Richard Stallman

Richard Matthew Stallman (/ˈstɔːlmən/; born March 16, 1953), often known by his initials, RMS,[1] is an American free software movement activist and programmer. He campaigns for software to be distributed in a manner such that its users receive the freedoms to use, study, distribute and modify that software. Software that ensures these freedoms is termed free software. Stallman launched the GNU Project, founded the Free Software Foundation, developed the GNU Compiler Collection and GNU Emacs, and wrote the GNU General Public License.

Stallman launched the GNU Project in September 1983 to create a Unix-like computer operating system composed entirely of free software.[2] With this, he also launched the free software movement. He has been the GNU project's lead architect and organizer, and developed a number of pieces of widely used GNU software including, among others, the GNU Compiler Collection,[3] the GNU Debugger[4] and the GNU Emacs text editor.[5] In October 1985[6] he founded the Free Software Foundation.

Stallman pioneered the concept of copyleft, which uses the principles of copyright law to preserve the right to use, modify and distribute free software, and is the main author of free software licenses which describe those terms, most notably the GNU General Public License (GPL), the most widely used free software license.[7]

In 1989, he co-founded the League for Programming Freedom. Since the mid-1990s, Stallman had spent most of his time advocating for free software, as well as campaigning against software patents, digital rights management (which he referred to as digital restrictions management, calling the more common term misleading), and other legal and technical systems which he sees as taking away users' freedoms. This has included software license agreements, non-disclosure agreements, activation keys, dongles, copy restriction, proprietary formats and binary executables without source code.

Richard Stallman
Richard Stallman - Fête de l'Humanité 2014 - 010
Stallman in 2014
Richard Matthew Stallman

March 16, 1953 (age 66)
ResidenceCambridge, Massachusetts, US
Other namesRMS
Alma mater
  • Activist
  • programmer
Known for
TitlePresident of the Free Software Foundation

Early life

Stallman was born March 16, 1953, in New York City, to a family of Jewish heritage, though Stallman is an atheist.[8] His parents are Alice Lippman, a school teacher, and Daniel Stallman, a printing press broker. Stallman had a difficult relationship with his parents, as his father had a drinking habit and verbally abused his stepmother. He later came to describe his parents as "tyrants".[9] He was interested in computers at a young age; when Stallman was a pre-teen at a summer camp, he read manuals for the IBM 7094.[10] From 1967 to 1969, Stallman attended a Columbia University Saturday program for high school students.[10] Stallman was also a volunteer laboratory assistant in the biology department at Rockefeller University. Although he was interested in mathematics and physics, his teaching professor at Rockefeller thought he showed promise as a biologist.[11]

His first experience with actual computers was at the IBM New York Scientific Center when he was in high school. He was hired for the summer in 1970, following his senior year of high school, to write a numerical analysis program in Fortran.[10] He completed the task after a couple of weeks ("I swore that I would never use FORTRAN again because I despised it as a language compared with other languages") and spent the rest of the summer writing a text editor in APL[12] and a preprocessor for the PL/I programming language on the IBM System/360.[13]

Harvard University and MIT

As a first-year student at Harvard University in fall 1970, Stallman was known for his strong performance in Math 55.[14] He was happy: "For the first time in my life, I felt I had found a home at Harvard."[10]

In 1971, near the end of his first year at Harvard, he became a programmer at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and became a regular in the hacker community, where he was usually known by his initials, RMS (which he used in his computer accounts).[1][15] Stallman received a bachelor's degree in physics (magna cum laude) from Harvard in 1974.[16]

Stallman considered staying on at Harvard, but instead he decided to enroll as a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He pursued a doctorate in physics for one year, but left that program to focus on his programming at the MIT AI Laboratory.[10][13]

While working (starting in 1975) as a research assistant at MIT under Gerry Sussman,[13] Stallman published a paper (with Sussman) in 1977 on an AI truth maintenance system, called dependency-directed backtracking.[17] This paper was an early work on the problem of intelligent backtracking in constraint satisfaction problems. As of 2009, the technique Stallman and Sussman introduced is still the most general and powerful form of intelligent backtracking.[18] The technique of constraint recording, wherein partial results of a search are recorded for later reuse, was also introduced in this paper.[18]

As a hacker in MIT's AI laboratory, Stallman worked on software projects such as TECO, Emacs for ITS, and the Lisp machine operating system (the CONS of 1974–1976 and the CADR of 1977–1979—this latter unit was commercialized by Symbolics and LMI starting around 1980).[15] He would become an ardent critic of restricted computer access in the lab, which at that time was funded primarily by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). When MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) installed a password control system in 1977, Stallman found a way to decrypt the passwords and sent users messages containing their decoded password, with a suggestion to change it to the empty string (that is, no password) instead, to re-enable anonymous access to the systems. Around 20 percent of the users followed his advice at the time, although passwords ultimately prevailed. Stallman boasted of the success of his campaign for many years afterward.[19]

Events leading to GNU

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the hacker culture that Stallman thrived on began to fragment. To prevent software from being used on their competitors' computers, most manufacturers stopped distributing source code and began using copyright and restrictive software licenses to limit or prohibit copying and redistribution. Such proprietary software had existed before, and it became apparent that it would become the norm. This shift in the legal characteristics of software was a consequence triggered by the US Copyright Act of 1976.[20]

