A history of free and open source software.


1950's and 1960's: Software is distributed with source code and without restrictions in forums like the IBM SHARE or the DEC DECUS user groups, or the Algorithms'' section of theCommunications of the ACM'' journal. [gb00]

1969 Apr: RFC number 1 describing first software for the Internet (then ARPANET ) is published. The free availability of RFCs and specifically of the protocol specifications was a key factor of the the development of Internet. [gb00]

1972: Source code is freely distributed in academic circles. Example: MIT, circa 1972, HACKMEM (PDP-6/10 assembly language). [gb00]

1978: Professor Donald E. Knuth from Stanford University begins to work on TeX, a typesetting system distributed as free software. [gb00]

1983: Richard Stallman writes the GNU Manifesto, in which he calls for a return to the public sharing of software and source code. [gb00]

1984: GNU Project begins. Developers begin creating a wide range of Unix-like tools, including for instance an editor (Emacs) and a compiler (GCC). The goal is to build a complete free operating system. [gb00]

1985: MIT based X Consortium distributes the X Window System as free software covered by one of the less restrictive open source licences. [gb00]

1985: The Free Software Foundation is founded. [gb00]

1989: Cygnus, the first commercial company devoted to provide commercial support for GNU software and open source software in general, is funded. [gb00]

1990: The Free Software Foundation announces its intent to build a Unix-like kernel called GNU Hurd. Their goal is to fill in the last major hole in the GNU suite of software for creating a fully open source development system. [gb00]

1991: William and Lynne Jolitz write a series in Dr. Dobbs Journal on how to port BSD Unix to i386-based PCs. As a result of the open source software developed and collected at the CSRG of University of California at Berkeley, it was possible to have a complete (and free) BSD operating system. This is the starting point for the BSD family of open source operating systems (NetBSD, FreeBSD, OpenBSD). [gb00]

1991 Aug: Finnish graduate student Linus Torvalds announces that he has been working on an open source Unix-like kernel, using GNU tools such as GCC. [gb00]

1991 Oct: Linus Torvalds publicly releases the source code for his Unix-like kernel, which is named Linux. [gb00]

1991 Dec: Linus Torvalds announces the first self-supporting release of Linux, version 0.11. Developers can now work on Linux without using any proprietary tools or operating systems. [gb00]

1992 Jul: 386BSD 0.1 is released by William and Lynne Jolitz. [gb00]

1992: The US Air Force awards New York University (NYU) a contract to build an open source compiler for what is now called Ada 95. The NYU team chooses GNU GCC for code generation and calls their compiler GNAT (GNU NYU Ada 95 Translator). [gb00]

1993 Aug 16: Ian Murdock founds the Debian project. The official pronounciation of Debian is 'deb ee n'. The name comes from the names of the creator of Debian, Ian Murdock, and his wife, Debra. [deb03,gb00]

1993 Dec: FreeBSD 1.0, one of the first stable descendent of Jolitzes' 386BSD, is available in the Net. [gb00]

1994: GNAT receives a commercial boost with the incorporation of Ada Core Technologies (ACT) by its original creators. ACT decides to make money by evolving GNAT and selling support services, rather than by selling GNAT itself. Over time and with the help of ACT, GNAT becomes the dominant Ada 95 compiler. [gb00]

1994 Jan: Debian GNU/Linux (version 0.91), developed by 12 volunteers, is released. [gb00]

1994: Marc Ewing begins the Red Hat GNU/Linux distribution. Like the Debian distribution, it is intended to improve on the then-dominant Slackware distribution. [gb00]

1994 Mar: First issue of the Linux Journal is published. [gb00]

1994 Oct: NetBSD 1.0 released. [gb00]

1995 Jan: FreeBSD 2.0 is released. [gb00]

1995 Apr: First official release (0.6.2) of Apache is distributed. [gb00]

1996: First Conference on Freely Redistributable Software. Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. [gb00]

1996 Mar: Ian Murdock's leadership of Debian ends. [deb03]

1996 Oct: Announcement of the KDE project, first project for addressing usability problems of open source unices. [gb00]

1997 Jun: Eric S. Raymond presents his paper ``The Cathedral and the Bazaar'' on why the Linux software development model works. [gb00]

1997 Aug: Announcement of GNOME, a KDE `competitor', born as a reaction to licensing problems related to KDE usage of the Qt library, which was not open source at that time. [gb00]

1998 Jan: Netscape declares its intent to release the source code for its Navigator browser, in part persuaded by Raymond's paper. [gb00]

1998 Feb: Chris Peterson and others coin the term ``open source'' and register it, to act as a trade mark for free software products. [gb00]

1998 Apr: Netscape source code is released, and initial fixes and enhancements begin arriving within hours. [gb00]

1998 Jun: FREENIX, the Freely Redistributable Software Track of the USENIX Technical Conference is devoted to developers and users of open source software. [gb00]

1998 Jul: Debian 2.0 is released by more that 300 volunteer developers working on more than 1,500 packages. [gb00]

1998 Jul: KDE 1.0 is released. [gb00]

1998 Aug 10: Linus Torvalds and Linux appear on the front cover of Forbes Magazine. [gb00]

1998 Oct: IBM decides to test open source by using Apache on their AS/400 servers. [gb00]

1998 Oct: Intel and Netscape invest in Red Hat. [gb00]

1998 Nov: ``Halloween'' documents (attributed to Microsoft) are leaked to the public by Eric S. Raymond [27]. The documents analyze strengths and weaknesses of open-source software and Linux. [gb00]

1999 Oct: `October GNOME', the (for now) most stable release of the GNOME system, is released. [gb00]