Daniel Weinreb Rebuttal to Richard Stallman's Story of LISP History

By Xah Lee. Date: .

the following is from http://danweinreb.org/blog/rebuttal-to-stallmans-story-about-the-formation-of-symbolics-and-lmi accessed on

Note, Daniel Weinreb Died [see Lisp Programer Daniel Weinreb Died (1959 to 2012)]

Rebuttal to Stallman's Story About The Formation of Symbolics and LMI

by Daniel Weinreb, 2007-11

Richard Stallman has been telling a story about the origins of the Lisp machine companies, and the effects on the M.I.T. Artificial Intelligence Lab, for many years. He has published it in a book, and in a widely-referenced paper, which you can find at http://www.gnu.org/gnu/rms-lisp.html .

His account is highly biased, and in many places just plain wrong. Here's my own perspective on what really happened.

Richard Greenblatt's proposal for a Lisp machine company had two premises. First, there should be no outside investment. This would have been totally unrealistic: a company manufacturing computer hardware needs capital. Second, Greenblatt himself would be the CEO. The other members of the Lisp machine project were extremely dubious of Greenblatt's ability to run a company. So Greenblatt and the others went their separate ways and set up two companies.

Stallman's characterization of this as “backstabbing”, and that Symbolics decided not “not have scruples”, is pure hogwash. There was no backstabbing whatsoever. Symbolics was extremely scrupulous. Stallman's characterization of Symbolics as “looking for ways to destroy” LMI is pure fantasy.

Stallman claims that Symbolics “hired away all the hackers” and that “the AI lab was now helpless” and “nobody had envisioned that the AI lab's hacker group would be wiped out, but it was” and that Symbolics “wiped out MIT”. First of all, had there been only one Lisp machine company as Stallman would have preferred, exactly the same people would have left the AI lab. Secondly, Symbolics only hired four full-time and one part-time person from the AI lab (see below).

Stallman goes on to say: “So Symbolics came up with a plan. They said to the lab, ‘We will continue making our changes to the system available for you to use, but you can't put it into the MIT Lisp machine system. Instead, we'll give you access to Symbolics' Lisp machine system, and you can run it, but that's all you can do.’” In other words, software that was developed at Symbolics was not given away for free to LMI. Is that so surprising? Anyway, that wasn't Symbolics's “plan”; it was part of the MIT licensing agreement, the very same one that LMI signed. LMI's changes were all proprietary to LMI, too.

Next, he says: “After a while, I came to the conclusion that it would be best if I didn't even look at their code. When they made a beta announcement that gave the release notes, I would see what the features were and then implement them. By the time they had a real release, I did too.” First of all, he really was looking at the Symbolics code; we caught him doing it several times. But secondly, even if he hadn't, it's a whole lot easier to copy what someone else has already designed than to design it yourself. What he copied were incremental improvements: a new editor command here, a new Lisp utility there. This was a very small fraction of the software development being done at Symbolics.

His characterization of this as “punishing” Symbolics is silly. What he did never made any difference to Symbolics. In real life, Symbolics was rarely competing with LMI for sales. LMI's existence had very little to do with Symbolics's bottom line.

And while I'm setting the record straight, the original (TECO-based) Emacs was created and designed by Guy L. Steele Jr. and David Moon. After they had it working, and it had become established as the standard text editor at the AI lab, Stallman took over its maintenance.

Here is the list of Symbolics founders. Note that Bruce Edwards and I had worked at the MIT AI Lab previously, but had already left to go to other jobs before Symbolics started. Henry Baker was not one of the “hackers” of which Stallman speaks.

Tags: [12]LMI, [13]MIT, [14]Symbolics

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 11th, 2007 at 3:15 pm and is filed under [15]Symbolics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the [16]RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can [17]trackback from your own site.

56 Responses to “Rebuttal to Stallman's Story About The Formation of Symbolics and LMI”

1. [18]Sp3w Says:
       [19]November 12th, 2007 at 9:10 pm
       [...] Stallman was wrong [...]

2. Moon Says:
       [20]November 15th, 2007 at 9:08 pm
       All true, so far as I can remember.
       But in all fairness I have to say that Stallman greatly improved Emacs after
       he “liberated” it from Guy and me.
       Also, where you say “Symbolics only hired four full-time and one part-time
       person from the AI lab (see below).” that was true at the founding. But I
       think some other people left the AI lab for Symbolics later. Was that
       Symbolics pull or Stallman push?

3. Paddy Murphy Says:
       [21]November 15th, 2007 at 9:32 pm
       “it was part of the MIT licensing agreement, the very same one that LMI
       signed. LMI's changes were all proprietary to LMI, too.”
       You say that as if it excuses everything. RMS's POINT is that restrictive
       software licensing is evil in itself – “without copyright the GPL would be
       unenforceable. It would also be unnecessary”. You may not agree it's evil to
       abide by the law, but if the law is unjust, it can be.
       By following a proprietary model, symbolics (and lmi) doomed lisp machines.
       Doomed in much the same way, though a different market, as Amiga and BeOS.
       The only surviving lisp machine is RMS' emacs VM.

