exist primarily for distribution;
they distribute whatever happens to be available. We hope to
provide a complete integrated free system that will eliminate
the need for any proprietary software.
- One consequence is that we are now interested only in
software that fits well into the context of the GNU system.
Distributing free MSDOS or Macintosh software is a useful
activity, but it is not part of our game plan.
- Another consequence is that we will actively attempt to
improve and extend the software we distribute, as fast as our
manpower permits. For this reason, we will always be seeking
donations of money, computer equipment or time, labor, and
source code to improve the GNU system.
- In fact, our primary purpose is this software development
effort; distribution is just an adjunct which also brings in
some money. We think that the users will do most of the
distribution on their own, without needing or wanting our
Why a Unix-Like System?
It is necessary to be compatible with some widely used system
to give our system an immediate base of trained users who could
switch to it easily and an immediate base of application software
that can run on it. (Eventually we will provide free replacements
for proprietary application software as well, but that is some
years in the future.)
We chose Unix because it is a fairly clean design which is
already known to be portable, yet whose popularity is still
rising. The disadvantages of Unix seem to be things we can fix
without removing what is good in Unix.
Why not imitate MSDOS or CP/M? They are more widely used,
true, but they are also very weak systems, designed for tiny
machines. Unix is much more powerful and interesting. When a
system takes years to implement, it is important to write it for
the machines that will become available in the future; not to let
it be limited by the capabilities of the machines that are in
widest use at the moment but will be obsolete when the new system
Why not aim for a new, more advanced system, such as a Lisp
Machine? Mainly because that is still more of a research effort;
there is a sizeable chance that the wrong choices will be made
and the system will turn out not very good. In addition, such
systems are often tied to special hardware. Being tied to one
manufacturer's machine would make it hard to remain independent
of that manufacturer and get broad community support.
Editorial: Oppose Audio Copy Protection
Just when science is making it possible to copy music
perfectly, record companies are trying to make it impossible
again, with government-enforced copy protection.
The invention of the phonograph created a situation where the
best way to copy audio signals was by mass production. This
temporary situation made record companies necessary and useful.
It also made copyright a fairly harmless way of encouraging
activities that benefit the public. (That was the original
purpose of copyright.)
Digital audio tape machines will change all this. Mass
produced copies will no longer be better than you can make.
Record companies may still have customers, but they will be
But obsolete institutions don't peacefully accept being
ignored. So there is a bill before Congress to require specific
copy-protection equipment in every digital audio tape
The proposed technical method involves degrading the quality
of prerecorded music by eliminating a narrow frequency band. When
the recorder notices that band is empty, it will shut off. Even
if the signal comes over the radio, copying it will be
If this law passes, we can expect more of the same. In the
past, there were many natural obstacles to copying information,
and surmounting the obstacles was a business. The overall thrust
of the information revolution is to remove these obstacles; to
make information easy to copy and transform. Each time technology
makes things easier, businesses that depend on obstacles demand a
man-made obstacle--required by law--to replace the natural
A few general-purpose I/O devices can turn your computer into
a digital audio tape recorder. Will there be a law to make this
impossible? Perhaps a law that you can't have source to your
kernel, lest you patch around the government-imposed access
To fight this bill, call your Congressman and Senators and
urge them to vote against it. It is called the Digital Audio Tape
Recording Act of 1987: S. 506, H.R. 1384.
You can get the phone numbers by calling information; the
Senators usually have offices in the state capitol. For more
information, contact this organization:
Audio Recording Rights Coalition
PO Box 33705
1145 19th Street NW
Washington, DC 20033
This is a collection of news items pertaining to the GNU
project, the Free Software Foundation, and free software in
- Termcap Manual Being Published Jim Joyce's Unix
bookstore in San Francisco is probably going to publish the
Termcap programming manual written by Richard Stallman. This
manual was written as a spinoff of the Emacs project, since the
Unix documentation for Termcap does not provide enough
information. The Foundation will probably offer printed copies
of this manual for sale after Jim Joyce has gotten them
printed. Like everything else written at GNU, the manual will
be free for everyone to copy; however, Jim plans to donate some
money to RMS for every copy he sells.
