Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Richard Matthew Stallman, a.k.a. RMS, (born March 16, 1953) is the founder of the free software movement, the GNU project, and the Free Software Foundation. He is also a renowned hacker, whose major accomplishments include GNU Emacs, the GNU C Compiler, and the GNU Debugger. He is the author of the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or GPL), the most widely-used free software license, which pioneered the concept of the copyleft.
Since the mid-1990s, he has spent most of his time as a political campaigner, advocating free software and campaigning against software idea patents and expansions of copyright law. The time that he still devotes to programming is spent on GNU Emacs. He is currently supported by various fellowships and maintains a modest standard of living.
Stallman was born in Manhattan to Alice Lippman and Daniel Stallman. In his programming years he was perhaps better known by his initials, "RMS". In the first edition of the Hacker's Dictionary, he wrote, '"Richard Stallman" is just my mundane name; you can call me "rms".'
His first access to a computer came during his junior year at high school in the 1960s. Hired by the IBM New York Scientific Center, Stallman spent the summer after his high-school graduation writing his first program, a preprocessor for the IBM 7094 written in the PL/I programming language. "I first wrote it in PL/I, then started over in assembly language when the PL/I program was too big to fit in the computer", he later said. (Williams 2002, chapter 3)
After that job, Stallman held a Laboratory Assistant position in the Biology Department at Rockefeller University. Although he was already moving toward a career in mathematics or physics, his analytical mind impressed the lab director such that a few years after Stallman departed for college, his mother received a phone call. "It was the professor at Rockefeller", she recalled. "He wanted to know how Richard was doing. He was surprised to learn that he was working in computers. He'd always thought Richard had a great future ahead of him as a biologist." (Williams 2002, chapter 3)
In 1971, as a freshman at Harvard University, Stallman became a hacker at the MIT AI Laboratory. He was hired by Russ Noftsker, a man who would later found Symbolics and become a bitter opponent for Stallman. Later, at the age of nineteen, he worked for a timesharing company in Westchester County with a desk adjacent to that of Eben Moglen, now a well known technology attorney.
Decline of the hacker culture
In the 1980s, the hacker community that dominated Stallman's life began to dissolve. The emergence of "portable software" — software that could be made to run on different types of computers — meant that the ability for computer users to modify and share the software that came with computers was now a problem for the business models of the computer manufacturers. To prevent their software being used on their competitors' computers, manufacturers stopped distributing source code and began restricting copying and redistribution of their software by copyrighting it.
In 1980 Richard Greenblatt, a fellow AI lab hacker, founded Lisp Machines Incorporated to market Lisp machines, which he and Tom Knight designed at the lab. Greenblatt rejected outside investment, believing that the proceeds from the construction and sale of a few machines could be profitably reinvested in the growth of the company. In contrast, Russ Noftsker and other hackers felt that the venture-capital funded approach was better. As no agreement could be met, most of the remaining lab hackers gave LMI a year's grace, and then founded Symbolics. Symbolics recruited most of the remaining hackers — most notably Bill Gosper — and persuaded them to resign from the AI lab on the grounds of a conflict of interest. While both companies delivered proprietary software, Richard Stallman felt that LMI, unlike Symbolics, had tried to avoid hurting the lab.
For two years, from 1982 to the end of 1983, Stallman single-handedly duplicated the efforts of the Symbolics programmers to prevent them from gaining a monopoly on the Lab's computers. By that time, however, he was the last of his generation of hackers at the Lab. He was asked to sign non-disclosure agreements and perform other actions he considered betrayals of his principles, but chose instead to share his work with others in what he regarded as a classical spirit of scientific collaboration and openness.
Stallman's philosophy was that "software wants to be free": if a user or fellow hacker could benefit from a particular piece of software it was the developer's right — and indeed duty — to allow them to use and improve it without artificial hindrance or restrictions. Consequently, in January 1984, he quit his job at MIT to work full time on the GNU project, which he had announced in September 1983. He did not complete a Ph.D. but has been awarded (among other honors) four honorary doctoral degrees; see below.
In 1985, Stallman published the GNU Manifesto, which outlined his motivation for creating a free operating system called GNU, which would be compatible with Unix. The name GNU is a recursive acronym for GNU's Not Unix. Soon after, he incorporated the non-profit Free Software Foundation (FSF) to employ free software programmers and provide a legal infrastructure for the free software community.