4. dlweinreb Says:
       [22]November 16th, 2007 at 2:31 am
       Paddy Murphy: I see, if you had been Symbolics, you would not have abided by
       the law. You would have violated the MIT license, been sued, and had your
       company shut down. THAT would have doomed Lisp machines.
       Is it your contention that “following a proprietary model” leads to doom? The
       reason Amiga and BeOS failed, but Apple and Microsoft succeeded, was because,
       um, what, again? Actually Symbolics was quite successful for a long time;
       there were many, many reasons why it eventually failed. Referring to GNU
       Emacs as a “Lisp machine” is entirely disingenuous.
       In 1980, all software was proprietary. The phrases “free software” and “open
       source” had yet to be coined. In fact, software that was portable from one
       vendor's computer to another had yet to be invented.
       Anyway, I totally reject Stallman's contention that restrictive software
       licensing is “evil in itself”.

5. [23]TJIC Says:
       [24]November 16th, 2007 at 3:52 am
       Great write-up, Dan. I idealized Stallman a bit, before I met him, and
       engaged him in a few email dialogues. Now that I’ve got a better feel for the
       man, I appreciate that much of his narratives are a bit self-serving and
       simplified. Having chatted a few times with some of the other characters on
       the list (Tom Knight was around Permabit a fair bit, and he was a thesis
       adviser for a good friend of mine), that only loads on the “Stallman's story
       doesn’t pass the sniff test” accumulator.

6. Foo Says:
       [25]November 16th, 2007 at 9:04 am
       Why Symbolics failed is an interesting question, but I guess it has nothing
       to do with so-called ‘free software’.
       Maybe this paper is relevant:
       Maybe Dan has some comments on that?

7. Alexander Shopov Says:
       [27]November 16th, 2007 at 10:06 am
       Dear Mr. Weinreb,
       Thank you very much for your post. It has been an interesting read.
       I would like to ask you several questions and hope that you might some more
       1. Why are you telling your side of the story?
       2. Why did it take so long for you to do this?
       3. I would believe that you will be challenged by many people (I would point
       to the post of Paddy Murphy). Such challenges frequently escalate.
       Doubtlessly you have thought about this and could you share you thoughts?
       4. Can other people support your side? Actually – I am not so much interested
       in the dispelling the myth investigative side (find the truth) as much as the
       way a myth gets created and woven, repeated, changed, etc.
       5. What is your current attitude to open source and free software?
       6. What has been your attitude towards the open source and free software
       Once again: thank you for your post and I hope there would be a follow up.
       Kind regards:

8. dlweinreb Says:
       [28]November 16th, 2007 at 1:14 pm
       In reply to “Foo”: thank you very much for giving me the idea for my next
       blog posting. I hope you enjoy it.
       In reply to Mr. Shopov: I’m telling my side of the story because I feel that
       I and my friends have been unfairly attacked (defamed, slandered, whatever).
       It took so long to do it because I only recently established a blog for the
       first time and got around to it. As for challenges, I’ll deal with them as
       they come. Yes, other people can support my side; see the posting above from
       Dave Moon, another Symbolics founder.
       My attitude toward open source and free software would take a long time to
       discuss, and I’m not sure I have much to say that's novel. I use lots of open
       source software and I’m very grateful for its existence; I’d be happy to
       produce some myself if I get the opportunity; I’m not a supporter of the
       philosophy behind the GPL although I do see a lot of the points. But the
       software I write for a living is not going to be open source (in fact we
       won’t sell it at all; we’re a service provider) and I don’t think there’s
       anything remotely unethical about it or else I would not do it.

9. [29]Kamen Tomov Says:
       [30]November 16th, 2007 at 3:41 pm
       Mr. Weinreb,
       I am grateful to you that you wrote this article. I never believed that the
       people in Symbolics were as unethical as Stallman describes them. Usually the
       talented and creative people have very high moral standards. I hope that your
       article would clear the name of the company that produced the finest piece of
       software known. I also hope that your active position would be a driving
       force in clearing the name of Common Lisp as well.
       With respect,
       Kamen Tomov

10. Alexander Shopov Says:
       [31]November 16th, 2007 at 3:54 pm
       Mr. Weinreb,
       Thank you for the answers. I might have left you with the impression that I
       was judgmental but I fully respect your opinion and I can understand the
       feeling of being singled out and unfairly defamed.
       I did not question you ethics but alas it seems that things are quite heated
       these days and everyone is making similar statements which is the topic I am
       interested in.
       Still – your look at those times was quite informative for me.
       I really wonder what is the opinion of the other participants in the story
       that has turned into a myth.
       Can someone give an answer to Mr. Moon's question on the Symbolics
       pull/Stallman's push for the fate of AI lab?
       Kind regards:

11. Paddy Murphy Says:
       [32]November 16th, 2007 at 4:32 pm
       “In 1980, all software was proprietary. ”
       Hah. Only in November 1980 was it even decided definitively that software was
       copyrightABLE. Before that, it was mostly trade-secret (see: unix), and thus
       typically copyable, patchable, etc. once disclosed – a much better situation
       for software users/ computer owners. Sure, some vendors might have _tried_ to
       claim copyright, but it was not clear they had a leg to stand on. Until Nov.
       1980, when Congress sided with the copyrightists.
       The MIT/Symbolics betrayal was an effective endorsement of the new 1980s
       regime of software-as-a-definitively-copyrightable-entity: You guys, seeing
       the proposed legalisation of slavery, chose to become slave-owners, instead
       of trying to fight slavery.
       You might have no ethical problem with copyrighting or even patenting
       software, but clearly plenty of people do. And I think history has already
       proven RMS right. The “cambrian extinction event” of microsoft would hardly
       have happened if disclosed software was freely shareable.

