Two Bits Part 12

Two Bits -

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15 Pamela Gray, Open Systems.

16 Eric Raymond, "Origins and History of Unix, 19691995," The Art of UNIX Programming,

17 Libes and Ressler, Life with UNIX, 22. Also noted in Tanenbaum, "The UNIX Marketplace in 1987," 419.

18 Libes and Ressler, Life with UNIX, 67.

19 A case might be made that a third definition, the ANSI standard for the C programming language, also covered similar ground, which of course it would have had to in order to allow applications written on one operating system to be compiled and run on another (see Gray, Open Systems, 5558; Libes and Ressler, Life with UNIX, 7075).

20 "AT&T Deal with Sun Seen," New York Times, 19 October 1987, D8.

21 Thomas C. Hayesdallas, "AT&T's Unix Is a Hit at Last, and Other Companies Are Wary," New York Times, 24 February 1988, D8.

22 "Unisys Obtains Pacts for Unix Capabilities," New York Times, 10 March 1988, D4.

23 Andrew Pollack, "Computer Gangs Stake Out Turf," New York Times, 13 December 1988, D1. See also Evelyn Richards, "Computer Firms Get a Taste of 'Gang Warfare,'" Was.h.i.+ngton Post, 11 December 1988, K1; Brit Hume, "IBM, Once the Bully on the Block, Faces a Tough New PC Gang," Was.h.i.+ngton Post, 3 October 1988, E24.

24 "What Is Unix?" The Unix System,

25 "About the Open Group," The Open Group,

26 "What Is Unix?" The Unix System,

27 Larry McVoy was an early voice, within Sun, arguing for solving the open-systems problem by turning to Free Software. Larry McVoy, "The Sourceware Operating System Proposal," 9 November 1993,

28 The distinction between a protocol, an implementation and a standard is important: Protocols are descriptions of the precise terms by which two computers can communicate (i.e., a dictionary and a handbook for communicating). An implementation is the creation of software that uses a protocol (i.e., actually does the communicating; thus two implementations using the same protocol should be able to share data. A standard defines which protocol should be used by which computers, for what purposes. It may or may not define the protocol, but will set limits on changes to that protocol.

29 The advantages of such an unplanned and unpredictable network have come to be identified in hindsight as a design principle. See Gillespie, "Engineering a Principle" for an excellent a.n.a.lysis of the history of "end to end" or "stupid" networks.

30 William Broad, "Global Network Split as Safeguard," New York Times, 5 October 1983, A13.

31 See the incomparable BBS: The Doc.u.mentary, DVD, directed by Jason Scott (Boston: Bovine Ignition Systems, 2005),

32 Grier and Campbell, "A Social History of Bitnet and Listserv 19851991."

33 On Usenet, see Hauben and Hauben, Netizens. See also Pfaffenberger, "'A Standing Wave in the Web of Our Communications.'"

34 Schmidt and Werle, Coordinating Technology, chap. 7.

35 See, for example, Martin, Viewdata and the Information Society.

36 There is little information on the development of open systems; there is, however, a brief note from William Stallings, author of perhaps the most widely used textbook on networking, at "The Origins of OSI,"

37 Brock, The Second Information Revolution is a good introductory source for this conflict, at least in its policy outlines. The Federal Communications Commission issued two decisions (known as "Computer 1" and "Computer 2") that attempted to deal with this conflict by trying to define what counted as voice communication and what as data.

38 Brock, The Second Information Revolution, chap. 10.

39 Drake, "The Internet Religious War."

40 Malamud, Exploring the Internet; see also Michael M. J. Fischer, "Worlding Cybers.p.a.ce."

41 The usable past of Giordano Bruno is invoked by Malamud to signal the heretical nature of his own commitment to openly publis.h.i.+ng standards that ISO was opposed to releasing. Bruno's fate at the hands of the Roman Inquisition hinged in some part on his acceptance of the Copernican cosmology, so he has been, like Galileo, a natural figure for revolutionary claims during the 1990s.

42 Abbate, Inventing the Internet; Salus, Casting the Net; Galloway, Protocol; and Brock, The Second Information Revolution. For pract.i.tioner histories, see Kahn et al., "The Evolution of the Internet as a Global Information System"; Clark, "The Design Philosophy of the DARPA Internet Protocols."

