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<title>15 Years of Free Software
- GNU Project - Free Software Foundation</title>
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<h2>15 Years of Free Software</h2>

  by <strong>Richard M. Stallman</strong>

<address class="byline">by Richard Stallman</address>

  It is now just over 15 years since the beginning of the Free
  Software Movement and the GNU Project. We have come a long way.

  In 1984, it was impossible to use a modern computer without
  installing a proprietary operating system, which you would have to
  obtain under a restrictive license. No one was allowed to share
  software freely with fellow computer users, and hardly anyone could
  change software to fit his or her own needs. The owners of software
  had erected walls to divide us from each other.

  The GNU Project was founded to change all that. Its first goal: to
  develop a Unix-compatible portable operating system that would be
  100% free software. Not 95% free, not 99.5%, but 100%—so that
  users would be free to redistribute the whole system, and free to
  change and contribute to any part of it. The name of the system,
  GNU, is a recursive acronym meaning “GNU's Not
  Unix”—a way of paying tribute to the technical ideas of
  Unix, while at the same
  time saying that GNU is something different. Technically, GNU is
  like Unix. But unlike Unix, GNU gives its users freedom.

  It took many years of work, by hundreds of programmers, to develop
  this operating system. Some were paid by the Free Software
  Foundation and by free software companies; most were volunteers. A
  few have become famous; most are known mainly within their
  profession, by other hackers who use or work on their code. All
  together have helped to liberate the potential of the computer
  network for all humanity.

  In 1991, the last major essential component of a Unix-like system
  was developed: Linux, the free kernel written by Linus
  Torvalds. Today, the combination of GNU and Linux is used by
  millions of people around the world, and its popularity is
  growing. This month, we announced release 1.0 of 
  <abbr title="GNU Network Object Model Environment">GNOME</abbr>, 
  the GNU graphical desktop, which we hope will make the GNU/Linux
  system as easy to use as any other operating system.

  But our freedom is not permanently assured. The world does not stand
  still, and we cannot count on having freedom five years from now,
  just because we have it today. Free software faces difficult
  challenges and dangers. It will take determined efforts to preserve
  our freedom, just as it took to obtain freedom in the first
  place. Meanwhile, the operating system is just the
  beginning—now we need to add free applications to handle the
  whole range of jobs that users want to do.

  In future columns, I will be writing about the specific challenges
  facing the free software community, and other issues affecting
  freedom for computer users, as well as developments affecting the
  GNU/Linux operating system.

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<p>Copyright © 1999, 2014, 2020 2021 Richard M. Stallman</p>

<p>This page is licensed under a <a rel="license"
Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License</a>.</p>

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<p class="unprintable">Updated:
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$Date: 2021/09/14 17:07:14 $
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