In 1989, Stallman invented and popularized the concept of copyleft, a legal mechanism to protect the modification and redistribution rights for free software. By then, much of the GNU system had been completed, with the notable exception of a kernel. Members of the GNU project were working on a kernel called GNU Hurd, but a risky design decision proved to be a bad gamble, and development of the Hurd was slow.
By producing the software tools needed to write software, and publishing a generalised license that could be applied to any software project (The GPL), Stallman enabled others to write free software independent of the GNU project. In 1991, one such independent project produced the Linux kernel. By luck, this could be combined with the existing GNU software to make a complete operating system. This was a great milestone for the GNU project, but the simultaneous appearance of Linux and the GNU+Linux operating system created confusion, and most people used the name Linux to refer to both.
Stallman places great importance on the words people use to talk about the relationship between of software and freedom. In particular, he untiringly asks people to say "free software", "GNU/Linux", and to avoid the term "Intellectual Property". His requests that people use certain terms, and his ongoing efforts to convince people of the importance of terminology, are a source of constant friction with some parts of the free and open source software communities.
Over the years, people have tried to come up with a term for free software that doesn't have the ambiguity problem between having-freedom and zero-cost. The most well known alternative is "open source software". Stallman strongly objects to this term since he says it hides the goal of freedom. Support for this term was no doubt bolstered by some influential figures' dislike of Stallman's moral and political pronouncements. 
For similar reasons, he asks people to say "proprietary software", not "closed source software", when referring to software that is not free software.
Stallman asks people to say "GNU/Linux", when referring to the operating system made by combining the GNU system and the Linux kernel. His reason for this term is that the connection between the GNU project's philosophy and its software is broken when people call the operating system "Linux". 
Copyright and Patents
Stallman says the term "Intellectual Property" is designed to confuse people. By lumping together areas of law that have little or nothing in common, it is used to prevent intelligent discussion on a topic. Also, by referring to these laws as "property" laws, he says that term biases the listener when thinking about how to treat these issues. 
Lesser terminology issues
To a much lesser extent, Stallman recommends the use of other terms such as "software idea patents" instead of the more common "software patents". His reason is that the latter gives the wrong impression that the patent covers an entire piece of software. He also uses the term "(UFO) Uniform Fee Only", as a replacement for "(RAND) Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory". His reasoning is that a mandatory royalty of any amount discriminates against free software because distributors of free software can't count the number of copies in existence. This concern is shared by much of the free software and open source communities, but Stallman's term is not widely used. 
- Stallman has a reputation for being pedantic with respect to the use of the term "GNU" in conjunction with anything else. For example, although virtually the entire world recognizes Linux distributions as "Linux," Stallman insists they call it "GNU/Linux" instead because to do otherwise conflicts with his philosophy of free, open software.
- He frequently disregards conventional and widespread interpretations of terms like "hacker," insisting instead that people use his specific definitions.
- Stallman is vehemently opposed to having anything to do with "open source" projects for philosophical reasons, and is quoted as saying "'Open source' is the slogan of a group we disagree with. We disagree with it so strongly that we will not host projects that describe themselves as 'open source'."
- Stallman is documented on refusing to participate in media interviews unless the interviewer agrees to his demands that his terminology be used throughout any resulting article. This has resulted in him being excluded from numerous interviews and articles where he might have been relevant to the discussion.
- Stallman has a habit of referring to those who don't subscribe to his terminology as "ignorant."
- Has developed a reputation of being something of a prima donna.
- Quoted from Wired.com: "A former computer scientist at MIT's Artificial Intelligence Lab, Stallman has been arguing as far back as 1984 that proprietary software is practically a crime against humanity. That's the year he launched a project called GNU with the aim of creating a free operating system that would displace Unix. (GNU is a recursive name that stands for GNU's Not Unix.) He obstinately rejects the term open source despite its now near universal use, preferring free software, the name he coined. And although Torvalds released the kernel of his operating system well before GNU produced a reliable one of its own, Stallman insists Torvalds' work should properly be called GNU/Linux, because early contributors adapted GNU components for Linux - never mind that the Linux core is non-GNU and now approaches 6 million lines of code. (Stallman declined to be interviewed unless this article used his nomenclature throughout.) Torvalds diplomatically declines to say anything about GNU and Stallman: 'That's not a debate I want to get involved in.'" http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.11/linus_pr.html
- As well as "RMS", Stallman cultivates the humorous soubriquet "St. Ignucius" / "St. IGNUcius" (of the Church of Emacs).