43 Kahn et al., "The Evolution of the Internet as a Global Information System," 134140; Abbate, Inventing the Internet, 11436.

44 Kahn and Cerf, "A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunication," 637.

45 Clark, "The Design Philosophy of the DARPA Internet Protocols," 5455.

46 RFCs are archived in many places, but the official site is RFC Editor,

47 RFC Editor, RFC 2555, 6.

48 Ibid., 11.

49 This can be clearly seen, for instance, by comparing the various editions of the main computer-networking textbooks: cf. Tanenbaum, Computer Networks, 1st ed. (1981), 2d ed. (1988), 3d ed. (1996), and 4th ed. (2003); Stallings, Data and Computer Communications, 1st ed. (1985), 2d ed. (1991), 3d ed. (1994), 4th ed. (1997), and 5th ed. (2004); and Comer, Internetworking with TCP/IP (four editions between 1991 and 1999).

50 Suns.h.i.+ne, Computer Network Architectures and Protocols, 5.

51 The structure of the IETF, the Internet Architecture Board, and the ISOC is detailed in Comer, Internetworking with TCP/IP, 813; also in Schmidt and Werle, Coordinating Technology, 5358.

52 Message-ID: [email protected] See also Berners-Lee, Weaving the Web.

6. Writing Copyright Licenses

1 The legal literature on Free Software expands constantly and quickly, and it addresses a variety of different legal issues. Two excellent starting points are Vetter, "The Collaborative Integrity of Open-Source Software" and "'Infectious' Open Source Software."

2 Coleman, "The Social Construction of Freedom."

3 "The GNU General Public Licence, Version 2.0,"

4 All existing accounts of the hacker ethic come from two sources: from Stallman himself and from the colorful and compelling chapter about Stallman in Steven Levy's Hackers. Both acknowledge a prehistory to the ethic. Levy draws it back in time to the MIT Tech Model Railroad Club of the 1950s, while Stallman is more likely to describe it as reaching back to the scientific revolution or earlier. The stories of early hackerdom at MIT are avowedly Edenic, and in them hackers live in a world of uncontested freedom and collegial compet.i.tion-something like a writer's commune without the alcohol or the brawling. There are stories about a printer whose software needed fixing but was only available under a nondisclosure agreement; about a requirement to use pa.s.swords (Stallman refused, chose as his pa.s.sword, and hacked the system to encourage others to do the same); about a programming war between different LISP machines; and about the replacement of the Incompatible Time-Sharing System with DEC's TOPS-20 ("Twenex") operating system. These stories are oft-told usable pasts, but they are not representative. Commercial constraints have always been part of academic life in computer science and engineering: hardware and software were of necessity purchased from commercial manufacturers and often controlled by them, even if they offered "academic" or "educational" licenses.

5 Delanda, "Open Source."

6 Dewey, Liberalism and Social Action.

7 Copyright Act of 1976, Pub. L. No. 94553, 90 Stat. 2541, enacted 19 October 1976; and Copyright Amendments, Pub. L. No. 96517, 94 Stat. 3015, 3028 (amending 101 and 117, t.i.tle 17, United States Code, regarding computer programs), enacted 12 December 1980. All amendments since 1976 are listed at

8 The history of the copyright and software is discussed in Litman, Digital Copyright; Cohen et al., Copyright in a Global Information Economy; and Merges, Menell, and Lemley, Intellectual Property in the New Technological Age.

9 See Wayner, Free for All; Moody, Rebel Code; and Williams, Free as in Freedom. Although this story could be told simply by interviewing Stallman and James Gosling, both of whom are still alive and active in the software world, I have chosen to tell it through a detailed a.n.a.lysis of the Usenet and Arpanet archives of the controversy. The trade-off is between a kind of incomplete, fly-on-the-wall access to a moment in history and the likely revisionist retellings of those who lived through it. All of the messages referenced here are cited by their "Message-ID," which should allow anyone interested to access the original messages through Google Groups (

10 Eugene Ciccarelli, "An Introduction to the EMACS Editor," MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, AI Lab Memo no. 447, 1978, 2.

