GNU discussion (was re:Free your phone)

Dave Crossland dave at
Thu Jan 25 12:56:20 CET 2007

On 24/01/07, Gabriel Ambuehl <gabriel_ambuehl at> wrote:
> On Wednesday 24 January 2007 17:15, Dave Crossland wrote:
> > I feel it is misleading to describe code distributed in the 1960s and
> > 70s as 'free software' - because software freedom was not recognised
> > or enshrined.
> Ok, now that's just being ridiculous.
> > It would be like labelling early farmers as organic.
> Which they very clearly were.


Free software existed before GNU, for sure. For example there is one
piece of pre-GNU free software, TeX, that is still used in the
GNU/Linux system today.

The MIT AI lab practiced the free software way of life in the 60s and
70s, and that's what directly inspired the free software movement. But
the basic idea of the movement - that software must be free in order
to respect the user's freedom - was new. People had written free
software before that, but they did not make it a political issue
before that.

In much the same way, people had farmed organically before, but they
did not make it a political issue before, like today's organic farmers
do. So to call early farmers 'organic' is misleading, because it
implies they held a political stance in a situation that just didn't
exist yet.


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