When Brian Reid in 1979 placed time bombs in the Scribe markup language and word processing system to restrict unlicensed access to the software, Stallman proclaimed it "a crime against humanity".[13] During an interview in 2008, he clarified that it is blocking the user's freedom that he believes is a crime, not the issue of charging for software.[21] Stallman's texinfo is a GPL replacement, loosely based on Scribe;[22] the original version was finished in 1986.[23]

In 1980, Stallman and some other hackers at the AI Lab were refused access to the source code for the software of a newly installed laser printer, the Xerox 9700. Stallman had modified the software for the Lab's previous laser printer (the XGP, Xerographic Printer), so it electronically messaged a user when the person's job was printed, and would message all logged-in users waiting for print jobs if the printer was jammed. Not being able to add these features to the new printer was a major inconvenience, as the printer was on a different floor from most of the users. This experience convinced Stallman of people's need to be able to freely modify the software they use.[24]

Richard Greenblatt, a fellow AI Lab hacker, founded Lisp Machines, Inc. (LMI) to market Lisp machines, which he and Tom Knight designed at the lab. Greenblatt rejected outside investment, believing that the proceeds from the construction and sale of a few machines could be profitably reinvested in the growth of the company. In contrast, the other hackers felt that the venture capital-funded approach was better. As no agreement could be reached, hackers from the latter camp founded Symbolics, with the aid of Russ Noftsker, an AI Lab administrator. Symbolics recruited most of the remaining hackers including notable hacker Bill Gosper, who then left the AI Lab. Symbolics also forced Greenblatt to resign by citing MIT policies. While both companies delivered proprietary software, Stallman believed that LMI, unlike Symbolics, had tried to avoid hurting the lab's community. For two years, from 1982 to the end of 1983, Stallman worked by himself to clone the output of the Symbolics programmers, with the aim of preventing them from gaining a monopoly on the lab's computers.[19]

Stallman argues that software users should have the freedom to share with their neighbors and be able to study and make changes to the software that they use. He maintains that attempts by proprietary software vendors to prohibit these acts are antisocial and unethical.[25] The phrase "software wants to be free" is often incorrectly attributed to him, and Stallman argues that this is a misstatement of his philosophy.[26] He argues that freedom is vital for the sake of users and society as a moral value, and not merely for pragmatic reasons such as possibly developing technically superior software.[27] Eric S. Raymond, one of the creators of the open-source movement,[28] argues that moral arguments, rather than pragmatic ones, alienate potential allies and hurt the end goal of removing code secrecy.[29]

In February 1984, Stallman quit his job at MIT to work full-time on the GNU project, which he had announced in September 1983. Since then, he has remained affiliated with MIT as an unpaid[30] visiting scientist in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.[31] Until "around 1998", he maintained an office at the Institute that doubled as his legal residence.[32]

GNU project

Stallman announced the plan for the GNU operating system in September 1983 on several ARPANET mailing lists and USENET.[33] He started the project on his own and describes: "As an operating system developer, I had the right skills for this job. So even though I could not take success for granted, I realized that I was elected to do the job. I chose to make the system compatible with Unix so that it would be portable, and so that Unix users could easily switch to it."[34]

Richard Stallman 00
Stallman in 2003 at the opening ceremony of NIXAL (a GLUG) at Netaji Subhash Engineering College, Calcutta, India

In 1985, Stallman published the GNU Manifesto, which outlined his motivation for creating a free operating system called GNU, which would be compatible with Unix.[15] The name GNU is a recursive acronym for "GNU's Not Unix".[15] Soon after, he started a nonprofit corporation called the Free Software Foundation to employ free software programmers and provide a legal infrastructure for the free software movement. Stallman is the nonsalaried president of the FSF, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in Massachusetts.[35] Stallman popularized the concept of copyleft, a legal mechanism to protect the modification and redistribution rights for free software. It was first implemented in the GNU Emacs General Public License, and in 1989 the first program-independent GNU General Public License (GPL) was released. By then, much of the GNU system had been completed.

Stallman was responsible for contributing many necessary tools, including a text editor (Emacs), compiler (GCC), debugger (GNU Debugger), and a build automator (GNU make). The notable omission was a kernel. In 1990, members of the GNU project began using Carnegie Mellon's Mach microkernel in a project called GNU Hurd, which has yet to achieve the maturity level required for full POSIX compliance.

In 1991, Linus Torvalds, a Finnish student, used the GNU's development tools to produce the free monolithic Linux kernel. The existing programs from the GNU project were readily ported to run on the resultant platform. Most sources use the name Linux to refer to the general-purpose operating system thus formed, while Stallman and the FSF call it GNU/Linux. This has been a longstanding naming controversy in the free software community. Stallman argues that not using GNU in the name of the operating system unfairly disparages the value of the GNU project and harms the sustainability of the free software movement by breaking the link between the software and the free software philosophy of the GNU project.

