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22. What's GNU?

The quick answer is GNU's Not Unix. It was started by Richard Stallman for purposes that shall be revealed...

In short, "The GNU Project was launched in 1984 to develop a complete Unix -like operating system which is free software : the GNU system."

In the beginning, the plan was pretty clear, namely to create a "free" operating system rather like Unix, only available under a free license. The point of this wasn't primarily for it to be "free of cost," but rather for it to be "freely usable," so that people could examine, understand, and change the source code as desired.

The project began with a text editor, Emacs, and quickly progressed to include the creation of a C compiler, GCC, as that proved to be a crucial dependancy. Text processing utilities "in Unix style" were created. One of the later goals being the creation of an operating system kernel, which eventually became the Hurd project.

Perhaps the most crucial thing developed is the GPL, or GNU General Public License, which is now quite widely used for all sorts of free software.

The FSF, or Free Software Foundation, was founded as a corporate structure to provide such things as:

Ambiguity now arises; there are various things here that are identifiable that bear some sort of relationship to one another but not a clear and unambiguous relationship.

For instance:

It more or less appears that for something to be "officially" part of the GNU Project, it needs to be blessed by one of those that are "officially" part of the Free Software Foundation, and more particularly, by someone who happens to have the initials RMS .

I'm not sure that I entirely like that.


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