- GNU Chess Improved Stuart Cracraft reports that as a
result of his installing new searching and evaluation routines
in GNU Chess, the latest version recently beat an 1800 rated
player. He is collecting contributions of book openings,
endgame databases, and master games, to further improve the
program. Contact him if you think you can help. His address is
- If You Can't Beat 'em... RMS was recently invited to
give a talk about GNU at AT&T Bell Laboratories in Murray
Hill, New Jersey (the birthplace of Un*x). He reports that the
talk was generally well received.
- X Becoming Accepted The trade press has been
reporting that the free X window system written at MIT and DEC
is becoming a multi-vendor industry standard for portable
window systems. The Foundation distributes X on its standard
software tape, and GNU Emacs and GNU Chess come with special
interfaces to X.
- TeX in C available from Pat Monardo At long last,
there is a free implementation of TeX in C. It is a hand
translation by Pat Monardo of UC Berkeley of the WEB version,
and it tries to retain the module and variable names of the WEB
version while remaining a readable C program. Both the
Foundation and the maintainers of the Unix TeX distribution at
the University of Washington will offer this version
eventually. You can also contact Pat Monardo directly for more
information. His address is ucbvax!monardo (uucp), or
firstname.lastname@example.org (Internet). Consider sending a
donation to Pat if you find this program useful.
- Victory in SoftKlone trial A Federal Judge has found
the SoftKlone company not guilty of nearly all counts of
copyright infringement brought in a look-and-feel suit filed by
the marketers of Crosstalk (a PC communications program). Even
though the SoftKlone program is proprietary, the outcome of
this trial is an important affirmation of everyone's freedom to
write and distribute whatever programs they want to.
Send In The Clones Meanwhile, the Lotus look-and-feel
copywrong suit has still not been resolved. In order to help
the defendants of this suit, Dan Bricklin is compiling a list
of software and hardware "clones". These are programs and
machines that duplicate the functionality, features, or "look
and feel" of previously-released programs. (Dan is the author
of VisiCalc, of which Lotus 1-2-3 is itself a partial clone).
The Foundation is asking readers to please think of as many
detailed examples as they can and mail them
or by snail mail to
Send In The Clones
c/o Free Software Foundation
1000 Mass Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138
We will forward all the messages we receive to Dan Bricklin.
Here are some of the examples we already have, to give people an
idea of what we're looking for:
Non-computer examples (such as the many imitations of
the Sony Walkman) are ok too.
- CPU's made by Amdahl and others that emulate IBM
- Ashton-Tate "Multiplan", which includes some features
of the Wang dedicated word processor
- Richard Stallman's EMACS editor has been imitated any
number of times.
- Imitations of the IBM PC BIOS run in nearly all PC
clones. The PC clones would be useless without doing
- The Unix user interface has been imitated many times,
both in complete systems (Idris, Coherent, Minix, MARC,
GNU, etc.) and in program suites that just clone the
utilities (e.g. Software Tools; nearly every microcomputer
C compiler I've seen comes with a few of these).
- All C compilers implement a special language (C) that
used to be available only as part of Unix.