11 Richard Stallman, "EMACS: The Extensible, Customizable Self-doc.u.menting Display Editor," MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, AI Lab Memo no. 519a, 26 March 1981, 19. Also published as Richard M. Stallman, "EMACS: The Extensible, Customizable Self-doc.u.menting Display Editor," Proceedings of the ACM SIGPLAN SIGOA Symposium on Text Manipulation, 810 June (ACM, 1981), 14756.

12 Richard Stallman, "EMACS: The Extensible, Customizable Self-doc.u.menting Display Editor," MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, AI Lab Memo no. 519a, 26 March 1981, 24.

13 Richard M. Stallman, "EMACS Manual for ITS Users," MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, AI Lab Memo no. 554, 22 October 1981, 163.

14 Back in January of 1983, Steve Zimmerman had announced that the company he worked for, CCA, had created a commercial version of EMACS called CCA EMACS (Message-ID: [email protected]). Zimmerman had not written this version entirely, but had taken a version written by Warren Montgomery at Bell Labs (written for UNIX on PDP-11s) and created the version that was being used by programmers at CCA. Zimmerman had apparently distributed it by ftp at first, but when CCA determined that it might be worth something, they decided to exploit it commercially, rather than letting Zimmerman distribute it "freely." By Zimmerman's own account, this whole procedure required ensuring that there was nothing left of the original code by Warren Montgomery that Bell Labs owned (Message-ID: [email protected]).

15 Message-ID for Gosling: bnews.sri-arpa.865.

16 The thread starting at Message-ID: [email protected] contains one example of a discussion over the difference between public-domain and commercial software.

17 In particular, a thread discussing this in detail starts at Message-ID: [email protected] and includes Message-ID: [email protected], Message-ID: [email protected], Message-ID: [email protected]

18 Message-ID: bnews.sri-arpa.988.

19 Message-ID: [email protected], announced on net.unix-wizards and net.usoft.

20 Message-ID: [email protected]

21 Various other people seem to have conceived of a similar scheme around the same time (if the Usenet archives are any guide), including Guido Van Rossum (who would later become famous for the creation of the Python scripting language). The following is from Message-ID: [email protected]: /* This software is copyright (c) Mathematical Centre, Amsterdam,

* 1983.

* Permission is granted to use and copy this software, but not for * profit,

* and provided that these same conditions are imposed on any person

* receiving or using the software.

22 For example, Message-ID: [email protected]

23 Stallman, "The GNU Manifesto." Available at GNU's Not Unix!,

24 The main file of the controversy was called display.c. A version that was modified by Chris Torek appears in net.sources, Message-ID: [email protected] A separate example of a piece of code written by Gosling bears a note that claims he had declared it public domain, but did not "include the infamous Stallman anti-copyright clause" (Message-ID: [email protected]).

25 Message-ID: [email protected]

26 Message-ID: [email protected]

27 Message-ID: [email protected]

28 Message-ID: [email protected]

29 Message-ID: [email protected] Stallman also recounts this version of events in "RMS Lecture at KTH (Sweden)," 30 October 1986,

30 Message-ID: [email protected]

31 Message-ID: [email protected]

32 Message-ID: [email protected]

33 With the benefit of hindsight, the position that software could be in the public domain also seems legally uncertain, given that the 1976 changes to USC17 abolished the requirement to register and, by the same token, to render uncertain the status of code contributed to Gosling and incorporated into GOSMACS.

34 Message-ID: [email protected] Note here the use of "once proud hacker ethic," which seems to confirm the perpetual feeling that the ethic has been compromised.

35 Message-ID: [email protected]

36 Message-ID: [email protected]

37 Message-ID: [email protected]

38 Message-ID: [email protected]

39 Joaquim Martillo, Message-ID: [email protected]: "Trying to forbid RMS from using discarded code so that he must spend time to reinvent the wheel supports his contention that 'software h.o.a.rders' are slowing down progress in computer science."

40 Diamond V. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175 (1981), the Supreme Court decision, forced the patent office to grant patents on software. Interestingly, software patents had been granted much earlier, but went either uncontested or unenforced. An excellent example is patent 3,568,156, held by Ken Thompson, on regular expression pattern matching, granted in 1971.

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