Richard Stallman

by GMoulden

Richard Matthew Stallman (born March 16, 1953) is an American software freedom activist, hacker, and a software developer. Stallman pioneered the concept of copyleft and the main author of several copyleft licenses including the GNU General Public Licenses, the most widely used free software license. Stallman also developed several well-used and well-known software programs, including the original Emacs, the GNU Compiler Collection, and the GNU Debugger. Ever since 1990, Stallman has spent most of his time advocating free software. He also campaigns actively against both copyright patents and what he chooses to see as excessive copyright laws.

Richard Stallman was born in New York City in 1953, to Daniel Stallman and Alice Lippman. He wrote his first program the summer after his high school graduation. It was a preprocessor for the PL/I programming language on the IBM System/360. In June 1971, Stallman became known in Harvard University for his strong performance in Math 55, and also as a programmer at the AI Laboratory of MIT. It was there that Stallman became an active member of the hacker network, calling himself ‘rms’ rather than his ‘boring’ real name. He graduated from Harvard in 1971, earning a BA in Physics, and then enrolled as a graduate student in physics in MIT. He eventually abandoned his studies in favor of remaining a programmer at the AI Laboratory of MIT. But while a student of MIT, Stallman published a paper on dependency-directed backtracking. The paper an early work on intelligent backtracking in constraint satisfaction problems. As of 2003, the technique was still the most general and powerful form of backtracking.

Stallman is perhaps best known for his work on the GNU operating system. Stallman announced his plan for the GNU system on several ARPANET mailing lists and on USENET. The name GNU is a recursive acronym for GNU’s Not Unix. Stallman published the GNU Manifesto in 1985 that outlined his motivation for creating a free operating system called GNU, which was designed to be compatible to Unix.
Also in 1985, Stallman popularized the idea of copyleft, which was a legal mechanism to protect the modification and distribution rights for free software. It was first implemented in the GNU Emacs General Public License, and in 1989 the first program-independent GNU General Public License was released. By that time, much of the GNU program had been completed and revised. Stallman provided many of the tools to assist the GNU growth, including acting as a text editor, a complier, debugger, and a builder automator.

Throughout his life, Stallman has written hundreds of essays on software freedom and has been an outspoken political campaigner for the free software movement ever since the early 1990s. Some of his better-known speeches were titled The GNU Project and the Free Software Movement, The Dangers of Software Patents, and Copyright and Community in the Age of Computer Networks. His attitude on ethical issues regarding computers and software has ensured many people to view him as a radical extremist.
Stallman’s outspoken advocacy of free software programming inspired ‘Virtual Richard M. Stallman’ (vrms), software that analyzes the packages currently installed on a GNU/Linux system.
Stallman also called for a development of a free on-line encyclopedia through the means of inviting the public to contribute articles. He did indeed develop an online encyclopedia, called GNUPedia

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