Free software and Emacs' origins

News.com reader Richard Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation, says he, not Java inventor James Gosling, wrote the first Emacs editor, in 1975.

2 min read
Free software and Emacs' origins

In response to the Jan. 17 Newsmaker interview with James Gosling, "Why Microsoft's C# isn't":

In your interview with James Gosling, he says that he was "responsible for the original Emacs, 23 years ago." Actually, I wrote the first Emacs editor, in 1975 at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab. (I received the ACM Grace Hopper Award in 1991 for this work.)

Gosling subsequently wrote an implementation of Emacs for Unix, but it was not free software. Starting in 1984, I wrote the free program (free as in freedom) GNU Emacs, which replaced Gosling's. I did this as part of developing the free software Unix-like GNU operating system. (A popular version of GNU is often referred to incorrectly as "Linux," which is actually the kernel used in that version.)

A similar thing is happening today with Gosling's more recent work. Most of Sun's Java implementation is not free software (nor even "open source"), and teams of programmers both inside and outside of the GNU project are developing free software to replace it. A non-free program denies its users basic freedoms, so users who value their freedom will always have to replace it. Thus it will be, until developers respect the users' freedom from the start and make the repeat effort unnecessary.

Richard Stallman
President, Free Software Foundation



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