GNU's Bulletin, vol. 1 no. 11, June, 1991

Table of Contents

The GNU's Bulletin is the semi-annual newsletter of the Free Software Foundation, bringing you news about the GNU Project.

Free Software Foundation, Inc.                Telephone: (617) 876-3296
675 Massachusetts Avenue          Electronic mail:
Cambridge, MA 02139  USA

GNU's Who

Michael Bushnell is working on the GNU operating system and maintains GNU tar. Jim Blandy is preparing Emacs 19, and Joseph Arceneaux is implementing active regions for a future release. Roland McGrath is polishing the C library and maintains GNU make as well as the Emacs 19 Lisp library.

Jay Fenlason continues with the GNU spreadsheet, Oleo, and maintains sed and the GNU assembler. Brian Fox is maintaining various programs that he has written, including the readline library, the makeinfo and info programs, BASH, and GNU finger.

Kathy Hargreaves and Karl Berry are making fonts, developing various utilities for dealing with them, and also working on Ghostscript. Mike Haertel, who has been working on a C interpreter and on various "bin" utilities, is going to graduate school this fall. Per Bothner has taken over maintenance of the "bin" utilities. Amy Gorin is writing the manual for tar. Sandra Loosemore is writing the C Runtime Library manual.

S. Opus Goldstein continues to run the business end of FSF. Miria Brigid is answering phone calls, handling correspondence, and making distribution tapes. Robert J. Chassell, our Treasurer, is working on his introduction to programming in Emacs Lisp, in addition to his many other Foundation duties. Noah Friedman is our system administrator.

Richard Stallman continues as a volunteer who does countless tasks, including refining the C compiler, Emacs, etc., and their documentation. Walter Poxon coordinates volunteer work. Finally, volunteer Len Tower remains our electronic JOAT (jack-of-all-trades), handling mailing lists and gnUSENET, information requests, et al.

GNU's Bulletin

Copyright (C) 1991 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

Written by: Noah Friedman, Robert J. Chassell, Richard Stallman, and Leonard H. Tower Jr.

Illustrations: Etienne Suvasa

Japanese Edition: Mieko Hikichi and Nobuyuki Hikichi

This page is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

What Is the Free Software Foundation?

The Free Software Foundation is dedicated to eliminating restrictions on copying, redistribution, understanding, and modification of computer programs. We do this by promoting the development and use of free software in all areas of computer use. Specifically, we are putting together a complete integrated software system named "GNU" (GNU's Not Unix) that will be upwardly compatible with Unix. Some large parts of this system are already working, and we are distributing them now.

The word "free" in our name refers to two specific freedoms: first, the freedom to copy a program and give it away to your friends and co-workers; second, the freedom to change a program as you wish, by having full access to source code. Furthermore, you can study the source and learn how such programs are written. You may then be able to port it, improve it, and share your changes with others.

Other organizations distribute whatever free software happens to be available. By contrast, FSF concentrates on development of new free software, working towards a GNU system complete enough to eliminate the need to purchase a proprietary system.

Besides developing GNU, the Foundation has several secondary functions: producing tapes and printed manuals for GNU software, carrying out distribution, and accepting gifts to support GNU development. We are tax exempt; you can deduct donations to us on your tax returns. Our development effort is funded from both donations and distribution fees. Note that the distribution fees purchase just the service of distribution: you never have to pay anyone license fees to use GNU software, and you always have the freedom to make your copy from a friend's computer at no charge (provided your friend is willing).

The Foundation also maintains a Service Directory, see "Free Software Support" below for details.

After we create our programs, we continually update and improve them. We release between 2 and 20 updates a year for each program. Doing this while developing new programs takes a lot of work, so any donations of pertinent source code and documentation, machines, labor, or money are always appreciated.

The board of the Foundation is: Richard Stallman, President; Robert J. Chassell, Treasurer; Gerald J. Sussman, Harold Abelson, and Leonard H. Tower Jr., Directors.

"As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours."

-Benjamin Franklin

What Is Copyleft?

