GNU already included the best C compiler, the best text editor, and a number of other development tools, before the Linux kernel came around. For the people who were on the internet already at the time, it was quite notable.
It is certainly true, though, that without Linux, GNU might easily have collapsed in the early 1990s.
It might depend on what you were doing. I mean, Cygnus was founded in 1989, and I think they had revenue by 1990. So at least some people considered it so viable they were willing to pay a tiny startup hundreds of thousands of dollars for it by then.
Fractint is a perfect case study. It has died, not because people stopped computing fractals, but because it was under a no-commercial-distribution license, not a free-software license. That meant that commercial Linux distributors like Red Hat couldn't include it in their product, and so it gradually lost the contributors who could have kept it relevant.
Linux was originally under a similar license. It could have died in the same way, leaving only the BSD projects, which have been much less effective at attracting contributors. You could argue that maybe without competition from Linux, they would have been able to attract more contributors; but I think the truth is the opposite — with fewer free-software users, there would be fewer free-software contributors, and less free software, increasingly marginalizing free-software systems.
And, without inspiration from Stallman's ideology, even BSD would never have become free, according to Keith Bostic.
So we'd have some free software, but we wouldn't have a coherent movement that strives to ensure that everyone can use a 100%-free-software system.
>Sorry, but if Stallman hadn't done anything, we'd still have Linux, and all the other software we enjoy today.
Are you absolutely certain about that? Think about it: if for example Linus had released his kernel with a more permissive license, he might not have received as many contributions, and maybe Linux would never have become as great as it is now.
Personally, I'm certain it would have happened anyway. Even going further, if Linus hadn't done Linux, someone else would have hacked together a free open source Unix OS and got a following behind it.
History is littered with cases where a large number of people 'discover' or 'invent' something, and then one of them happens to be credited with it, and goes down in history as "the inventor". But it was bound to happen anyway.
>History is littered with cases where a large number of people 'discover' or 'invent' something, and then one of them happens to be credited with it, and goes down in history as "the inventor". But it was bound to happen anyway.
You could say the same of Einstein, or ... even Steve Jobs :)
I think it's a little different though. There's millions of programmers with all the skills needed to write gcc or linux etc. The only thing needed is time. But to be an Einstein or Jobs requires a bit more skill and there's far fewer people in the right circumstances to be an Einstein or Jobs.
Why not? Wouldn't Linus have just hacked together the tools he needed like gcc etc?
Not having software isn't a show stopper. It just means you have a bit more work to do. So yeah maybe building gcc might have taken a few months, but it wouldn't have prevented anything, only delayed the inevitable.
It's impossible to know whether or not Linux would exist without GNU, but GCC isn't something you can hack together in a few months. Clang is the closest thing to a GCC replacement we have, and it didn't compile Linux until October 2010 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clang)
You might naïvely think that, but it turns out that things that need building often don't get built, or at least not for many years after they first needed building. I mean, you could have written jQuery in 1999. We still have problems with hardware that isn't supported by free software.
> You're comparing a compiler (necessary to build stuff),
You may not be aware of this, but people were writing working computer programs for almost 20 years before they invented compilers. People still occasionally write working computer programs today without compilers.
And I think jQuery is awesome.
> If people needed a compiler, they would have built one. Jquery was an optional addition that some like using. It hasn't enabled things that weren't possible before.
No software "enables" things that weren't possible before; obviously if it hadn't been possible to do the things that the software "enabled", it would have been impossible to write the software.
In particular, any software you can write with a compiler, you can write in machine code. It's just more work.
But some software gives you a lot of leverage. jQuery is a good example. A C compiler is another good example. The leverage provided by the two is roughly comparable.
Its sort of difficult not to call your posts trolling.
Not having tools at hand is a major factor for not to pursue a project everywhere in the world. Not just in the open source world. I don't think Guido or Larry or Matz would have taken trouble to write a compiler to write Python or Perl or Ruby.
Not to mention nearly all major open source projects and many other closed projects are using gcc one way or the other. I bet even Apple uses gcc in some way.
Work happens by incrementally building on others work. Even Linus agrees RMS is one of the giants on whose shoulders he has stood to look farther.
RMS might have some problems communicating in most socially accepted ways. But he has achieved and helped other achieve far more things valuable. And he has done it in time. A lot of people have built on top of his work. And a lot of that work has made a lot of money and provided employment.
Its wrong to compare Steve Jobs and Richard Matthew Stallman. They are great in their own rights. But in terms of absolute comparisons, RMS has achieved far more than Jobs.
iProducts are the cool must have gadgets of this era, they haven't changed the world any more than video games have.