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President & Founder
Free Software Foundation
51 Franklin St., 5th Floor
Boston, MA 2110-1301
The easy choice was to join the proprietary software world, signing
nondisclosure agreements and promising not to help my fellow hacker. Most
likely I would also be developing software that was released under
nondisclosure agreements, thus adding to the pressure on other people to
betray their fellows too. I could have made money this way, and perhaps
amused myself writing code. But I knew that at the end of my career, I
would look back on years of building walls to divide people, and feel I
had spent my life making the world a worse place.
-- Excerpted from: http://www.gnu.org/gnu/thegnuproject.html
One of the earliest leaders of the "free" (as in unrestricted) software movement
Click MP3 below for Stallman talk Oct. 27, 2005 at Williams College (58min)
Download/play MP3 audio
Richard Stallman is the president and founder of the Free Software
Foundation, and of its GNU Project, launched in 1984 in part to develop the free
software operating system GNU/Linux. The name ``GNU'' is a
recursive acronym for ``GNU's Not Unix''. GNU/Linux is free software: everyone is free to copy it and redistribute
well as to make changes either large or small. Non-free software keeps
users divided and helpless, forbidden to share it and unable to change it.
Stallman believes a free operating system is essential for people to be
able to use
computers in freedom.
Today, Linux-based variants of the GNU system, based on the kernel Linux
developed by Linus Torvalds, are in widespread use. There are estimated to
be some 20 million users of GNU/Linux systems today.
Stallman, born in Manhattan, graduated from Harvard in 1974 with a BA in physics and worked at
the Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT. Stallman argues that software users should have freedom . in particular, the freedom to "share with their neighbor" and
to be able to study and make changes to the software that they use. He has repeatedly said that attempts by proprietary
software vendors to prohibit these acts are "antisocial" and "unethical" . The phrase "software wants to be free" is
commonly attributed to him, but he did not say it. He argues that freedom is vital in and of itself and not merely
because it may lead to improved software. Consequently, in January 1984, he quit his job at MIT to work full time on the
GNU project, which he had announced in September 1983.