In the previous section entitled "What Is the Free Software Foundation?" we state that "you never have to pay anyone license fees to use GNU software, and you always have the freedom to make your copy from a friend's computer at no charge." What exactly do we mean by this, and how do we make sure that it stays true?

The simplest way to make a program free is to put it in the public domain. Then people who get it from sharers can share it with others. But this also allows bad citizens to do what they like to do: sell binary-only versions under typical don't-share-with-your-neighbor licenses. They would thus enjoy the benefits of the freeness of the original program while withholding these benefits from the users. It could easily come about that most users get the program this way, and our goal of making the program free for all users would have been undermined.

To prevent this from happening, we don't normally place GNU programs in the public domain. Instead, we protect them by what we call copylefts. A copyleft is a legal instrument that makes everybody free to copy a program as long as the person getting the copy gets with it the freedom to distribute further copies, and the freedom to modify their copy (which means that they must get access to the source code). Typical software companies use copyrights to take away these freedoms; now software sharers use copylefts to preserve these freedoms.

The copyleft used by the GNU Project is made from a combination of a copyright notice and the GNU General Public License. The copyright notice is the usual kind. The General Public License is a copying license which basically says that you have the freedoms we want you to have and that you can't take these freedoms away from anyone else. (The actual document consists of several pages of rather complicated legalbol that our lawyer said we needed.) The complete license is included in all GNU source code distributions and many manuals. We will send you a copy on request.

We encourage others to copyleft their programs using the General Public License; basically programs only need to include a few sentences stating that the license applies to them. Specifics on using the License accompany it, so refer there for details.

A Small Way to Help Free Software

If you find that GNU software has been helpful to you; in particular, if you have benefited from having sources freely available, please help support the spread of free software by telling others. For example, you might say in published papers and internal project reports:

"We were able to modify the fubar utility to serve our particular needs because it is free software. As a result, we were able to finish the XYZ project six months earlier."

Let users, management and friends know! And send us a copy. Thanks!

GNUs Flashes

Free Software Support

The Free Software Foundation develops and distributes freely available software. Our goal is to help computer users as a community. We envision a world in which software is freely redistributable. This means software will be sold at a competitive market price rather than a monopolistically established price; often it will be given away. We see programmers as providing a service, much as doctors and lawyers now do--both medical knowledge and the law are freely redistributable entities for which the practitioners charge a distribution and service fee.

We maintain a list of people who offer support and other consulting services, called the GNU Service Directory. It is in the file `etc/SERVICE' in the GNU Emacs distribution and `SERVICE' in the GCC distribution. Contact us if you would like a copy or wish to be listed in it.

If you find a deficiency in any GNU software, we want to know. We have many Internet mailing lists for announcements, bug reports, and questions. They are also gatewayed into USENET news as the gnu.* newsgroups.

If you have no Internet access, you can receive mail and USENET news via UUCP. Contact either a local UUCP site, or UUNET (which can set up a UUCP connection at a modest rate) at

UUNET Communications Services,
3110 Fairview Park Drive - Suite 570,
Falls Church, VA  22042
Phone: (703) 876-5050

When we receive a bug report, we will usually try to fix the problem in order to make the software better. While our bug fixes may seem like individual assistance, they are not. Our task is so large that we must focus on that which helps the community as a whole, such as developing and maintaining software and documentation. We do not have the resources to help individuals. If your bug report does not evoke a solution from us, you may still get one from the many other users who read our bug report mailing lists. Otherwise, use the Service Directory.

So, please do not ask us to help you install the software or figure out how to use it--but do tell us how an installation script does not work or where the documentation is unclear.

Copyrighted Programming Languages

by Richard Stallman

The GNU project has produced one of the best C compilers now in existence. The reason I decided to write a C compiler, rather than designing a new, completely clean language, is that C is the language users' programs are written in. For a Unix-like system, a compiler for C is absolutely essential.

If a new language becomes equally essential for a useful computer system, will we be allowed to write a compiler for it? Not if we want people in Europe to use the compiler. On May 15, the European Community adopted a new directive for software copyright. It establishes not only copyrighted user interfaces, but also copyrighted protocols, copyrighted data formats, and copyrighted programming languages.