12. Stavros Macrakis Says:
       [33]November 16th, 2007 at 6:01 pm
       Paddy Murphy, why do you classify software protected by trade secret law less
       proprietary than software protected by copyright? Although some vendors
       shared their source code, many didn’t, and in any case, in a time when there
       was hardly any portable systems software, any use of a vendor's software
       implied use of its hardware.
       I’ll ignore the rest of your rantXXX post.

13. Eric Says:
       [34]November 16th, 2007 at 7:49 pm

     You might have no ethical problem with copyrighting or even patenting
     software, but clearly plenty of people do.
       That's like saying, “You may not have an ethical problem with eating eggs and
       dairy, but clearly plenty of people do.” Technically true, but that contrast
       doesn’t demonstrate anything. The implied appeal to popularity is of course a
       logical fallacy, but it's also absurd because it's an appeal to subcultural
       popularity – PETA and FSF are fringe organizations, and both vegans and
       people who straightfacedly equate copyrighting software with slavery are
       rather tiny minorities.

14. Bernie Greenberg Says:
       [35]November 16th, 2007 at 8:44 pm
       My dear friend Dan's statements about the origin and precedence of Lisp
       Emaces are, of course, 100% accurate. Both Dan and Richard were great fans of
       what I was doing. Accurate contemporary (1979) (and embarrassingly dated!)
       reportage about the origin and then-significance of Multics Emacs can be
       found at [36]http://www.multicians.org/mepap.html
       For the record, I agree with all of Dan's observations.
       I would also like to add that the notion of “hiring away” adults as though
       they had no free will or say in the matter has always offended me.

15. [37]David Chapman Says:
       [38]November 17th, 2007 at 4:32 am
       I was at the MIT AI Lab and peripherally involved in the Lisp machine
       development effort at this time. (Hi, Dan!) I contributed a small amount of
       code (and a lot of bug reports). I never worked for either company, and was
       friendly with people from both.
       Dan's account is accurate.
       Also, although I was not a Symbolics employee and have only second-hand
       knowledge of how it failed, his account in his next posting accords with what
       I heard at the time.
       It is an appalling travesty that the best available software development
       tools in 2007 are much less good than what we had in 1987. Sure wish I could
       develop for Zetalisp today.
       I had not previously read RMS's account. I found it interesting, too.
       Something that RMS does not make explicit, that I think was very important,
       was that we were working in a taxpayer-funded university lab. Obviously the
       software we wrote was and should have been made freely available to everyone
       because everyone had paid for it. The “spirit of freewheeling cooperation”
       was indeed a great thing; it is (or should be) the way all university
       research is done, in any field.
       There's a bit of a logical missing link in extending that ethos outside the
       university. It is great when it can and does happen. (I personally write and
       support GPL FLOSS, as well as of course using gnu emacs and other FLOSS
       systems every day.) I don’t think it follows that all software can or should
       be developed that way.
       (As far as I know, I’m the only person besides Paul Graham who has
       successfully followed his recipe of building a company on proprietary LISP
       code and selling it for zillions of dollars.)
       I wish that RMS had built a stand-alone LISP into gnu early on, and that it
       had become the basis for a bunch of other stuff. The world would be a much
       better place now. Oh, well; I bet he wishes that too.
       An importantly true point in RMS's piece: “Why did he want to avoid outside
       investment? Because when a company has outside investors, they take control.”
       Dan acknowledges that this is part of why Symbolics failed. Like Greenblatt,
       I bootstrapped my company using only cashflow from sales for precisely this
       reason. On the other hand, most hackers don’t make good business people. (I
       thought I would, and I was right, luckily.) And, it's harder to do this for a
       hardware company than a software one, because of the capital requirements.
       Back to a couple points I made earlier. Software development systems,
       including languages and IDEs, are worse than they were in 1987. That's an
       anomaly. (I haven’t read the book of RPG's that Dan recommends in his next
       posting, extending his “worse is better” essay; maybe it has the answer.) I
       write a lot of PHP code these days. What a pathetic excuse for a programming
       The answer may be, in 1987, most significant software development was done at
       university computer science departments, which were full of smart people who
       had actually taken a programming languages course and knew how not to make
       the same language-design mistakes over and over.
       For some reason nowadays CS departments don’t seem to develop influential
       programs. I haven’t been near a university in most of 20 years, so I don’t
       know why. Maybe they are producing great stuff that no one uses for some
       reason, or maybe they don’t attract smart people any longer.
       Most influential programs now seem to be produced by amateurs. That's weird.
       It's great, in a way, that you don’t need any credentials to create wonderful
       things millions of people will use. On the other hand, the CS curriculum
       really is critical. Learning it would save you from inventing PHP, which
       would be a huge benefit to mankind.
       Anyway, thank you Dan for writing this. I still think about those days often.