Richard Matthew Stallman.jpeg
Cover picture for O'Reilly Media's book Free as in Freedom

Stallman's influences on hacker culture include the name POSIX[36] and the Emacs editor. On Unix systems, GNU Emacs's popularity rivaled that of another editor vi, spawning an editor war. Stallman's take on this was to canonize himself as St. IGNUcius of the Church of Emacs[37][38] and acknowledge that "vi vi vi is the editor of the beast", while "using a free version of vi is not a sin; it is a penance".[39] On his homepage Stallman explains what a life in the Church of Emacs means to its members: "Sainthood in the Church of Emacs requires living a life of purity—but in the Church of Emacs, this does not require celibacy (a sigh of relief is heard)".[38]

In 1992, developers at Lucid Inc. doing their own work on Emacs clashed with Stallman and ultimately forked the software into what would become XEmacs.[40] The technology journalist Andrew Leonard has characterized what he sees as Stallman's uncompromising stubbornness as common among elite computer programmers:

There's something comforting about Stallman's intransigence. Win or lose, Stallman will never give up. He'll be the stubbornest mule on the farm until the day he dies. Call it fixity of purpose, or just plain cussedness, his single-minded commitment and brutal honesty are refreshing in a world of spin-meisters and multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns.[41]


Stallman has written many essays on software freedom, and has been an outspoken political campaigner for the free software movement since the early 1990s.[15] The speeches he has regularly given are titled The GNU Project and the Free Software Movement,[42] The Dangers of Software Patents,[43] and Copyright and Community in the Age of Computer Networks.[44] In 2006 and 2007, during the eighteen month public consultation for the drafting of version 3 of the GNU General Public License, he added a fourth topic explaining the proposed changes.[45]

Linus Torvalds has criticized Stallman for what he considers "black-and-white thinking".[46]

Stallman's staunch advocacy for free software inspired the creation of the Virtual Richard M. Stallman (vrms), software that analyzes the packages currently installed on a Debian GNU/Linux system, and reports those that are from the non-free tree.[47] Stallman disagrees with parts of Debian's definition of free software.[48]

In 1999, Stallman called for development of a free online encyclopedia through the means of inviting the public to contribute articles.[49] The resulting GNUPedia was eventually retired in favour of the emerging Wikipedia, which had similar aims and was enjoying greater success.[50]

Stallman is a world traveler and has visited at least 65 countries, mostly to speak about free software and the GNU project.[51] According to Stallman, the free software movement has much in common with that of Mahatma Gandhi.[52] Stallman is also highly critical of the effect that drug patents have had on developing countries.[53][54]

NicoBZH - Richard Stallman (by-sa) (10)
Stallman giving a speech on "Free Software and Your Freedom" at the biennale du design of Saint-Étienne (2008)

In Venezuela, Stallman has delivered public speeches and promoted the adoption of free software in the state's oil company (PDVSA), in municipal government, and in the nation's military. In meetings with Hugo Chávez and in public speeches, Stallman criticised some policies on television broadcasting, free speech rights, and privacy.[55][56] Stallman was on the Advisory Council of Latin American television station teleSUR from its launch[57] but resigned in February 2011, criticizing pro-Gaddafi propaganda during the Arab Spring.[58]

In August 2006, at his meetings with the government of the Indian State of Kerala, he persuaded officials to discard proprietary software, such as Microsoft's, at state-run schools. This has resulted in a landmark decision to switch all school computers in 12,500 high schools from Windows to a free software operating system.[59]

After personal meetings, Stallman obtained positive statements about the free software movement from the then-president of India, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam,[60] French 2007 presidential candidate Ségolène Royal,[61] and the president of Ecuador Rafael Correa.[62]

On November 30, 2012, Stallman gave the opening lecture at the Goiano Free Software Forum in Brazil, talking about successful cases of switching to free software in government, business and at universities.[63]

Stallman has participated in protests about software patents,[64] digital rights management,[65][66] and proprietary software.

Protesting against proprietary software in April 2006, Stallman held a "Don't buy from ATI, enemy of your freedom" placard at a speech by an ATI representative in the building where Stallman worked, resulting in the police being called.[67] ATI has since merged with AMD Corporation and has taken steps to make their hardware documentation available for use by the free software community.[68]

In response to Apple's Macintosh look and feel lawsuits against Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard in 1988, Stallman called for a boycott of Apple products on the grounds that a successful look-and-feel lawsuit would "put an end to free software that could substitute for commercial software".[69] The boycott was lifted in 1995, which meant the FSF started to accept patches to GNU software for Apple operating systems.[70]

Richard Matthew Stallman working on his Lemote Machine
Stallman using his Lemote machine at Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai

Stallman has characterized Steve Jobs as having a "malign influence" on computing because of Jobs' leadership in guiding Apple to produce closed platforms.[71][72] In 1993, while Jobs was at NeXT, Jobs asked Stallman if he could distribute a modified GCC in two parts, one part under GPL and the other part, an Objective-C preprocessor under a proprietary license. Stallman initially thought this would be legal, but since he also thought it would be "very undesirable for free software", he asked a lawyer for advice. The response he got was that judges would consider such schemes to be "subterfuges" and would be very harsh toward them, and a judge would ask whether it was "really" one program, rather than how the parts were labeled. Therefore, Stallman sent a message back to Jobs which said they believed Jobs' plan was not allowed by the GPL, which resulted in NeXT releasing the Objective-C front end under GPL.[73]

Commenting on Jobs' death, he said, "As Chicago Mayor Harold Washington said of the corrupt former Mayor Daley, 'I'm not glad he's dead, but I'm glad he's gone.'"[72]

Stallman's remark stirred up accusations of being in bad taste, while Eric S. Raymond, author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar, observed that Stallman's statement was not personal, but was simply criticizing walled gardens.[71]

