I found this in my Netscape bookmarks and thought it was of interest, and it doesn't seem to have been noded yet. Note all the to-do about Lisp. The window system has been irrelevanted by X11, I suppose, though X11 has its issues and some of us have hopes for the Berlin project. I narrowed the paragraphs for the sake of E2's layout, and I also bisected the bang path in the first line, but if you're able to make use of it, you can probably figure out how to paste the lines together. I seem to recall that it's shift+J in vi. It's probably not a valid address any more anyway. Note also the pre-Great Renaming newsgroup names. It's like, archaeological, no?

From CSvax:pur-ee:inuxc!ixn5c!ihnp4!houxm!mhuxi
    !eagle!mit-vax!mit-eddie!RMS@MIT-OZ
From: RMS%MIT-OZ@mit-eddie
Newsgroups: net.unix-wizards,net.usoft
Subject: new UNIX implementation
Date: Tue, 27-Sep-83 12:35:59 EST
Organization: MIT AI Lab, Cambridge, MA

Free Unix!

Starting this Thanksgiving I am going to write a 
complete Unix-compatible software system called 
GNU (for Gnu's Not Unix), and give it away free to 
everyone who can use it.  Contributions of time, 
money, programs and equipment are greatly needed.

To begin with, GNU will be a kernel plus all the 
utilities needed to write and run C programs: 
editor, shell, C compiler, linker, assembler, and 
a few other things.  After this we will add a text 
formatter, a YACC, an Empire game, a spreadsheet, 
and hundreds of other things.  We hope to supply, 
eventually, everything useful that normally comes 
with a Unix system, and anything else useful, 
including on-line and hardcopy documentation.

GNU will be able to run Unix programs, but will 
not be identical to Unix.  We will make all 
improvements that are convenient, based on our 
experience with other operating systems.  In 
particular, we plan to have longer filenames, file 
version numbers, a crashproof file system, 
filename completion perhaps, terminal-independent
display support, and eventually a Lisp-based 
window system through which several Lisp programs 
and ordinary Unix programs can share a screen. 
Both C and Lisp will be available as system
programming languages. We will have network 
software based on MIT's chaosnet protocol, far 
superior to UUCP.  We may also have something 
compatible with UUCP.


Who Am I?

I am Richard Stallman, inventor of the original 
much-imitated EMACS editor, now at the Artificial 
Intelligence Lab at MIT.  I have worked 
extensively on compilers, editors, debuggers, 
command interpreters, the Incompatible Timesharing 
System and the Lisp Machine operating system. I 
pioneered terminal-independent display support in 
ITS.  In addition I have implemented one 
crashproof file system and two window systems for 
Lisp machines.


Why I Must Write GNU

I consider that the golden rule requires that if I 
like a program I must share it with other people 
who like it.  I cannot in good conscience sign a 
nondisclosure agreement or a software license 
agreement.

So that I can continue to use computers without 
violating my principles, I have decided to put 
together a sufficient body of free software so 
that I will be able to get along without any 
software that is not free.


How You Can Contribute

I am asking computer manufacturers for donations 
of machines and money. I'm asking individuals for 
donations of programs and work.

One computer manufacturer has already offered to 
provide a machine.  But we could use more.  One 
consequence you can expect if you donate machines 
is that GNU will run on them at an early date.  
The machine had better be able to operate in a 
residential area, and not require sophisticated 
cooling or power.

Individual programmers can contribute by writing a 
compatible duplicate of some Unix utility and 
giving it to me.  For most projects, such 
part-time distributed work would be very hard to 
coordinate; the independently-written parts would 
not work together.  But for the particular task of 
replacing Unix, this problem is absent.  Most 
interface specifications are fixed by Unix
compatibility.  If each contribution works with 
the rest of Unix, it will probably work with the 
rest of GNU.

If I get donations of money, I may be able to hire 
a few people full or part time.  The salary won't 
be high, but I'm looking for people for whom 
knowing they are helping humanity is as important 
as money.  I view this as a way of enabling 
dedicated people to devote their full energies to 
working on GNU by sparing them the need to make a 
living in another way.


