04.13.21

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How the GNU Operating System Really Started (Almost a Decade Before Linux Came Out)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Kernel, TechBytes Video at 10:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The true story of the GNU Operating System (no, it didn’t start in 1991 and not in Finland either… but in Massachusetts, with its announcement predating the first Linux release by over 8 years*)


Transcript below

Summary: Later this year Linux turns 30, but Linux is just a component added to the GNU Operating System, developed a very long time earlier based on the design of UNIX (the mainstream media likes to distort that part of history); here’s the creator of the GNU Operating System, telling me his story here in the United Kingdom (we did many clips like these and this one seems very timely)

[00:00]
Roy (RSS): The first thing I was going to ask you about [is] the origins of the GNU Project. I realise that you had to use some proprietary tools to begin with in order to … to itself. Do you remember what kind of editor you were using at the time and [what] development tools?

RMS: Well, I was using Emacs, not GNU Emacs

[00:30]
until I wrote GNU Emacs but after all that was the last Emacs there were many other Emacs editors before then. I wrote the first one for the PDP-10 and that was still available and there was also a kind of Emacs on the MIT LISP machine and between those two I could do all my editing on Emacs. But in general, the platform for bootstrapping the GNU system was UNIX, after

[01:00]
all, GNU’s Not UNIX. What does that mean? That was a customary way of saying that was a system designed to be compatible with and similar to UNIX.

____
* Initial release, or version 0.02, was on 5th of October, 1991 (the Linux anniversary). GNU was first announced on 27th of September, 1983, at 6:35:59 PM. There was a mention of a kernel in the second paragraph (highlighted in yellow): “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.”

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