For a period of time, Stallman used a notebook from the One Laptop per Child program. Stallman's computer is a refurbished ThinkPad T400s with Libreboot, a free BIOS replacement, and the GNU/Linux distribution Trisquel.[74] Before the ThinkPad T400s, Stallman used a Thinkpad X60 with Libreboot and Trisquel GNU/Linux.[75] And before the X60, Stallman used the Lemote Yeeloong netbook (using the same company's Loongson processor) which he chose because, like the X60 and the T400s, it could run with free software at the BIOS level, stating "freedom is my priority. I've campaigned for freedom since 1983, and I am not going to surrender that freedom for the sake of a more convenient computer."[76] Stallman's Lemote was stolen from him in 2012 while in Argentina.[77] Before Trisquel, Stallman has used the gNewSense operating system.[78][79]

Copyright reduction

Stallman has regularly given a talk entitled "Copyright vs. Community" where he reviews the state of digital rights management (DRM) and names many of the products and corporations which he boycotts. His approach to DRM is best summed up by the FSF Defective by Design campaign. In the talks, he makes proposals for a "reduced copyright" and suggests a 10-year limit on copyright. He suggests that, instead of restrictions on sharing, authors be supported using a tax, with revenues distributed among them based on cubic roots of their popularity to ensure that "fairly successful non-stars" receive a greater share than they do now (compare with private copying levy which is associated with proponents of strong copyright), or a convenient anonymous micropayment system for people to support authors directly. He indicates that no form of non-commercial sharing of copies should be considered a copyright violation.[80][81] He has advocated civil disobedience in a comment on Ley Sinde.[81][82]

Stallman has also helped and supported the International Music Score Library Project in getting back online, after it had been taken down on October 19, 2007, following a cease and desist letter from Universal Edition.[83]

Richard M Stallman Swathanthra 2014 kerala
Stallman at Swatantra 2014, a conference organized by ICFOSS in Kerala, India

Stallman mentions the dangers some e-books bring compared to paper books, with the example of the Amazon Kindle e-reader that prevents the copying of e-books and allows Amazon to order automatic deletion of a book. He says that such e-books present a big step backward with respect to paper books by being less easy to use, copy, lend to others or sell, also mentioning that Amazon e-books cannot be bought anonymously. His short story "The Right to Read" provides a picture of a dystopian future if the right to share books is impeded. He objects to many of the terms within typical end-user license agreements that accompany e-books.[81][83][84]

Stallman discourages the use of several storage technologies such as DVD or Blu-ray video discs because the content of such media is encrypted. He considers manufacturers' use of encryption on non-secret data (to force the user to view certain promotional material) as a conspiracy.[85]

He recognized the Sony BMG copy protection rootkit scandal to be a criminal act by Sony. Stallman supports a general boycott of Sony for its legal actions against George Hotz.[86]

Stallman has suggested that the United States government may encourage the use of software as a service because this would allow them to access users' data without needing a search warrant.[87][88][89][90]

He denies being an anarchist despite his wariness of some legislation and the fact that he has "advocated strongly for user privacy and his own view of software freedom".[91]

Surveillance resistance

Stallman professes admiration for whistleblowers Julian Assange[92] and Edward Snowden;[93] he advocates for Snowden in a prefix at the beginning of each of his emails, which can be found in several mailing lists, after Snowden leaked the PRISM scandal in 2013: "To any NSA and FBI agents reading my email: please consider whether defending the US Constitution against all enemies, foreign or domestic, requires you to follow Snowden's example."


Richard Stallman by gisleh 01
Stallman in costume as St. IGNUcius (Monastir, Tunisia, 2012)

Stallman places great importance on the words and labels people use to talk about the world, including the relationship between software and freedom. He asks people to say free software and GNU/Linux, and to avoid the terms intellectual property and piracy (in relation to copyright). One of his criteria for giving an interview to a journalist is that the journalist agree to use his terminology throughout the article.[94] He has been known to turn down speaking requests over some terminology issues.[95]

Stallman argues that the term intellectual property is designed to confuse people, and is used to prevent intelligent discussion on the specifics of copyright, patent, trademark, and other laws by lumping together areas of law that are more dissimilar than similar.[96] He also argues that by referring to these laws as property laws, the term biases the discussion when thinking about how to treat these issues, writing:

These laws originated separately, evolved differently, cover different activities, have different rules, and raise different public policy issues. Copyright law was designed to promote authorship and art, and covers the details of a work of authorship or art. Patent law was intended to encourage publication of ideas, at the price of finite monopolies over these ideas – a price that may be worth paying in some fields and not in others. Trademark law was not intended to promote any business activity, but simply to enable buyers to know what they are buying.[97]

An example of cautioning others to avoid other terminology while also offering suggestions for possible alternatives is this sentence of an e-mail by Stallman to a public mailing list:

I think it is ok for authors (please let's not call them creators, they are not gods) to ask for money for copies of their works (please let's not devalue these works by calling them content) in order to gain income (the term compensation falsely implies it is a matter of making up for some kind of damages).[98]


Open source for free software

His requests that people use certain terms, and his ongoing efforts to convince people of the importance of terminology, are a source of regular misunderstanding and friction with parts of the free software and open-source communities.

After initially accepting the concept,[99] Stallman rejects a common alternative term, open-source software, because it does not call to mind what Stallman sees as the value of the software: freedom.[100] He wrote, "Free software is a political movement; open source is a development model."[101] Thus, he believes that the use of the term will not inform people of the freedom issues, and will not lead to people valuing and defending their freedom.[102] Two alternatives which Stallman does accept are software libre and unfettered software, but free software is the term he asks people to use in English. For similar reasons, he argues for the term proprietary software rather than closed-source software, when referring to software that is not free software.