GNU Software Available Now
- GNU Emacs In 1975, Richard Stallman developed the
first Emacs: the extensible, customizable real-time display
editor. GNU Emacs is his second implementation of Emacs. It's
the first Emacs available on Unix systems which offers true
Lisp, smoothly integrated into the editor, for writing
extensions. It also provides a special interface to MIT's free
X window system, which makes redisplay very fast. GNU Emacs has
been in widespread use since 1985 and often, as at MIT's
Project Athena, displaces proprietary implementations of Emacs
because of its greater reliability as well as its good features
and easier extensibility. GNU Emacs has run on many kinds of
Unix systems: those made by Alliant (system release 1 or 2),
Amdahl (UTS), AT&T (3b machines and 7300 pc), Celerity,
Digital (Vax, not PDP-11), Dual, Encore, Gould, HP (9000 series
200 or 300 but not series 500), IBM (RT/PC running 4.2),
Integrated Solutions (Optimum V with 68020 and VMEbus),
Masscomp, Megatest, NCR (Tower 32), Plexus, Pyramid, Sequent,
Silicon Graphics (Iris release 3.5), Stride (system release 2),
Sun (any kind), Tahoe, Tektronix (NS16000 system), Texas
Instruments (Nu), Whitechapel (MG1), and Wicat. These include
both Berkeley Unix and System V (release 0, 2 or 2.2). It also
runs on Apollo machines and on VAX/VMS. GNU Emacs use is
described by the GNU Emacs Manual, available from the Free
- GDB GDB is the source-level C debugger written for
the GNU project in 1986. It offers many features not usually
found in debuggers on Unix, such as a history that records all
values examined within the debugger for concise later
reference, multi-line user-defined commands, and a strong
self-documentation capability. It currently runs on Vaxes under
4.2 and 4.3bsd, and on Suns (systems version 2 and 3). A
version for the IBM RT-PC running 4.2bsd may be released soon.
A users' manual for GDB is available from the Foundation.
- GNU CC The GNU C compiler is a fairly portable
optimizing compiler. It generates good code for the 68000,
68020 and Vax. It features automatic register packing that
makes register declarations unnecessary. It supports full ANSI
C as of the latest draft standard. We are offering a beta test
release to people wishing to help us find compiler bugs or
begin work on ports. This testing version is distributed on a
separate tape from the regular GNU distribution. When the
compiler is more solid, it will become part of the regular
- Bison Bison is an upward-compatible replacement for
YACC, with some additional as-yet-undocumented features. It has
been in use for a couple of years.
- X Window System X is a portable, network transparent
window system for bitmap displays written at MIT and DEC. It
currently runs on DEC VAXstation, Lexidata 90, and most Sun
Microsystems displays, with others in the works. X supports
overlapping windows, fully recursive subwindows, and provides
hooks for several different styles of user interface.
Applications provided include a terminal emulator, bitmap
editor, several window managers, clock, window dump and undump
programs, hardcopy printing program for the LN03 printer,
several typesetting previewers, etc.
- MIT Scheme Scheme is a simplified, lexically scoped
dialect of Lisp, designed at MIT and other universities for two
purposes: teaching students of programming, and researching new
parallel programming constructs and compilation techniques. MIT
Scheme is written in C and runs on many kinds of Unix systems.
Sorry, there is no documentation for the current distribution
version of MIT Scheme. A new standard for Scheme has been
designed by the various labs that work on Scheme, and work is
going on at MIT to change MIT Scheme to fit. Once that is done,
the standard will serve as a manual for MIT Scheme. At that
time, we will distribute both the new release of Scheme and the
- GNU Chess GNU Chess was written in 1986 by Stuart
Cracraft of UCLA. It can use several machines in parallel for
increased searching speed, and it comes with an interface to
the X window system to display a pretty chessboard. It also has
a human readable opening book of thousands of moves including
several hundred games of Grandmaster Mikhail Tal. On a single
Sun-3 CPU, the current version probably plays around Class C
chess. Stuart continues to strengthen the program in various
- Hack Hack is a display oriented adventure game
similar to Rogue.
How to Get Gnu Software
All software and publications are distributed with permission
to copy and redistribute. The easiest way to get a copy of GNU
Software is from someone else who has it. You need not ask for
permission; just copy it.
If you have access to the Internet, you can get the latest
distribution version of GNU Software from host prep.ai.mit.edu.
For more information, read the file
`/u2/emacs/GETTING.GNU.SOFTWARE' on said host.
If you cannot get a copy in any of these ways, you can order
one from the Free Software Foundation. Please consult the order
form at the end of this bulletin for prices and details.
Status of the GNU Project, June 1987
(See also the article "GNU Software Available Now", elsewhere
in this issue).