16. dlweinreb Says:
       [39]November 17th, 2007 at 12:41 pm
       Mr Shopov, about what Dave Moon said: I can’t remember any other AI Lab
       employees who later joined Symbolics, although it's been a long time now and
       I’m not sure. But Stallman's story is really about the initial formation of
       Symbolics and LMI.
       Mr Murphy: Whether the MIT contract used the legal doctrine of “contract” or
       not, Symbolics was contractually bound not to give away the source code.
       There was absolutely nothing unusual or novel about that. Your idea that
       until 1990, all code was copyable and patchable “once disclosed” is wrong.
       The very example you point out, Unix, demonstrates this clearly. Unix sources
       had “escaped” but that didn’t change the legal ownership of Unix, and some
       people were successfully sued for using it. To this day, Unix is legally
       owned. The people who are teaching you history are misleading you badly.
       Hi David (Chapman)! Good to hear from you! I’ll add that in all fairness, I
       don’t think the investors were to investors, per se. By the time the problems
       set in, Symbolics had already gone public, and the influence of the initial
       venture capitalists as such was less strong, except insofar as some of them
       were still on the board of directors. I do blame the board for having
       installed incompetent CEO's after Russell Noftsker and John Kulp were gone.
       I agree completely that a startup is much better off if it can avoid outside
       investors. But my (then-modest) salary had to come from somewhere, and the
       capital to build a hardware company fast enough to get to market while you’re
       still relevant is unavoidable. ICAD is another company that pulled off a
       great feat of bootstrapping, to their great advantage. Phil Greenspun's Ars
       Digita story is a classic of how obtaining venture capital can hurt your
       business. Not that I’m opposed to venture capital! You just have to know what
       you’re getting into when you accept it.
       Your point about where influential new software comes from these days is very
       interesting. I agree that it's great that an uncredentialed (and
       unaffiliated) amateur can have so much influence. It might be illuminating to
       do an informal survey. Erlang, as I understand it, was largely developed at
       Ericcson, although Joe Armstrong's Ph.D. work at the Royal Institute of
       Technology (Stockholm, Sweden) is also seminal. Does anyone know if “Matz”
       was affiliated with any institution when he invented Ruby? Groovy was done
       entirely by amateurs. The World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee when
       he was at CERN, which is basically academic. What examples did you have in
       On the other hand, the MIT Lisp machine work wasn’t really part of the
       mission of the AI Lab. It wasn’t artificial intelligence research, as we and
       the Lab saw it. We were just the support group, being responsive to the needs
       of our user community (“customers”). I sure didn’t have any credentials! In
       fact, when I started on the project, I had never written any software except
       classroom exercises and little toys for myself. I was incredibly lucky to
       become apprentice to Dave Moon, and learn from Bernie Greenberg and so many
       others. During the MIT years (1976-1979, for me) I had no idea that Lisp
       machines would ever be used beyond MIT.

17. Dave Says:
       [40]November 17th, 2007 at 10:31 pm
       Thanks for publishing more details about the deep history of popular
       computing :-)
       However, I think its a bit harsh to lay into Richard over “lies” in a speech;
       Richard always ad-libs his speeches and so it is certain to be full of
       Richard is very up front that his memory of his life isn’t very good and he’s
       forgotten most of the details of what has happened, especially for things 10,
       20 years ago, as in this case.
       The book “Hackers” by Steven Levy is the authoritative book about the AI Lab,
       and Richard's written article at
       [41]http://www.gnu.org/gnu/thegnuproject.html about the AI Lab recommends it.
       I think you’ve mistaken incompetence for malice.

18. Dave Says:
       [42]November 17th, 2007 at 10:32 pm
       Anyway, I totally reject Stallman's contention that restrictive software
       licensing is “evil in itself”.”
       I think its more factual to say Richard's contention is that it is wrong for
       software developers to have power over software users. Evil is something of a
       strange concept, and I shy away from using it in general… I think its
       inappropriate for merely restrictive software licensing, because it overeggs
       the cake in these days of software idea patents and anti-circumvention law.
       Its similar to the difference between racism and apartheid; one is to be
       criticized and curbed but ultimately tolerated in a free society, and the
       other is unjust law that needs to be abolished in a free society.

19. [43]Understanding » Blog Archive » Stallmans Story About The Formation Of
       Symbolics and LMI Says:
       [44]November 17th, 2007 at 11:20 pm
       [...] Dan Weinreb recently posted a “rebuttal” that I thought was quite
       interesting (thanks to Gerry for point it out :-) [...]

20. dlweinreb Says:
       [45]November 18th, 2007 at 12:31 am
       Dave: Stallman certainly doesn’t present his story by saying that he doesn’t
       remember the facts very well. I find it entirely implausible that he “forgot”
       the Lisp machine version of Emacs (EINE), since he used it frequently and
       even modified it. Perhaps, as your blog says, Stallman has said that he
       doesn’t remember his childhood well, but that's a different thing entirely.
       Levy's “Hackers” isn’t authoritative to me. I was there, and I know what
       happened. Levy obviously interviewed Stallman, as you can tell from reading
       the book, and evidently he took much of what Stallman said at face value. The
       chapter in the book is called “The Last of the True Hackers” and is written
       primarily from Stallman's point of view (although he does quote many other
       people). It make a good story, the kind that a journalist would naturally be
       looking for. It's no wonder Stallman's written article recommends the book.
       This is exactly why I wrote this blog entry in the first place!
       Where do you think Levy got the part about “RMS had single-handedly attempted
       to match the work of over a dozen world-class hackers”? From Stallman
       himself, or Greenblatt. It's quite misleading. First of all, most of the
       software effort at Symbolics was new software that Stallman did not match,
       such as Bernie Greenberg's LMFS file system, new software aimed at the
       next-generation hardware (the 3600), internal software to support the
       hardware manufacturing process, and so on. Stallman copied mainly incremental
       improvements. Secondly, most of the work entailed in making those
       improvements was their design; Stallman didn’t have to do that, since he just
       copied the design that we spent time working on. The story of Stallman being
       ten times as good as any of the rest of us is simply self-serving.
       Levy says, “But Symbolics, in Stallman's view, had purposely stripped the lab
       of its hackers in order to prevent them from donating competing technology to
       the public domain.” Levy doesn’t question this. What really happened is much
       simpler: Symbolics hired lots of good hackers for the same reason that every
       other company hires lots of good hackers: to get the work done.
       The split between Symbolics and LMI was indeed painful for everyone, as Levy
       says, but he explains pretty well why it happened.