Linux for the GNU Project

Stallman asks that the term GNU/Linux, which he pronounces /ɡnuː slæʃ ˈlɪnəks/ GNOO SLASH LIN-əks, be used to refer to the operating system created by combining the GNU system and the kernel Linux. Stallman refers to this operating system as "a variant of GNU, and the GNU Project is its principal developer".[95] He claims that the connection between the GNU project's philosophy and its software is broken when people refer to the combination as merely Linux.[103] Starting around 2003, he began also using the term GNU+Linux, which he pronounces /ɡnuː plʌs ˈlɪnəks/ GNOO PLUS LIN-əks, to prevent others from pronouncing the phrase GNU/Linux as /ɡnuː ˈlɪnəks/ GNOO LIN-əks, which would erroneously imply that the kernel Linux is maintained by the GNU project.

Personal life

Stallman has said that he is "an atheist of Jewish ancestry"[8] and often wears a button that reads "Impeach God".[14][104]

Stallman refers to mobile phones as "portable surveillance and tracking devices",[105] refusing to own a cell phone due to the lack of phones running entirely on free software.[106] He also avoids using a key card to enter his office building[51] since key card systems track each location and time that someone enters the building using a card. According to Stallman, with the exception of a few sites, such as his own website or sites related to his work with GNU and the FSF, he usually does not browse the web directly from his personal computer in order to prevent being connected with his browsing history. Instead, he uses GNU Womb's grab-url-from-mail utility, which can run on a separate system, and act as an email-based proxy to web sites: the user sends an e-mail which the script receives, the remote system downloads the web page content, and then the script emails the user the web page content.[107][108] More recently he stated that he accesses all web sites via Tor, except for Wikipedia (which generally disallows editing from Tor).[109][110]

Stallman is openly childfree.[111] He has urged others to not have children, viewing it as objectionable for reasons centered on family tensions and overpopulation.[111] He argues that not having children better liberates people to find more productive ways to "make a positive contribution to the world".[111]

He speaks English, French, Spanish and some Indonesian.[32]

Stallman resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[32]

Honors and awards

Stallman has received recognition for his work, including:

Selected publications

  • Stallman, Richard M (1980). EMACS: The Extensible, Customizable, Self-Documenting Display Editor. Cambridge Massachusetts: MIT: MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory publication. AIM-519A.
  • Stallman, Richard M (2002). GNU Emacs Manual. Boston, Massachusetts: GNU Press. ISBN 1-882114-85-X.
  • Stallman, Richard M; McGrath, Roland; & Smith, Paul D (2004). GNU Make: A Program for Directed Compilation. Boston, Massachusetts: GNU Press. ISBN 1-882114-83-3.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
Selected essays

See also


  1. ^ a b Stallman, Richard (n.d.). "Humorous Bio". Richard Stallman's 1983 biography. First edition of "The Hacker's Dictionary". Retrieved November 20, 2008. 'Richard Stallman' is just my mundane name; you can call me 'rms'
  2. ^ Stallman, Richard (September 27, 1983). "Initial GNU announcement". Retrieved November 20, 2008.
  3. ^ "GCC Contributors".
  4. ^ "Richard Stallman lecture at the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden (October 30, 1986)". Retrieved September 21, 2006.
  5. ^ Bernard S. Greenberg. "Multics Emacs: The History, Design and Implementation".; "GNU Emacs FAQ".; Jamie Zawinski. "Emacs Timeline".
  6. ^ Stallman, Richard (March 7, 2011). "The Free Software Foundation Management". Free Software Foundation. Richard M. Stallman, President. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
  7. ^ Wheeler, David A. "Make Your Open Source Software GPL-Compatible. Or Else". Retrieved November 20, 2008.
  8. ^ a b "The Basement Interviews-Freeing the Code" (PDF). IA. March 21, 2006. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  9. ^ Matthew Hutson (November 1, 2016). "The Sorcerer's Code". Psychology Today. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d e Gross, Michael (1999). "Richard Stallman: High School Misfit, Symbol of Free Software, MacArthur-Certified Genius" (interview transcript). The More Things Change. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
  11. ^ Williams, Sam (2002). Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software. O'Reilly Media. ISBN 0-596-00287-4. Chapter 3. Available under the GFDL in both the initial O'Reilly edition (accessed on October 27, 2006) and the updated FAIFzilla edition. Retrieved October 27, 2006.
  12. ^ Stallman, Richard M. "RMS Berättar". Retrieved September 22, 2009.
  13. ^ a b c d Williams, Sam (2002). "Chapter 6 – The Emacs Commune". Free as in freedom : Richard Stallman's crusade for free software (2nd ed.). Beijing: O'Reilly. ISBN 0-596-00287-4.
  14. ^ a b Williams, Sam (2002). Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software. O'Reilly Media. ISBN 0-596-00287-4.
  15. ^ a b c d e Lih, Andrew (2009). The Wikipedia Revolution. New York City: Hyperion. ISBN 978-1-4013-0371-6. OCLC 232977686.
  16. ^ Stallman, Richard. "Serious Bio". Retrieved July 17, 2015.
  17. ^ Stallman, Richard M; Sussman, Gerald J (1977). "Forward Reasoning and Dependency-Directed Backtracking in a System for Computer-Aided Circuit analysis" (PDF). Artificial Intelligence 9. pp. 135–196.
  18. ^ a b Russell, Stuart; Norvig, Peter (2009). Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach (3rd ed.). p. 229.
  19. ^ a b Levy, S: Hackers. Penguin, 1984
  20. ^ Robert X. Cringely's interview with Brewster Kahle, around the 46th minute
  21. ^ "Richard Stallman, Live and Unplugged". Q: You once said "the prospect of charging money for software was a crime against humanity." Do you still believe this? A: Well, I was not distinguishing the two meanings of free.
  22. ^ "Texinfo – GNU Documentation System – GNU Project – Free Software Foundation (FSF)". February 19, 2015. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  23. ^ Gnu Status, by Richard M. Stallman. 5. Documentation system. I now have a truly compatible pair of programs which can convert a file of texinfo format documentation into either a printed manual or an Info file. Documentation files are needed for many utilities., February 1986, GNU'S BULLETIN, Volume 1 No.1
  24. ^ Williams, Sam (2002). Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software. O'Reilly Media. ISBN 0-596-00287-4. Chapter 1. Available under the GFDL in both the initial O'Reilly edition (accessed on October 27, 2006) and the updated FAIFzilla edition. Retrieved October 27, 2006.
  25. ^ Various (1999). "Stallman chapter". Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution. O'Reilly Media. ISBN 1-56592-582-3.
  26. ^ "The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin- by Peter H. Salus". May 13, 2005. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  27. ^ "Copyleft: Pragmatic Idealism". Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  28. ^ "History of the Open Source Initiative". Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  29. ^ "Why I think RMS is a fanatic, and why that matters". June 11, 2012. Retrieved July 14, 2013.
  30. ^ "Stallman shares Takeda award of nearly $1M". MIT News.
  31. ^ "Richard Stallman - MIT CSAIL".
  32. ^ a b c Stallman, Richard (2018). "Lifestyle". Richard Stallman's Personal Site. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  33. ^ "new UNIX implementation". Retrieved March 12, 2010.
  34. ^ Stallman, Richard (1998). "The GNU Project". Free Software Foundation. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
  35. ^ DuBois, Steven (October 15, 2010). "Free Software Foundation". Free Software Foundation. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
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External links