- An aficionado of a wide range of music from Conlon Nancarrow to folk, Stallman is the author of the filky Free Software Song.
- Stallman gave POSIX its name.
- In 1977, Stallman published an AI truth maintenance system called dependency-directed backtracking. The paper was co-authored by Gerald Jay Sussman. 
- When asked who his influences are, he has remarked that he admires Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Ralph Nader, and Dennis Kucinich. He has also commented: "I admire Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, even though I criticize some of the things that they did."
- At one point, Stallman named the GNU HURD kernel "Alix" after his then-girlfriend.
- Stallman speaks fluent English, French, and Spanish, and flawed Hungarian and Indonesian.
- The movie documentary Revolution OS features interviews with Stallman.
- He has been the subject, or some would say the instigator, of a number of widely-publicized flamewars. Although occasionally for technical reasons (Tcl vs. Scheme), most of these flamewars have revolved around the use of non-free software.
- Stallman founded the League for Programming Freedom in 1989 to fight software patents and interface copyright . The League never gained the momentum Stallman hoped for, and has become mostly dormant.
Stallman has received numerous prizes and awards for his work, amongst them:
- 1990: MacArthur Fellowship
- 1991: The Association for Computing Machinery's Grace Murray Hopper Award "For pioneering work in the development of ... EMACS"
- 1996: Honorary doctorate from Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology
- 1998: Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer award
- 1999: Yuri Rubinsky Memorial Award
- 2001: Second honorary doctorate, from the University of Glasgow
- 2001: The Takeda Techno-Entrepreneurship Award for Social/Economic Well-Being (武田研究奨励賞)
- 2002: National Academy of Engineering membership
- 2003: Third honorary doctorate, from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel
- 2004: Fourth honorary doctorate, from the Universidad Nacional de Salta. 
Links and references
Publications by Richard Stallman
- Stallman, Richard M. & Sussman, Gerald J. (November 1975). Heuristic Techniques in Computer-Aided Circuit Analysis, published in IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems, Vol. CAS-22 (11)
- Stallman, Richard M. & Sussman, Gerald J. (1977). Forward Reasoning and Dependency-Directed Backtracking In a System for Computer-Aided Circuit analysis, published in Artificial Intelligence 9 pp.135-196
- Stallman, Richard M. (1981). EMACS: The Extensible, Customizable, Self-Documenting Display Editor. Cambridge Massachusetts: MIT. MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory publication AIM-519A. PDF HTML
- Stallman, Richard M. (2002). GNU Emacs Manual: Fifteenth edition for GNU Emacs Version 21. Cambridge, Massachusetts: GNU Press. ISBN 188211485X.
- Stallman et al (2004). GNU Make: A Program for Directed Compilation. Cambridge, Massachusetts: GNU Press. ISBN 1882114833.
- Williams, Sam (2002): Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software, O'Reilly Press. ISBN 0596002874. Also available over the web under the GFDL .)
- Gay, Joshua (ed) (2002): . Boston: GNU Press. ISBN 1882114981. Also available over the web: .)
- stallman.org - Richard Stallman's personal homepage.
- His weblog
- Free Unix! - The original GNU announcement
- GNU philosophy pages - Contains around 50 essays, mostly written by RMS.
- The GNU Philosophy Audio pages - Ogg Vorbis recordings of 15 speeches by RMS, plus one video.
- RMS lecture at KTH - at the Royal Institute of Technology (1986).
- Stallman Lecture in Lund, Sweden February 11, 2000
- Richard Stallman speaks - at the World Summit on the Information Society (2003).
- Nov 2004, University of Ulm, Germany: Software patents (audio and video, different formats)
- BYTE Interview with Richard Stallman - conducted by the now-defunct Byte magazine, at the beginning of the GNU project (July 1986).
- Richard Stallman: High School Misfit, Symbol of Free Software, MacArthur-Certified Genius (1999).
- Developer Spotlight: Richard Stallman (July 2004).
- Freedom, Innovation, and Convenience: The RMS Interview (December 2004).
- Kerneltrap.org Interview: Richard Stallman (January 2005).
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