Here is what the law says about interfaces:

Whereas for avoidance of doubt it has to be made clear that only the expression of a computer program is protected and that ideas and principles which underlie any elements of a program, including those which underlie its interfaces, are not protected by copyright under this directive;

Nothing prevents the details of an interface--as opposed to the underlying ideas--from being copyrighted.

The Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament recommended adding these words to solve this problem for certain kinds of interfaces:

Whereas, these unprotectible items include, for example, protocols for communication, rules for exchanging or mutually using information that has been exchanged, formats for data, and the syntax and semantics of a programming language;

This amendment was rejected after serious debate in which the conservative party particularly opposed it. The importance given to the question shows that it was regarded as a substantive change--that Parliament believes the law as written permits copyright on the protocols, formats, and languages.

The principal supporters of these broad and dangerous monopolies were a few large computer companies: IBM, Digital, Apple, and Siemens. (Only one of them is a European company.) Many smaller companies formed the European Committee for Interoperable Systems to lobby against interface monopolies, but had little success.

What about the United States?

Ashton-Tate is once again pushing its case for a copyright on the programming language used in DBase. Last winter, the judge ruled that the copyright on DBase was invalid because Ashton-Tate had failed to inform the copyright office that part of the program was copied from an earlier, public domain program written at JPL. It turns out that the "part" in question was the programming language--not part of the program at all!

Later, the judge reversed his own decision. The case is now proceeding.

The latest version of the System V Interface Definition claims that the interface is copyrighted. Adobe says the Postscript language is copyrighted. You can bet that IBM, Digital, and Apple are telling Congress loud and clear that programming languages should be copyrighted. And they will point to the European law as proof this is sound policy.

So, the next time you adopt a new language, will we be allowed to add support for it in the GNU compiler? Not in Europe, and probably not in the US either.

Since surveys show most programmers disapprove of these restrictions, most likely you do too. The question is whether you want to do anything about it. You can speak up and have an effect on the decision, or you can do nothing and let IBM, Digital, and Apple do all the talking.

The FSF is doing what it can. We joined the League for Programming Freedom as an institutional member, as seven companies have also done. Some of the FSF staff number among the 600 individual League members. But, it takes more than 600 people to win this battle. So, the next step is up to you.

From the League membership form:

The League for Programming Freedom is a grass-roots organization of professors, students, businessmen, programmers and users dedicated to bringing back the freedom to write programs. The League is not opposed to the legal system that Congress intended--copyright on individual programs. Our aim is to reverse the recent changes made by judges in response to special interests.

Membership dues in the League are $42 per year for programmers, managers and professionals; $10.50 for students; $21 for others.

If you have any questions, please write to the League, phone (617) 243-4091, or send Internet mail to

To join, please send a check and the following information to:
League for Programming Freedom, 1 Kendall Square #143, P.O. Box 9171,
Cambridge, MA 02139

"If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

-Isaac Newton

AT&T Threatens Users of X Windows

by Richard Stallman

This spring, AT&T sent threatening letters to every member of the X Consortium, including MIT, saying they need to pay royalties for the X Window server. This is because AT&T has patented the use of "backing store" in a multiprocessing window system (patent number 4,555,775). MIT is looking into how to fight AT&T in court if necessary, but we don't know whether this can succeed.

Meanwhile, Cadtrak continues to demand royalties from the users of X Windows for using exclusive-or to write on the screen, which is covered by patent number 4,197,590.

The GNU system won't be terribly useful if it can't have X Windows. But that isn't the only essential system feature which is in danger. Emacs is threatened by IBM patent number 4,674,040 which covers "cut and paste between files" in a text editor. Many Emacs features are threatened by patent number 4,458,311, which covers "text and numeric processing on same screen." Patent 4,398,249 covering the general spreadsheet technique known as "natural order recalc" stops us from using it in GNU software.

There is little the FSF itself can do about these threats. Fighting just one patent in court would use up all our funds. So we have added a provision to version 2 of the GPL so that we can prohibit distribution of one of our programs in certain countries if it is covered by patents there. Most likely, one of those countries will be the United States.