Copyleft, distinguished from copyright, is the practice of offering people the right to freely distribute copies and modified versions of a work with the stipulation that the same rights be preserved in derivative works created later. Copyleft software licenses are considered protective or reciprocal, as contrasted with permissive free-software licenses.Copyleft is a form of licensing, and can be used to maintain copyright conditions for works ranging from computer software, to documents, to art, to scientific discoveries and instruments in medicine. In general, copyright law is used by an author to prohibit recipients from reproducing, adapting, or distributing copies of their work. In contrast, under copyleft, an author must give every person who receives a copy of the work permission to reproduce, adapt, or distribute it, with the accompanying requirement that any resulting copies or adaptations are also bound by the same licensing agreement.

Copyleft licenses for software require that information necessary for reproducing and modifying the work must be made available to recipients of the binaries. The source code files will usually contain a copy of the license terms and acknowledge the authors.

Copyleft type licenses are a novel use of existing copyright law to ensure a work remains freely available. The GNU General Public License (GPL), originally written by Richard Stallman, was the first software copyleft license to see extensive use, and continues to dominate in that area. Creative Commons, a non-profit organization founded by Lawrence Lessig, provides a similar license-provision condition called share-alike.


Emacs or EMACS (Editor MACroS) is a family of text editors that are characterized by their extensibility. The manual for the most widely used variant, GNU Emacs, describes it as "the extensible, customizable, self-documenting, real-time display editor". Development of the first Emacs began in the mid-1970s, and work on its direct descendant, GNU Emacs, continues actively as of 2019.

Emacs has over 10,000 built-in commands and its user interface allows the user to combine these commands into macros to automate work. Implementations of Emacs typically feature a dialect of the Lisp programming language that provides a deep extension capability, allowing users and developers to write new commands and applications for the editor. Extensions have been written to manage email, files, outlines, and RSS feeds, as well as clones of ELIZA, Pong, Conway's Life, Snake and Tetris.The original EMACS was written in 1976 by Carl Mikkelsen, David A. Moon and Guy L. Steele Jr. as a set of Editor MACroS for the TECO editor. It was inspired by the ideas of the TECO-macro editors TECMAC and TMACS.The most popular, and most ported, version of Emacs is GNU Emacs, which was created by Richard Stallman for the GNU Project. XEmacs is a variant that branched from GNU Emacs in 1991. GNU Emacs and XEmacs use similar Lisp dialects and are for the most part compatible with each other.

Emacs is, along with vi, one of the two main contenders in the traditional editor wars of Unix culture. Emacs is among the oldest free and open source projects still under development.

Engineer (technical fest)

Engineer is the Annual Technical Symposium of NITK Surathkal held in Surathkal, India.

Guest speakers of past editions have included Richard Stallman, Sam Pitroda, Anthony James Leggett, Ankit Fadia and others.

FSF Free Software Awards

Free Software Foundation (FSF) grants two annual awards. Since 1998, FSF has granted the award for Advancement of Free Software and since 2005, also the Free Software Award for Projects of Social Benefit.

Free-culture movement

The free-culture movement is a social movement that promotes the freedom to distribute and modify the creative works of others in the form of free content or open content without compensation to, or the consent of, the work's original creators, by using the Internet and other forms of media.