21. Adrienne Says:
       [46]November 18th, 2007 at 2:19 pm
       It seems that RMS has seen your blog. In the article to which you refer “My
       Lisp Experiences and the Development of GNU Emacs” at
       [47]http://www.gnu.org/gnu/rms-lisp.html (Stallman's speech at ILC on 28
       October 2002) footnote (5) states:
       (5) Bernie Greenberg says that Dan Weinreb's implementation of Emacs for the
       Lisp Machine came before Greenberg's implementation for Multics. I apologize
       for the mistake.
       RMS is certainly not being malicious but, Dave, he is hardly incompetent
       either or he could not have “… single-handedly attempted to match the work of
       over a dozen world-class hackers” ;-)

22. [48]Kamen Tomov Says:
       [49]November 18th, 2007 at 5:33 pm
       In fact there is plenty of evidence that supports Mr. Chapman's point that
       most of the influential programs are produced by amateurs.
       Take Altair Basic, MS-DOS, and Windows. Neither Gates nor Allen had formal
       education in computer science when they released these products. They
       wouldn’t probably worked on them if they had.
       Another evidence is Linux. Linus Torvalds started university in 1988, first
       released Linux in 1991 and got his degree in 1996. He originally developed
       the Linux kernel as a hobby OS.
       Richard Gabriel has a good analysis on that.

23. [50]Thomas Lord Says:
       [51]November 18th, 2007 at 7:08 pm
       I first heard and read Stallman's stories as an undergraduate at a different
       major university — the late 1980s. Stallman was a hot topic around campus
       because of GCC, GDB, Emacs and GNU and was often described disparagingly but,
       these stories weren’t themselves often discussed (so I assumed, then, that
       they were basically true).
       This isn’t the first time I’ve heard the responses from other people who were
       there but it is nice to see a lot of those collected in one place. A truer
       picture is certainly painted here.
       I resent the original stories because of the influence they had on important
       career decisions. I was an employee for the FSF a few times and often did
       work for the GNU project. Originally, this was motivated by a false belief in
       Stallman's abilities as a hacker: that with someone of his alleged skill at
       the helm, the GNU software development project (to build a complete unix
       system with a core lisp component) could proceed in a rational, efficient way
       to completion. Instead, I watched over the years as the GNU project pissed
       away one effort after another until, ultimately, the “complete system”
       project has been privatized, as have most of the interesting so-called
       open-source projects.
       If the goal of the Free Software Movement has been to free users from the
       control of vendors, then today's open source systems have achieved that goal
       in theory only. In practice, users are utterly dependent on a small number of
       open source vendors and rarely have the realistic option to evade the control
       of those vendors by just “using the source”. Stallman changed the competitive
       landscape for large vendors of systems software and that's helped lower the
       price of some software commodities but he so far hasn’t done much to increase
       the software freedoms directly experienced by all that many users.
       The GNU software development project had but two organizational successes, by
       my accounting: First, it solicited and received contributions of small pieces
       of code, each implementing some set of features found on traditional unix
       manual pages. Second, it solicited and received contributions of translations
       for program messages and documentation. Those are impressive, but they hardly
       display the leadership prowess one would expect of a hero who can slay 10
       symbolics hackers with a single all nighter. Nor did the GNU project ever
       manage to *package* these developments in a way that would make their utility
       as free software available to average users: the vendor role emerges from
       Anyone who had had a little experience, back when I was getting started,
       would have seen that coming. That is, looking at the technical agenda that
       the GNU project laid out in support of its political agenda, the experienced
       eye would have said “Yeah, right,” and not been satisfied with anything less
       than a fairly clear plan for how all of that would get built and delivered
       into the hands of users in an orderly, efficient way. But, to the
       inexperienced eye, there's no problem — because there's a super-hacker at the
       helm. It's just a small matter of hacking.
       So, I think those stories and the corrections to them matter. Thanks to those
       who were there for collecting their versions.
       P.s.: Not meaning to disrupt the solemnity of the recounting but just for the
       opportunity to address some interesting people from the LISP world — you
       might like something I’ve been working on (“XQVM”). It is a virtual machine a
       bit like an idealized machine for Scheme, but is purely functional and uses
       XML Data Model instances rather than CONS pairs and ATOMs. If you install it
       as a web service, it's a bit like having a lisp reader as a web service
       (which you can then customize to be some more specific service, of course).
       And then there's additional things you can build on top of that. (It's on my
       web site.)

