FC: More on Bill Gates, Microsoft, and origin of open source software

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Sun Nov 11 2001 - 23:33:12 PST

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    Date: Sat, 10 Nov 2001 07:20:57 -0600
    To: declanat_private
    From: "Randal J. King" <rjkingat_private>
    Subject: Re: FC: Bill Gates: Open source software only exists 'cuz of
    In-Reply-To: <>
    At 12:23 PM 11/9/01 , you wrote:
    >Date: Thu, 8 Nov 2001 17:43:07 -0500 (EST)
    >Message-Id: <200111082243.RAA03265@out-of-band.media.mit.edu>
    >From: Lenny Foner <fonerat_private>
    >To: declanat_private
    >Subject: Any more spin, and I'm going to throw up
    >   Gates also took some credit for the genesis of open-source software. He 
    > said
    >   Microsoft made it possible by standardizing computers: "Really, the 
    > reason you
    >   see open source there at all is because we came in and said there 
    > should be a
    >   platform that's identical with millions and millions of machines," he said.
    >[Surely we don't have to point out that open-source software originated
    >LOOOONNNNGGG before computers were smaller than the size of rooms,
    >yes?  At any number of government and research labs and universities,
    >right?  Well, maybe lots of people need to -keep- pointing this out.]
    O.K.  - I was an early (mid-70's) contributor to the Bell System operating 
    system called UNIX.  Back in those days, computers were made out of wood 
    and we liked it that way.  Memory was not measured in terms of Gb, Mb, or 
    even Kb, it was measured in terms of pounds because it was all iron 
    doughnuts called "core plane".  My first big memory purchase was about 
    2.5lbs.  I think this was 1Mb and it cost many thousands of 
    USD.  Permanent, safe storage was saving your data to 8-level mylar punch tape.
    A Bell System group out of Piscataway, N.J. was a distribution point for 
    UNIX to the world.  Essentially, universities could order up a 9-track 
    800BPI tape with full source for the cost of the media.  Two universities 
    that did this with what I consider to be the most visibility were Berkeley 
    and Purdue.  Berkeley even re-wrote pieces of the source and re-distributed 
    it as the Berkeley Source Distribution (BSD-UNIX).  Bill Joy (co-founder of 
    Sun) was very instrumental in leading the charge there.
    Many other universities jumped on the bandwagon, and a little project that 
    got kicked off in the late 70's called "Netnews A", coupled with a defense 
    project called ARPAnet planted the seeds for today's Usenet and Internet, 
    respectively.  Early telephone networking was done almost exclusively via 
    UUCP (UNIX-to-UNIX Copy Protocol), and later by a very robust version 
    called HoneyDanBer-UUCP (Peter Honeyman, David A. Nowitz, Brian E. Redmond, 
    authors).  My hardware contribution was product manufacturing engineering 
    of the fastest modem at the time - the Bell System 212A "Data Set" - 
    screamin' 1200 baud.  It, too, was about 2 pounds plus the wall brick.
    I would counter that the only reason Microsoft exists to the level it does 
    is because of these early forward-thinking Bell System people, coupled with 
    the brilliance of people in the ARPA project like the late Jon Postel that 
    laid a foundation on which MS launched products.  Granted, this success was 
    not handed to MS, and surely there is some contribution from Redmond, but I 
    would expect to see a little more homage being paid by them to the folks 
    who did the hard pioneering work and released their results openly to the 
    Randy King
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