The movement objects to what they consider over-restrictive copyright laws. Many members of the movement argue that such laws hinder creativity. They call this system "permission culture."Creative Commons is an organization started by Lawrence Lessig which provides licenses that permit sharing and remixing under various conditions, and also offers an online search of various Creative Commons-licensed works.

The free-culture movement, with its ethos of free exchange of ideas, is aligned with the free and open-source-software movement.

Today, the term stands for many other movements, including open access (OA), the remix culture, the hacker culture, the access to knowledge movement, the Open Source Learning, the copyleft movement and the public domain movement.

Free Software Foundation Latin America

Free Software Foundation Latin America (FSFLA) is the Latin American sister organisation of the Free Software Foundation. It is the fourth sister organisation of FSF, after Free Software Foundation Europe and Free Software Foundation India. It was launched on November 23, 2005 in Rosario, Argentina.The founding general assembly of FSFLA elected Federico Heinz as President, Alexandre Oliva as Secretary and Beatriz Busaniche as Treasurer. The Administrative Council consisted of them as well as Enrique A. Chaparro, Mario M. Bonilla, Fernanda G. Weiden and Juan José Ciarlante.

In 2006, Beatriz Busaniche, Enrique A. Chaparro, Federico Heinz, Juan José Ciarlante and Mario M. Bonilla left the FSFLA's Council. After that the original directives were modified to the current ones. A new position of “Observer of the Council” was created in the organisation to allow other important people in the free software community to participate, observe and advise the Council.The current members of the Council are Alexandre Oliva, Andres Ricardo Castelblanco, Exal de Jesus Garcia Carrillo, Octavio Rossell, Oscar Valenzuela, J. Esteban Saavedra L., Luis Alberto Guzmán García, Quiliro Ordóñez and Tomás Solar Castro.The actual Observers of the Council group is formed by Richard Stallman, Georg Greve, Adriano Rafael Gomes, Franco Iacomella, Alejandro Forero Cuervo, Alvaro Fuentes, Anahuac de Paula Gil, Christiano Anderson, Eder L. Marques, Elkin Botero, J. Esteban Saavedra L., Fabianne Balvedi, Felipe Augusto van de Wiel, Nagarjuna G., Glauber de Oliveira Costa, Gustavo Sverzut Barbieri, Henrique de Andrade, Harold Rivas, Jansen Sena, Marcelo Zunino, Mario Bonilla, Daniel Yucra, NIIBE Yutaka, Beatriz Busaniche, Octavio H. Ruiz Cervera, Omar Kaminski, and Roberto Salomon.

Free Software Foundation of India

The Free Software Foundation of India (FSFI) Is an Indian sister organisation to the US-based Free Software Foundation. It was founded in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), the capital of Kerala in 2001, as a non-profit Company. The FSFI advocates to promote the use and development of free software in India. This includes educating people about free software, including how it can help the economy of a developing country like India. FSF India regards non-free software as not a solution, but a problem to be solved. Free software is sometimes locally called swatantra software in India.

In 2003, after meeting with FSF founder Richard Stallman, the President of India Dr. Abdul Kalam urged Indian computer scientists and professionals to use free and open-source software in research and development.

Free software

Free software or libre software is computer software distributed under terms that allow users to run the software for any purpose as well as to study, change, and distribute it and any adapted versions. Free software is a matter of liberty, not price: users—individually or in cooperation with computer programmers—are free to do what they want with their copies of a free software (including profiting from them) regardless of how much is paid to obtain the program. Computer programs are deemed free insofar as they give users (not just the developer) ultimate control over the first, thereby allowing them to control what their devices are programmed to do.The right to study and modify a computer program entails that source code—the preferred format for making changes—be made available to users of that program. While this is often called 'access to source code' or 'public availability', the Free Software Foundation recommends against thinking in those terms, because it might give the impression that users have an obligation (as opposed to a right) to give non-users a copy of the program.

Although the term free software had already been used loosely in the past, Richard Stallman is credited with tying it to the sense under discussion and starting the free-software movement in 1983, when he launched the GNU Project: a collaborative effort to create a freedom-respecting operating system, and to revive the spirit of cooperation once prevalent among hackers during the early days of computing.

Free software movement

The free software movement (FSM) or free/open-source software movement (FOSSM) or free/libre open-source software movement (FLOSSM) is a social movement with the goal of obtaining and guaranteeing certain freedoms for software users, namely the freedom to run the software, to study and change the software, and to redistribute copies with or without changes. Although drawing on traditions and philosophies among members of the 1970s hacker culture and academia, Richard Stallman formally founded the movement in 1983 by launching the GNU Project. Stallman later established the Free Software Foundation in 1985 to support the movement.

GNE (encyclopedia)

GNE (previously known as GNUPedia) was a project to create a free content encyclopedia (licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License) under the auspices of the Free Software Foundation. The project was proposed by Richard Stallman in December 2000 and it officially started in January 2001. It was moderated by Héctor Facundo Arena, an Argentinian programmer and GNU activist.


GNU (listen) is an operating system and an extensive collection of computer software. GNU is composed wholly of free software, most of which is licensed under the GNU Project's own General Public License (GPL).

GNU is a recursive acronym for "GNU's Not Unix!", chosen because GNU's design is Unix-like, but differs from Unix by being free software and containing no Unix code.

The GNU project includes an operating system kernel, GNU Hurd, which was the original focus of the Free Software Foundation (FSF).