Why Was Copyright Invented?
Now that copyright is becoming a public nuisance that the
public tries to ignore, copyright owners try to justify this
imposition by calling it an intrinsic right. As they tell it,
their intrinsic right is a tradition that makes the public good
This is contrary to the facts of the history of copyright.
The Supreme Court has stated explicitly what copyright was
for. Writing for the Court, Justice Stewart explained:
The immediate effect of our copyright law is to secure a
fair return for an "author's" creative labor. But the ultimate
aim is, by this incentive, to stimulate artistic creativity for
the general public good. `The sole interest of the United
States and the primary object in conferring the [copyright]
monopoly,' this Court has said, `lie in the general benefits
derived by the public from the labors of authors.'
---Fox Film Corp. v. Doyal (286 US 123, 127)
So when copyright interferes with the public use of a program,
that directly attacks the reason for having copyright.
What is GNU Emacs and do you want a copy?
GNU Emacs is a new implementation of the Emacs text editor.
(Recently text editors have been called "word processors" among
Emacs is a kind of architecture for text editors, in which
most editing commands are written in an interpreted language
(usually Lisp) so that the user can write new editing commands as
he goes. This allows Emacs to have editing commands that are more
powerful or more adapted to individual uses than other kinds of
Any particular editing command could be written in C, but with
Lisp it is much easier for users to change the editing commands
or to implement new editing commands. Users can also exchange
their adaptations and extensions of Emacs. The result is a
library of extensions that continues to grow.
GNU Emacs boasts an especially clean Lisp system for writing
editing commands, and an already large library of extensions.
GNU Emacs is written in C, designed for a Unix or Unix-like
kernel. It includes its own Lisp interpreter which is used to
execute the portion of the editor that is written in Lisp.
It is a fairly large program, around 525k on vaxes or 68000s,
to which must be added space for the files you are editing, undo
buffers, Lisp libraries loaded, and Lisp data such as recently
killed text, etc. This is not really a problem on a timeshared
machine because most of that 525k is shared, but on a personal
computer there may be nobody to share with. Thus, GNU Emacs
probably could not be used on an IBM PC clone for lack of memory,
unless you want to implement virtual memory in software within
Emacs itself. Perhaps on an 80286 with 1 meg of memory you can
win using their memory management.
In general, a 32-bit machine with either a meg of real memory
or virtual memory can probably run GNU Emacs, as long as a
suitable Unix system call environment is provided, simulated or
GNU Wish List
Wishes for this issue:
- Money and equipment, as usual.
- Some free office space in the Cambridge area.
- Volunteer programming, especially from people around
Cambridge and people with experience writing operating system
kernels. Help writing documentation is also needed.
- Artwork and other graphics, for use as illustrations in
future FSF manuals and GNU's bulletins.
- Would anyone like to edit GNU's Bulletin #4?
The Free Software Foundation would like to send special thank
gnus to the following:
Thanks to the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science. The LCS has
provided FSF with the loan of a Microvax for program
Thanks to Professor Dertouzos, head of LCS. His specific
decision to support us is greatly appreciated.
Thanks to the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory for
invaluable assistance of many kinds.
Thanks to Lisp Machine, Inc. LMI has generously provided
office space, computer resources and a mailing address for FSF.
Bruce Deffenbaugh in particular helped us keep our operation in
relative calm during LMI's recent turmoil.
Thanks to Inference Corp. Inference has been shipping copies
of GNU Emacs to its customers in conjunction with some other
products that they offer, and they have decided to donate $200 to
Richard Stallman for each copy of Emacs they deliver in this way.
This proves it is possible to make a living from writing free
Thanks to Martin Minow of DEC for giving us an answering
machine, so people can now phone us at (617) 876-3296. We check
messages about once a week.
Thanks to those who sent money and offered help. James R.
Payne of Advanced Decision Systems gave especially freely. Thanks
also to those who support us by ordering Emacs manuals and
The creation of this bulletin is our way of thanking all who
have expressed interest in what we are doing.