I’m calling it. Today is Richard Stallman Day. The last two years, the birthday post was about him and I see no reason to ever do anyone else. Stallman is the kind of guy who would be a billionaire if capitalism actually worked. But it doesn’t, and so he isn’t. Not that he seems to care. He has something far greater than money: a worthwhile life.
For those who don’t know him, he’s the guy who started the GNU project. He’s the guy who wrote the original GNU c and c++ compilers. He wrote the GNU Emacs editor. (I’m a vi guy, but pretty much every programmer I knew in the 1990s was an Emacs fanatic.) Without him, there would have been no Linux. And even still, people are confused as to what Linux is. Without all the GNU tools, Linux would have been this kernel with which you could do nothing.
But more than any of his technical accomplishment, Stallman is a political leader. And it is in this regard that he is truly revolutionary. Compilers and operating systems were no new concepts. But “free software” was. In the early 1990s, I knew people who loved the GNU project and what he was doing, but they didn’t like his clearly leftist politics. But they didn’t understand how it all went together. We’ve tried going with the strong property rights system for a long time. And what it creates is an incredibly unequal and unjust society. It’s time to try something new and the Free Software Foundation shows the way forward. Not that the power elite are going to allow that without a huge fight.
Happy Richard Stallman Day!