April 28, 2015

Unix and Personal Computers: Reinterpreting the Origins of Linux

A couple of weeks ago, I made the case that, in the early days of Linux, most of the momentum behind the open source operating system revolved around building a Unix-like system that could run on personal computers and would be free, as in cost no money. The enthusiasm about freely shared code came later. Today, I'd like to extend that argument further, focusing on changes in the commercial atmosphere surrounding Unix and personal computers in the 1980s and early 1990s.

First, though, let me make clear thatâdespite what some uncharitable readers seem to think judging from their comments about my earlier postâI'm not out to denounce Linux or free software, or to make Linus Torvalds out to be a penny-pinching poser. Far from it: I love Linux and open source (and, although I've never met Torvalds, he seems like a really great guy), so much so that controlling for my bias in their favor is one of my biggest challenges as I research a book about the history of free and open source software.

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