Beyond that, we have joined the League for Programming Freedom, which is trying to get patents out of the software field. If you develop software for wide use, chances are you, too, will find you can't do your work without infringing these patents. Not to mention the thousands of other patents that apply to software. Doesn't it make sense for you to join the League for Programming Freedom?

Project Gutenberg

by Michael S. Hart, Director
Project Gutenberg National Clearinghouse for Machine Readable Texts

The purpose of Project Gutenberg is to encourage the creation and distribution of English language electronic texts. We prefer to get the texts in a pure ASCII format so they would be most easily converted to use in various hardware and software. An ASCII file will also be made available in various markup formats as it is used in various environments. However we accept files in any format, and will do our best to provide them in all.

We assist selecting hardware and software as well as in their installation and use. We also assist in scanning, spelling checkers, proofreading, etc. Our goal is to provide a collection of 10,000 of the most used books by the year 2001, and to reduce, and we do mean reduce, the effective costs to the user to a price of approximately one cent per book, plus the cost of media and of shipping and handling. Thus we hope the entire cost of libraries of this kind will be about $100 plus the price of the disks, CDROMs and mailing. Currently the price of making CDROMs is said to be about $500 for mastering plus $2 per copy. I have it on fairly good authority that these prices are negotiable.

To create such a library would take less than one out of ten of a conservatively estimated 100,000 libraries in the U.S. alone: if each created one full text. If all the libraries co-operated, it would be less than 10% of a volume per library. If there were 10 members of each library creating electronic texts, then each member only has to do 1% of a single book to create a truly public library of 10,000 books which would each be usable on the 100 million computers available today.

So far most electronic text work has been carried out by private, semi-private or incorporated individuals, with several library or college collections being created, but being made mostly from works entered by individuals on their own time and expense. This labor has largely been either one of love, or one made by those who see future libraries as computer searchable collections which can be transmitted via disks, phone lines or other media at a fraction of the cost in money, time and paper as in present day paper media. These electronic books will not have to be rebound, reprinted, reshelved, etc. They will not have to be reserved or restricted to use by one patron at a time. All materials will be available to all patrons from all locations.

The use of this type of library will benefit even more greatly in the presence of librarians, as the amount of information shall be so much greater than that available in present day libraries that the patron will benefit even more greatly than today in their pursuit of knowledge.

So, we call on all interested parties to get involved with the creation and distribution of electronic texts, whether it's a commitment to typing, scanning, proofreading, collecting, or whatever you prefer.

Please do not hesitate to send any e-texts you might find to this address. If you prefer sending disks, a mailing address follows.

Michael S. Hart,
405 West Elm St.,
Urbana, Il  61801
Please include a SASLE and/or donation.

The easiest way for you to find out about Project Gutenberg is to subscribe via the Gutnberg listserver. To do this send the following message to listserv@uiucvmd.bitnet:

SUB GUTNBERG YOUR NAME        (Your name must have at least two words)

Please don't hesitate to ask for specific information so it is included in the Gutnberg mailings. Please send these question messages separately from your subscription message.

Bitnet: hart@uiucvmd 		Internet:

(The Gutenberg server is at gutnberg@uiucvmd.bitnet. (Note spelling.) The Internet address is server only recognizes subscription commands, others are routed to me.)

We hope to be thanking you soon for your participation.

GNU Project Status Report

GNU in Japan

Mieko,, & Nobuyuki Hikichi,, continue to work on the GNU Project in Japan. They translate GNU information, write columns, request donations, and consult with people about GNU. Recently they translated version one of the GNU General Public License into Japanese. They are now looking for a lawyer to volunteer to review their translation of the new GNU Library General Public License.

Many groups in Japan are redistributing GNU software, including JUG (a PC user group), Nikkei Business Publications and ASCII (publishers), Fujitsu FM Towns, and the Japan Unix Society. Anonymous UUCP is also now available in Japan. Contact for more information.

GNU Wish List

Wishes for this issue are for:

Help Keep Government Software Free

by Richard Stallman

For 200 years, the US copyright system has placed everything written by the federal government in the public domain. This makes sense: we have all paid for it, so we should all own it.