For more information, contact me.
Arpanet mail:
  RMS@MIT-MC.ARPA

Usenet:
  ...!mit-eddie!RMS@OZ
  ...!mit-vax!RMS@OZ

US Snail:
  Richard Stallman
  166 Prospect St
  Cambridge, MA 02139
Let's see just how many of these goals have been accomplished in the past seventeen years:
  • To begin with, GNU will be a kernel plus all the utilities needed to write and run C programs -- GNU's native kernel, known as HURD, remains in heavy alpha as of last notice. The GNU utilities, on the other hand, form a large part of the operating systems collectively known as Linux or GNU/Linux.
  • editor -- GNU Emacs is one of the world's most popular text editors for programmers, both on GNU/Linux and on Unix. However, its elephantine bulk leads many to prefer vi-based editors such as vim or nvi, or even oddities such as joe.
  • shell -- bash, the GNU "Bourne Again Shell", is quite popular on Linux and Unix.
  • C compiler, linker, assembler -- Many recognize gcc as superior in standards compliance to many commercial Unix C compilers. However, much of its popularity on commercial Unix systems may be due to certain Unix vendors' brain-damaged idea of charging extra for compilers.
  • After this we will add a text formatter -- While RMS doubtless meant groff, today roff-based formatters are widely considered obscure. Even Project GNU has abandoned roff-based manpages in favor of Texinfo -- possibly unfortunately. Meanwhile, people needing to do real work use LaTeX.
  • a YACC -- or at least a bison.
  • an Empire game -- Does anyone play Empire any more?
  • a spreadsheet -- Several, actually.
  • and hundreds of other things. -- That's for sure.
  • We hope to supply, eventually, everything useful that normally comes with a Unix system, and anything else useful, including on-line and hardcopy documentation. -- See the summary below. While GNU itself has not shipped a complete system, others have. Debian GNU/Linux and Debian GNU/HURD appear to be the direct inheritors of this intention, though other Linux distributions also qualify.
  • GNU will be able to run Unix programs -- Indeed, most Linux distributions are POSIX-compliant in most of the interesting ways.
  • ... but will not be identical to Unix. We will make all improvements that are convenient, based on our experience with other operating systems. -- Thank goodness! GNU utilities have improved in many ways on traditional BSD or SysV tools.
  • In particular, we plan to have longer filenames -- How long do you want 'em?
  • file version numbers -- This, a popular feature of VMS, has not to my knowledge been implemented in a GNU or Linux filesystem. However, tools such as RCS have made it less necessary.
  • a crashproof file system -- This is only now (2000) coming to light, with the creation of ReiserFS and ext3fs for the Linux kernel.
  • filename completion perhaps -- A standard feature of all reasonable shells.
  • terminal-independent display support -- ncurses and terminfo, of course.
  • and eventually a Lisp-based window system through which several Lisp programs and ordinary Unix programs can share a screen. -- For better or for worse, Lisp is no longer terribly important in computing. However, Scheme survives on in GNU in the form of GUILE, which is used for scripting in various GNOME applications.
  • Both C and Lisp will be available as system programming languages. -- While Lisp is available under GNU/Linux, nobody uses it for system programming.
  • We will have network software based on MIT's chaosnet protocol, far superior to UUCP. We may also have something compatible with UUCP. -- Well, you could use Chaosnet and UUCP if you like, but most GNU users prefer TCP/IP these days.
In summary: The large majority of Project GNU's initial goals have come to pass. Some have become overtaken by events or simply obsolete, but in each case have been supplanted by superior replacements. As a direct consequence of Richard M. Stallman's intentions and plan, anyone may today make use of a completely free form of Unix.

The biggest difference between RMS's intent and today's state of affairs is that GNU does not itself provide this complete Unix-like OS. Instead, the GNU tools have been combined with the Linux kernel and other free software to create what we now know as Linux or GNU/Linux distributions.


Addendum, May 2001: The "crashproof filesystem" is finally here -- in fact, we now have more of them than we know what to do with! SGI and IBM have adapted their XFS and JFS filesystems to the Linux kernel, and released them under the GNU GPL. Neither has yet made it into the official kernel distribution, though. Hans Reiser's ReiserFS, though, is in the official kernel, though it is not quite stable.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.