24. Dave Says:
       [52]November 18th, 2007 at 8:00 pm
       @Adrienne: I don’t mean to cuss Richard for being incompetent in general,
       obviously – I just mean he's human and none of our memories are perfect.
       Although the mythology around Richard makes him out to be have superhuman
       hacker powers, “single-handedly matched the work of over a dozen world-class
       hackers”, “wrote GCC 1.0 on his own,” blah blah, he isn’t really superhuman
       and its not surprising he forgets the fine details of things that happened
       over 20 years ago.
       @Dan: Similarly, its been about a decade since I read Levy's book (and I’m
       24), and I’d love to read it again. I bet Levy does retell the story Richard
       told him, the way Richard told it, without questioning much. But what I mean
       is, in general, when we want to know who did what and when, we’re better off
       referring to authored and formally published texts, not informal
       transcriptions of semi-formal speeches. Some texts are more fact-checked than
       others, and a text on a webpage is almost always worthless.
       Really my point is that its too harsh to accuse Richard of lying in his
       speeches when his facts are wrong. If Richard is talking about the history of
       copyright and mentions the printing culture of venice hundreds of years ago,
       I think it would be silly to claim that when he gets the details wrong he’s
       “lying.” What he says isn’t totally accurate, but its a speech, not an
       authored and fact-checked text, and he's telling a mythological ripping yarn
       with goodies and baddies. Isn’t that kind of storytelling run-of-the-mill
       practice for starting a social movement?
       That Richard has clarified what he meant by “hiring away” and even apologised
       for a factual error in the footnotes recently added to the end of transcript
       says a lot about him, I think: Not a liar, not superhuman, just human.
       Dan, are there any other books about these events, that are more
       authoritative? :-)

25. Adrienne Says:
       [53]November 19th, 2007 at 12:11 am
       ‘That Richard has clarified what he meant by “hiring away” ‘
       Where might I find this clarification from RMS?

26. Dave Says:
       [54]November 19th, 2007 at 12:17 am
       @Adrienne: “Greenblatt's plan, as I understood it, was to hire lab people
       part time, so that they could continue working at the AI Lab. Symbolics hired
       them full time instead, so they stopped working at MIT.” is now at the bottom
       of [55]http://www.gnu.org/gnu/rms-lisp.html

27. Sherry Finkel Murphy Says:
       [56]November 19th, 2007 at 1:50 am
       OMG, a friend who has the memory of an elephant pointed me to this blog and
       I’m smiling as I read it. While I spent a mere year at Symbolics as a
       technical writer, I assure you that I’m every bit the adoring groupie that I
       was then. I want to say hi particularly to Bernie (I always wanted to grab
       your glasses, clean them and hand them back to you, but didn’t have the
       nerve!) and Clark–simply one of the nicest human beings on earth. I apologize
       that I can’t remember the night-owl who wrote the Interlisp conversion tool
       and whose project I worked on, but I bet you do. And I certainly hope you are
       all well and happy.

28. dlweinreb Says:
       [57]November 19th, 2007 at 12:47 pm
       In light of Stallman's footnote about the precedence of Emacs editors, I have
       removed my statement in the post, that included the word “lie”. I really
       should not have said that in the first place; I got carried away in the heat
       of writing the post.
       @Dave: Actually, as we saw it, Symbolics was being particularly ethical and
       scrupulous by hiring people full time! The experienced founders, such as Tom
       Knight and Jack Holloway, said that they had previously (I don’t know exactly
       where) seen MIT-spinoff companies that took advantage of MIT by using MIT’s
       facilities. We, in contrast, were going to make an absolutely clean break,
       avoiding any reality or perception that we were unfairly using MIT. I
       remember once Tom had to borrow an unusual tool (a telephone “punch-down”)
       from the AI lab for a few hours, and we all felt a bit guilty about it (no
       kidding). It was a big deal to us at the time.
       And I’m sure we could not have accomplished what we did had we been working
       part-time. We worked very long hours, like many founders of new technology
       companies, and just managed to succeed in the way we wanted to. There was
       plenty of work to do, and we needed everyone we could get, full-time. During
       those days, I wrote documentation, went to trade shows to demo the machine,
       went to customer sites to do installation and support, and so on, perhaps
       even more than writing software. It was “all hands on deck” with everybody
       pitching in to do what needed to be done. (It was lots of fun, though!)
       Although Stallman characterizes Symbolics's founding as “aggression against
       the AI lab” (see footnote 2 of the above-cited paper), I would be surprised
       to hear that anyone else thought of it that way at the time. I simply don’t
       remember anger at Symbolics from anyone besides Stallman and the LMI people.
       As far as the AI lab was concerned, they continued to get everything they
       used to get, including all sources. They could see that the AI lab had been
       acting as a computer factory (they made lots of original CADR Lisp machines),
       and that that was inappropriate. Symbolics provided much better hardware and
       software than the AI lab could have produced itself, since we had a real
       factory, and a very large number of hackers (many more than the founding
       group, that is!). I think most people at the AI lab were happy (or
       indifferent) about the whole situation, although of course everyone on all
       sides regretted the Symbolics/LMI split.
       @Sherry: Hi! Ah, yes, the InterLisp conversion tool. (Yet another piece of
       software that Stallman did not copy.)

29. Andreas Davour Says:
       [58]November 19th, 2007 at 2:46 pm
       Thanks for posting this important historical piece!
       I once read Levy's book, and while I knew it was a bit controversial and had
       RMS as it's primary source for some eras I think it gave some important clues
       to what happened back in the days. I would actually love to have more books
       describe the computer revolution like that, in order to get a more complete
       and varied picture of events.
       Now, I have read a lot stuff Richard have written, and while I think it’s
       very good to hear the full story I’m very impressed with what he has
       achieved. It might not have been a complete GNU system, but the availability
       of free software for learning have been invaluable for people like myself. I
       wouldn’t work in the computer business if it wasn’t for the GNU project. If
       Richard as a political leader takes a few liberties (faulty memory, or
       whatever the reason) I guess I can understand why. It doesn’t hinder me from
       wanting to know more about what really did happen!
       After reading Levy's book I got the impression that the “AI lab” that felt
       Symbolics was betraying them was probably just RMS and maybe Greenblatt. Levy
       gives the impression that in Richard's mind Greenblatt was the lab!
       I’m amazed by the amount of truly great minds who have chimed in here and
       shared their view of things. After reading “Hackers” someone like me really
       wanted to be like Greenblatt, Gosper, Moon, Knight, Deutsch, Greenberg,
       Weinreb etc etc. :-)
       Now I just want to be myself and hack lisp. Thanks guys!

