UNIX is the moniker given to the family of trademarked multitasking multiuser computer operating systems that were originally part of the AT&T Unix program that was developed in the early 1970's. This operating system was originally devised by a team of researchers at the Bell Labs research center that included Ken Thompson and Dennis Richie. Created in mind initially for AT&T, the operating system was later loaned out to several outside parties in the latter half of 1970's.
Written originally in the "C programming language", UNIX was devised as a portable type of software that only required a small amount of machine dependent code. In 1975, the first source license for UNIX was sold to faculty members at the University of Illinois Department of Computer Science. This sale lead to other similar sales and then the academic influence of UNIX began. It leads to the adoption of many UNIX related systems, include BSD, system V, Sequent, HP-UX, Solaris, AIX and Xenix as commercial startups. After this influx of popularity to the use of the UNIX systems, in the 1990's, Linux and BSD distributions were sent worldwide by a collaboration of network programmers. Then, finally, in 2000, Apple released its program, Darwin, that has since become the core of OS X operating systems of all Apple products, all because of UNIX.
Since the popularity of the UNIX software had risen to such great heights, competition between the strains of the software began. The results of these competitions resulted in many, many different versions of the original UNIX software, all based off the seventh edition, before many network programmers began creating their own software strains. This made UNIX inaccessible to the average user as all the strains of the software were proprietary to their respective hardware vendors. This is where the story and work of Richard Stallman, founder of GNU comes in.
In 1984, Richard Stallman, a man from Manhattan, New York, established what was the Free Software Foundation and later grew into the GNU project. He created such a project in order to build a free version of the UNIX operating system, making it accessible for everyone. Free, in terms of what Richard Stallman intended, meant that it would be a software that could be freely used, read, modified and then redistributed. His plan was working smoothly enough, he and other computer programmers were able to successfully build a C complier, EMACS, a text editing program and other tools that they deemed necessary to creating a free version of UNIX. They were then stumped in the 1990's when they could not figure out how to complete the kernel of their operating system. Without this vital feature, their dream for a free UNIX could never be completed.
At that same time, another computer programmer, Linus Torvalds began construction of his own inner operating system kernel which he later dubbed "Linux". The key feature of his operating system kernel was that it had within it the ability to be combined with the FSF material and building components that Stallman and his team had already constructed. By combining these two structural elements, Stallman was finally able to live his dream, of a free UNIX software.
So who exactly was Richard Stallman and how did he come about being the man that made UNIX software available to the masses? As already mentioned, Stallman was a New Yorker who attended both MIT and Harvard University. He is most famously known for his involvement in the FSF and GNU movements as well as his creation of the editing software known as EMACS. In his earlier computing years, Stallman worked as a hacker at MIT's Al laboratory. There he worked on software projects like TECO and LISP. Password safety and protection were another one of Stallman's many projects and the password requirements that still exist today are because of Stallman's work. But in the 1980's, Stallman became disenchanted with the way the technological world was advancing at MIT and quit his connections there. It was then, in September of 1983 that GNU and the quest for open source, free software for the masses began.
Following his leaving of MIT, in 1985, Stallman produced his "GNU Manifesto" which he released via ARPANET and USENET mailing lists. In his original release, Stallman said: "As an operating system developer, I had the right skills for this job. So even though I could not take success for granted, I realized that I was elected to do the job. I chose to make the system compatible with Unix so that it would be portable, and so that Unix users could easily switch to it." The manifesto also outlined his plans and motivations for creating this free-operating system and later gained popularity as GNU became to be associated with the phrase, "GNU's not Unix". Soon after releasing his manifesto, Stallman created the nonprofit, Free Software Foundation, from which he drew on funds and other programmers to monetize his free-software dreams.
It was through this nonprofit work that Stallman was able to make popular the concept of copy left, a term used to describe the legal mechanism that is used to protect the modification and redistribution rights to free software, the source of the problem that had caused Stallman to leave MIT. Once Stallman and his programming friends were able to complete their fundamental concepts and then combine their work with the work of Linus Torvalds' key operating kernel, the final product, free operating software was born and Stallman's work on this particular software was complete.
Stallman hasn't stopped with his establishment of free-operating software and the competition of his quest as laid out in his GNU manifesto. He is and will always be known as a technological rebel, he's been called "the stubbornest mule on the farm" in relation to his never sending question and "single-minded commitment and brutal honesty" towards the world of computer programming and the multi-million dollar campaigns that the industry revolves around. But this much is true, without the dedicated work of Richard Stallman, Unix for the masses wouldn't exist and for that reason alone, Richard Stallman is a man and a legend in his own right.
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