However, given the Hurd kernel's status as not yet production-ready, non-GNU kernels, most popularly the Linux kernel, can also be used with GNU software. The combination of GNU and Linux has become ubiquitous to the point that the duo is often referred to as just "Linux" in short, or, less frequently, GNU/Linux. (see the GNU/Linux naming controversy)

Richard Stallman, the founder of the project, views GNU as a "technical means to a social end". Relatedly Lawrence Lessig states in his introduction to the second edition of Stallman's book Free Software, Free Society that in it Stallman has written about "the social aspects of software and how Free Software can create community and social justice".

GNU/Linux naming controversy

The GNU/Linux naming controversy is a dispute between members of the free software community and open-source software community over whether to refer to computer operating systems that use a combination of GNU software and the Linux kernel as "GNU/Linux" or "Linux".Proponents of the term Linux argue that it is far more commonly used by the public and media, and that it serves as a generic term for systems that combine that kernel with software from multiple other sources.Proponents of the term GNU/Linux note that GNU alone would be just as good a name for GNU variants which combine the GNU operating system software with software from other sources. GNU/Linux is a term promoted by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and its founder Richard Stallman. Proponents call for the correction of the more extended term, on the grounds that it doesn't give credit to the major contributor and the associated free software philosophy. GNU is a longstanding project begun in 1984 to develop a free operating system. It is argued that when the Linux kernel was independently created in 1991, it merely provided a substantial missing piece. Several distributions employ the FSF-endorsed name, such as Debian, Trisquel and Parabola GNU/Linux-libre.

GNU Manifesto

The GNU Manifesto was written by Richard Stallman and published in March 1985 in Dr. Dobb's Journal of Software Tools as an explanation of goals of the GNU Project, and as a call for support and participation in developing GNU, a free software computer operating system. It is held in high regard within the free software movement as a fundamental philosophical source.The full text is included with GNU software such as Emacs, and is publicly available.

GNU Project

The GNU Project ( (listen)) is a free-software, mass-collaboration project, first announced on September 27, 1983 by Richard Stallman at MIT. Its aim is to give computer users freedom and control in their use of their computers and computing devices, by collaboratively developing and providing software that is based on the following freedom rights: users are free to run the software, share it (copy, distribute), study it and modify it. GNU software guarantees these freedom-rights legally (via its license), and is therefore free software; the use of the word "free" always being taken to refer to freedom.

In order to ensure that the entire software of a computer grants its users all freedom rights (use, share, study, modify), even the most fundamental and important part, the operating system (including all its numerous utility programs), needed to be free software. According to its manifesto, the founding goal of the project was to build a free operating system and, if possible, "everything useful that normally comes with a Unix system so that one could get along without any software that is not free." Stallman decided to call this operating system GNU (a recursive acronym meaning "GNU's not Unix"), basing its design on that of Unix, a proprietary operating system. Development was initiated in January 1984. In 1991, the Linux kernel appeared, developed outside the GNU project by Linus Torvalds, and in December 1992 it was made available under version 2 of the GNU General Public License. Combined with the operating system utilities already developed by the GNU project, it allowed for the first operating system that was free software, commonly known as Linux.The project's current work includes software development, awareness building, political campaigning and sharing of the new material.

Lisp Machine Lisp

Lisp Machine Lisp is a programming language, a dialect of the language Lisp. A direct descendant of Maclisp, it was initially developed in the mid to late 1970s as the system programming language for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lisp machines. Lisp Machine Lisp was also the Lisp dialect with the most influence on the design of Common Lisp.

Lisp Machine Lisp branched into three dialects. Symbolics named their variant ZetaLisp. Lisp Machines, Inc. and later Texas Instruments (with the TI Explorer) would share a common code base, but their dialect of Lisp Machine Lisp would differ from the version maintained at the MIT AI Lab by Richard Stallman and others.

Mg (editor)

mg, originally called MicroGnuEmacs (and later changed at the request of Richard Stallman), is a public-domain text editor that runs on Unix-like operating systems. It is based on MicroEMACS, but intended to more closely resemble GNU Emacs while still maintaining a small memory footprint and fast speed. An expanded version of the original is included as part of OpenBSD, where it is maintained, and snapshots of the OpenBSD version are available in the native package management trees of many other systems, including MacPorts, FreeBSD Ports, pkgsrc and Debian.

Revolution OS

Revolution OS is a 2001 documentary film that traces the twenty-year history of GNU, Linux, open source, and the free software movement.

Directed by J. T. S. Moore, the film features interviews with prominent hackers and entrepreneurs including Richard Stallman, Michael Tiemann, Linus Torvalds, Larry Augustin, Eric S. Raymond, Bruce Perens, Frank Hecker and Brian Behlendorf.

Split (Unix)

split is a utility on Unix and Unix-like operating systems most commonly used to split a computer file into two or more smaller files. The version of split bundled in GNU coreutils was written by Torbjorn Granlund and Richard Stallman.

The Free Software Definition

The Free Software Definition written by Richard Stallman and published by Free Software Foundation (FSF), defines free software as being software that ensures that the end users have freedom in using, studying, sharing and modifying that software. The term "free" is used in the sense of "free speech," not of "free of charge." The earliest-known publication of the definition was in the February 1986 edition of the now-discontinued GNU's Bulletin publication of FSF. The canonical source for the document is in the philosophy section of the GNU Project website. As of April 2008, it is published there in 39 languages. FSF publishes a list of licences which meet this definition.

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