June 22, 2005

Fifty years of sharing open source

Author: Tina Gasperson

Through its Academic Initiative, IBM is sharpening its focus on providing learning tools for college students interested in open standards and open source software on IBM products. But a volunteer-led group called SHARE has been working to teach open source methods to those already in the business world.SHARE has been around since 1955, shortly after IBM released its first computer, the 701 EDPM. With a subsequent release, the 704, a group of interested IT professionals decided to band together to "share" ideas about how best to install and implement this exciting new tool in what may have been the very first user group.

This eager collection of 704 users was living the open source paradigm when ESR was still just a twinkle in his daddy's eye. From the minutes of the first SHARE meeting on August 4, 1955:

...almost all professed themselves as quite willing to accept the ideas of others, even to the extent of obsoleting things already done within their installations. It was unanimously agreed that a full-scale attempt should be made to bring SHARE into being. In spite of such short notice, almost all potential 704 installations throughout the country responded with alacrity. All expressed a desire to participate and attendance at the first meeting was gratifyingly large.

Bob Rosen, current president of SHARE, agrees that his organization was doing open source before it became an institution. "We've been in the open source business since before there was anything open source." Right from the beginning, the group has been trading code and sharing modifications.

Today, Rosen sees a huge shift across the enterprise to open standards and open code.
"We've been with IBM for over 50 years and we've tracked a lot of initiatives," he says. "There's a larger and larger percentage of the market saying that open source is no longer Tinkertoys for the long-haired friends. It's become more mainstream and it flows into the enterprise. It is an area that the enterprise needs to address."

At SHARE's upcoming User Events conference in Boston on August 21-26, there are more than 70 sessions related in some way to the use of Linux, Rosen says, and the sessions are filling up already. "Even Jon Hall is speaking at the conference, about the philosophy of open source."

SHARE's relationship with IBM is a synergistic one, Rosen says. "IBM is looking at fresh blood" with its Academic Initiative, and SHARE is educating the existing IT professional and making sure they know what they need to know to bring open source along in the enterprise. "We've got to get people educated in open source."

Rosen is committed to the future of open source software. "I believe that in the next 10 years the proprietary operating system is going to fade away. Software like that is becoming a commodity, and IT companies are going to move to a more service-oriented environment. With SHARE, you get the kind of information that saves you from going down the fruitless road and making a big mistake. That's really important."

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