30. [59]Kamen Tomov Says:
       [60]November 19th, 2007 at 7:26 pm
       I am a bit surprised that not only Mr. Stallman, but also you (Mr. Weinreb,
       Mr. Chapman) use the word “hackers” when talking about the members of the AI
       lab. Why this word, what's the semantics? It seems that the word gained some
       new context with the development of open source in the last decade and
       perhaps it is very different from what it used to be.

31. dlweinreb Says:
       [61]November 20th, 2007 at 3:29 am
       Mr Tomov; please see [62]http://www.ccil.org/jargon/jargon_23.html#SEC30 for
       clarification. At MIT, the word “hacker” was very commonly used in the first
       seven senses of the definition of “hacker” in the Jargon Dictionary. The use
       of “hacker” to mean someone malicious came out much later, because it sounded
       to the greater-world as if it would mean something bad. Also see Steven
       Levy's book, “Hackers”. I’m sure that the first time someone at the AI lab
       referred to me as a hacker, I knew it was a compliment.

32. [63]Kamen Tomov Says:
       [64]November 20th, 2007 at 10:54 am
       Mr Weinreb, thank you very much for your response and for the references!
       It is written (on the same web page that you kindly provided) that hackers
       subscribe to some version of the hacker ethic. That implies that “hacker
       ethic” is (as written there): “The belief that information-sharing is a
       powerful positive good, and that it is an ethical duty of hackers to share
       their expertise by writing free software and facilitating access to
       information and to computing resources wherever possible.”. I assume that the
       members of the AI lab were refereed to as hackers long before the term “free
       software” was coined by RMS. So I wondered why are you referring to
       ex-members of the AI Lab as hackers provided that a rule not to share
       know-how with LMI was introduced?! Regarding the (contemporary) definition
       you become less hackers once you bound to it. I suppose it is for either of
       two reasons – historical: once you get the qualification “hacker” you never
       lose it or contextual: you refer to them only in the context of the AI Lab.
       On the other hand there is a possibility that you use the word in its old
       (original) sense so I wondered what it was and that's one of the reasons I
       asked you why you use it.
       With the globalization and with the popularization of “free software” and
       especially with the wide use of “open source” the semantics of the word
       “hacker” had changed. While in the context of the AI Lab or similar
       organizations of that time hacker ethic was arguably beneficial in terms of
       information-sharing, in the context of companies or the global word it is not
       longer that simple.
       You implied that back then it was a compliment to be referred to as a hacker.
       It seems to me that although it was cool and prestigious, the success of
       Symbolics had been much more valuable than that. Symbolics was a business
       organization and the principles of doing business contradicted with the ones
       within the AI Lab, which was supported (AFAIK) with taxpayer's money.
       In the context of the global world information-sharing in the software domain
       means sharing software. Sharing software globally has quite a different
       impact. While it could be beneficial in some cases it could be devastating in
       others (imagine Google sharing its search engine code, or you sharing the
       ITA's Lisp engine). In that context hacker ethic seems far from beneficial.
       With “free software” sharing went out of control and as a result software has
       been devalued. The values had shifted away from what was once important – it
       is no longer the creativity that matters most. In fact I’m still trying to
       understand what's important if software were “free” in Stallman's sense.
       So what needs to be done? Shouldn’t hacker ethic imply that
       information-sharing is a powerful positive good only in certain
       circumstances, e.g. if happening within an organisation or group? Or should
       we think about hackers as people from the past that lived in idealistic
       world? Or something else?

33. Dave Says:
       [65]November 20th, 2007 at 12:23 pm
       @Dan: Thanks for redacting the “lies” stuff :-)

34. dlweinreb Says:
       [66]November 21st, 2007 at 1:42 am
       Mr Tomov: As I say, at MIT the word “hacker” was used in the first seven
       senses of that dictionary. The “hacker ethic”, described as “an ethical duty
       to … write free software”, is not what it meant. That's just the “Stallman
       ethic” and perhaps it is the “Eric Raymond ethic”, as far as I am concerned,
       since it could apply to open source as well as GPL software. Therefore,
       there's nothing contradictory about my using the word “hacker” as I do.
       You say that the semantics of the word “hacker” has changed. The idea that it
       has changed to mean “writing non-open software is unethical” is Stallman’s
       idea. Of course the way the word has really changed is that it means “a
       person who illegally gains access to and sometimes tampers with information
       in a computer system”, which is what most people mean despite the fact that
       it's definition #4 in the online Merriam-Webster. Language changes all the
       time; it's inevitable and there's little point in trying to fight the tide.
       But on this blog I’m using the perhaps-archaic sense in which I learned the
       word when I was at MIT. By the way, at ITA, software developers are referred
       to as “hackers”, all of whom are writing proprietary code.
       The AI lab did not have a principle that the software written there was
       open-source or free. It was paid for by tax-payer money, indeed, and was
       owned by MIT (and/or the Office of Naval Research and/or DARPA) under terms
       of the funding contracts. All of the MIT Lisp machine code, prior to
       Symbolics and LMI, was copyright by MIT.
       It's true that software has been “devalued” in the sense that it's harder to
       make money by selling software products when there are competing free
       products. It hasn’t been “devalued” in the sense that people get less value
       from it. So it depends in what sense you mean “devalued”.
       Also, the vast majority of software in the world does not have any open/free
       version. It's easy to look at software tools, software infrastructure,
       operating systems, computer languages, and other things that are targeted at
       programmers and see all the open/free versions. But there's plenty of
       software that's much more vertical, aimed at specific markets, in which there
       is less or no open/free software, and there is (arguably) less likely to be
       any. I have a Mac on which I run Apple's Final Cut Pro and Mark of the
       Unicorn's Digital Performer, each of which ran me hundreds of dollars.
       They’re both truly fine tools, and it would take an awful lot of effort to
       product something equivalent. You can still sell things like that, at least
       for the foreseeable future, for various reasons.
       As for “it is no longer the creativity that matters most”, I’m not sure what
       you mean. Creativity of the software or of the person? Matters most in the
       sense of selling, or market uptake, or aesthetic value?
       I have absolutely nothing against open source software and software that one
       need not pay for! And I think it's wonderful that the XO (the One Laptop Per
       Child computer, see my other post), which is specifically intended as an
       educational vehicle, lets the user see and modify all the sources. I hope
       kids will learn a lot from that; perhaps only a minority of the kids, but
       that's OK, we don’t all have to grow up to be hackers!

