The New Age of Achievement – Part I: A Brief History of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)

The free and open source revolution started at Carnegie Mellon.  Richard Stallman had asked a Carnegie Mellon Professor (and former Xerox Parc researcher) for the source code to a Xerox laser printer that was causing the MIT AI lab problems.  Problems that caused a jammed printer to back up print jobs.  Stallman wanted to fix the issue and give the solution back to Xerox.

The Professor refused citing a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) he had signed.  “I was so angry I couldn’t think of a way to express it. So I just turned away and walked out without another word,” Stallman recalls. “I might have slammed the door. Who knows? All I remember is wanting to get out of there.”

And as they say, the rest is history.

The FOSS Revolution

A Brief History of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)

On our Research and FOSS History

We noticed how often early FOSS pioneers used revolutionary themes and language to describe the battle with proprietary software vendors and IT departments.  Therefore we thought the revolutionary theme appropriate.

We know and understand that there are huge bodies of FOSS history that we have missed.  But we tried to cover the primary highlights and educate our readers at the same time.  It’s a great story and one we enjoyed putting together.

The Rise of Open Source

Free and Open Source (FOSS) software used to be the domain of hackers and fringe IT.  They were an eclectic group focused on ideals rather than a business profit.  To them, not sharing software was morally wrong.

Yet during the last 10 – 15 years, a hybrid model has emerged.  Perhaps unknowingly, those early FOSS pioneers started a movement and new forms of business models that are threatening the old proprietary guard within today’s largest businesses.

On Part II – The New Age of Achievement

We’re going to take a closer look at the last 10 years and explain why the new FOSS companies are going to usher in a new age of economic achievement.

P.S. Who do you believe is the Benedict Arnold of Free and Open Source? Please give us your comments below.


  1. I think the Benedict Arnold of Open Source should be Google. They claim to be going open source, but I've seen little movement. Therefore, their claims and actions are different.

  2. You seem very knowledgable about this issue and it shows. Trust all your future posts turn out as well. Cheers!

  3. Thank you for this! I've been researching the manifesto documents that came out of the open source revolution. I've used Google's Knol to post them, the first and second are Stallman's and Kapor's. I've found more than 50 software and technology related manifestos that are all influenced by open source issues, some go off the deep end and into artistic endeavors beyond specifically software design – but the consistent theme is a desire to create products that enable more people to interact with software tools to communicate – at least that is my product management interpretation. Please contribute your perspective at

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  5. Pretty as it is, there is much missing from this illustration. Please go and read the insightful comment from Tim OReilly -

  6. Thanks for the comments Danette and John.

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