Now there is a move to change this. If it succeeds, quite a lot of software that would be free today will be sold instead. We will pay to develop the software, and then we'll have to pay again to use it. And the GNU system won't be able to use it, since it won't be free.

We think this is scandalous. If you agree, please help prevent it, by writing to Congress:

House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property
2137 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515

GNU Software Available Now

We offer Unix software source distribution tapes in tar format, including the special cartridge tapes used by HP/UX and IBM RS/6000 systems (an Emacs binary is on the RS/6000 tape). We also offer VMS tapes for GNU Emacs and GNU C that include sources and VMS executables.

See the order form inside the back cover for details about media, etc. Note that the contents of the 1600bpi 9-track tapes and cartridge tapes for Unix systems are the same. Only the media are different.

Contents of the Emacs Tape

The software on this release tape is considered fairly stable, but as always, we welcome your bug reports.

Contents of the Compiler Tape

The programs on this tape are becoming stable. As always, we solicit your comments and bug reports. This tape used to be known as the "Pre-Release" or "Beta Test" tape.

Contents of the X11 Tapes

The two X11 tapes contain Version 11, Release 4 of the MIT X window system. The first FSF tape contains the contents of both tape one and tape two from the MIT X Consortium: the core software and documentation, and the contributed clients. FSF refers to its first tape as the `required' X tape since it is necessary for running X or GNU Emacs under X. (The Consortium refers to its first two tapes as the `required/recommended' tapes.)

The second, `optional,' FSF tape contains the contents of tapes three and four from the MIT X Consortium: contributed libraries and other toolkits, the Andrew software, games, etc. (The Consortium refers to its last two tapes as `optional' tapes.)

VMS Emacs and Compiler Tapes

We offer a VMS tape of the GNU Emacs editor, and a separate VMS tape containing the GNU C compiler. The VMS compiler tape also contains Bison (needed to compile GCC), GAS (needed to assemble GCC's output), and some library and include files. Both VMS tapes include executables from which you can bootstrap, because the DEC VMS C compiler has bugs and cannot compile GCC.

Please do not ask us to devote effort to additional VMS support, because it is peripheral to the GNU Project.

GNU Documentation

GNU manuals are intended to explain the underlying concepts, describe how to use all the features of each program, and give examples of command use. These manuals, provided with our software, are also available in hardcopy; see the order form inside the back cover.

GNU documentation is distributed as Texinfo source files, which yield both typeset hardcopy and on-line presentation via the menu-driven Info system. The Texinfo Manual explains the markup language used to do these. It tells you how to make tables, lists, chapters, nodes, indices, and cross references, and how to use Texinfo mode in GNU Emacs and catch mistakes.

The GDB Manual explains how to use the GNU Debugger. It describes running your program under debugger control, how to examine and alter data as well as modify the flow of control within the program, and how to use GDB through GNU Emacs, with auto-display of source lines.

The Emacs Manual describes the use of GNU Emacs. It also explains advanced features, such as outline mode and regular expression search. The manual details special modes for programming in languages such as C and Lisp, how to use the tags utility, how to compile and correct code, and how to make your own keybindings and other elementary customizations.

The Emacs Lisp Reference Manual covers the GNU Emacs Lisp programming language in great depth. It goes into data types, control structures, functions, macros, byte compilation, keymaps, windows, markers, searching and matching, modes, syntax tables, and operating system interface, etc.

The Termcap Manual, often described as "Twice as much as you ever wanted to know about Termcap," details the format of the Termcap database, the definitions of terminal capabilities, and the process of interrogating a terminal description. This manual is primarily for programmers.

The Bison Manual teaches how to write grammars that convert into C coded parsers. You need no prior knowledge of parser generators. The concepts are described along with a series of increasingly complex examples.

The GAWK Manual describes how to use the GNU implementation of AWK. It is written for someone who has never used AWK, and describes all the features of this powerful string manipulation language.

The Make Manual describes GNU Make, a program used to rebuild parts of other programs when and as needed. The manual covers makefile writing, which specifies how a program is to be compiled and its dependencies.

How to Get GNU Software

All the software and publications from the Free Software Foundation are distributed with permission to copy and redistribute. The easiest way to get GNU software is to copy it from someone else who has it.

If you have Internet access, you can get the latest software via anonymous FTP from the host (the IP address is Get file `/pub/gnu/GETTING.GNU.SOFTWARE' for more information.

If you cannot get the software one of these ways, or if you would like to contribute some funds to our efforts and receive the latest versions, we distribute tapes for a copying and distribution fee. See the order form below.

There are also third party groups that distribute our software: they do not work with us, but have our software in other forms. For your convenience, we list some of them here (also see "Free Software for Microcomputers" below). Please note that the Free Software Foundation is not affiliated with them in any way, and is not responsible for either the currency of their versions or the swiftness of their responses.

These TCP/IP Internet sites provide GNU software via anonymous ftp (use your ftp program, user name: anonymous, password: your name): (under `PD:<Unix.GNU>'),,,,,,,,,, (VMS G++), (VMS GNU Emacs),,,,,,, and

Those on the SPAN network can ask rdss::corbet.

Information on how to obtain some GNU programs using UUCP is available via electronic mail from the following people. Ohio State also posts their UUCP instructions regularly to newsgroup comp.sources.d on USENET.

hao!scicom!qetzal!upba!ugn!nepa!denny, uunet!hutch!barber,
acornrc!bob, hqda-ai!merlin,,,,
and (or osu-cis!karl).

Free Software for Microcomputers

We do not provide support for GNU Software on microcomputers because it is peripheral to the GNU Project. However, we are willing to publish information about groups who do so. If you are aware of any such efforts, please send the details, including archive sites and mailing lists, to or the postal address on the front cover.

Thank GNUs

Thanks to all those mentioned above in "GNUs Flashes", the "GNU Project Status Report" and "GNU Software Available Now".

Thanks to Mr. Ken'ichi Handa for his donation from the Motooka prize. He won the prize coordinating the development of Nemacs, the Japanese version of GNU Emacs. He used the rest of the prize to throw a thank-you party for all the Nemacs volunteers.

Thanks to Julie Sussman for major work on the BASH manual (not yet released), and to Chet Ramey for his continuing work on improving BASH.

Thanks to the anonymous GNU users in Japan for their gifts.

Thanks to ASCII Corporation and Village Center Inc both of Japan for their donations.

Thanks to an anonymous donor for the gift of 5 IBM RT computers.

Thanks to Munin Technologies for their donation of a VAX-11/750 and other DEC equipment.

Thanks to Clement Moritz for donating two reel to reel tape drives.

Thanks to Cygnus Support for continuing to improve various programs and for hosting Joseph Arceneaux, as well as other FSF staff.

Thanks to the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Laboratory for Computer Science at MIT for their invaluable assistance of many kinds.

Thanks to Devon McCullough for technical assistance, to Carol Botteron for proofreading and other assistance, and to Mieko and Nobuyuki Hikichi for their invaluable help raising both funds and consciousness in Japan.

Thanks go out to all those who have either lent or donated machines, including Hewlett-Packard for six 68030 workstations, two 80486 computers, and four Spectrum workstations, Brewster Kahle of Thinking Machines Corp. for the Sun 4/110, K. Richard Pixley for the AT&T Unix PC, Doug Blewett of AT&T Bell Labs for two Convergent Miniframes, CMU's Mach Project for the Sun 3/60, Intel Corp. for their 386 machine, NeXT for their workstation, the MIT Media Laboratory for the Hewlett-Packard 68020 machine, SONY Corp. and Software Research Associates, Inc., both of Tokyo, for three SONY News workstations, IBM Corp. for an RS/6000 computer, the MIT Laboratory of Computer Science for the DEC Microvax, the Open Software Foundation for the Compaq 386, and Delta Microsystems for an Exabyte tape drive.

Thanks to all those who have contributed ports and extensions, as well as those who have contributed other source code, documentation, and good bug reports. Thanks to those who sent money and offered help. Thanks also to those who support us by ordering manuals and distribution tapes.

The creation of this bulletin is our way of thanking all who have expressed interest in what we are doing.

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