35. [67]Kamen Tomov Says:
       [68]November 21st, 2007 at 8:22 am
       Mr. Weinreb, I apologize for not being clear enough. To me the people from
       MIT AI Lab and later in Symbolics, LMI and some other lispers as well are the
       people that can define words like hacker. That is the reason why I asked you
       to provide your definition and I thank you for doing so. As to the fact that
       you call that trying to fight with the tide I do not agree. Obviously there
       are many other people that would listen to what you have to say.
       It was interesting to me to learn about the licensing of the software written
       in the AI lab and to find out that there is no contradiction in terms of the
       word “hacker” as I mistakenly thought.
       Software has been devalued in the sense that it is harder to make money from
       it as for anything good one implements a free software / open source product
       is very likely to appear, unless of course that's a huge effort most likely
       by a powerful corp. As a friend said – you can not compete with a price of
       zero. In result creativity (innovations in software) does not matter so much
       these days. I meant the creativity of the person writing software.
       OLPC is an amazing project – too bad they chose Python and not Lisp.

36. dlweinreb Says:
       [69]November 21st, 2007 at 11:05 am
       Mr Tomov: Actually, you can compete with zero cost. Look at Jetbrains’s
       IntelliJ. And three of the current implementations of Common Lisp are
       commercial despite the strengths of the seven that are not (more to come in a
       later post about this).
       Meanwhile, I think creativity is just as important as even, even if the
       competitors are open/free software. Sturgeon's Law applies
       ([70]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturgeon's_law) but the other 10% ranges
       from interesting to brilliant. We’re living in a time of an explosion of
       creativity in software, in so many areas. Another sign of vibrancy is that
       after a long period, developers seem to be open to using new computer
       languages to build real products; the pendulum swings back.
       Thanks for all your comments!

37. Adrienne Says:
       [71]November 22nd, 2007 at 2:15 am
       Dan Weinreb:
       Points raised in your rebuttal are apparently not new, since they appear to
       have been sufficiently addressed by Stallman in various articles, speeches
       and so on. Your assertions in regard to Stallman's role in the development of
       EMACS, and his supposed copying of Symbolics code, are misleading, doing
       nothing to “[set] the record straight.

       First, your statement concerning EMACS aims to diminish Stallman's role to
       that of mere maintenance, Guy Steele and David Moon having – according to you
       – first created and designed the first TECO-based Emacs, then got it working
       and established as the standard text editor at the AI Lab. Guy Steele
       disagrees with you.
       The question of Steele's role in the creation and development of EMACS
       appears to be an old issue that continues to rear its head, although Stallman
       addressed this as far back as 1987 in his article “Emacs the Full Screen
       Editor” [8] and just this year in the comp.lang.lisp thread “teco, rms,
       gosling, mocklisp” on 28 July: [2, viper-2]
       | Guy Steel played a role in starting the development of Emacs in
       | 1975. He developed the key bindings, I designed the internal
       | platform, and we worked together for the first night of
       | implementation. After that he dropped out.
       Guy Steele concurred: [3, Pitman 8 August]
       | Except for the minor misspelling of my name :-) , I concur with
       | everything in RMS’ response. Feel free to post this reply to the
       | discussion thread.
       | … I can confirm that the EMACS command set was based on
       | (I think) four different command sets that sprang up once
       | programmable control-R mode was available. My role was
       | principally to forge a consensus on a standard command set.
       | I also started an implementation of the EMACS command set, but
       | RMS soon took it over (which was fine with me, because I was
       | trying to get into full-time graduate student mode).
       TMACS, which was the project of Dave Moon, Charles Frankston, Earl A.
       Killian, and Eugene G. Ciccarelli, was not a TECO-based Emacs but one of the
       5 precursor command sets on which the EMACS command set was based. Referring
       to the latter, Steele clarified further:(ibid)
       | Those precursor command sets were:
       | TECMAC, done by JLK (John Kulp)
       | MODE, done by RVB (Robert Baron)
       | MACROS, done by RBR
       | DOC, done by ???; this was actually rather VI-like,
       | with an INSERT MODE and an ALTER MODE
       | There was also some infrastructure called TMACS being worked
       | on by CBF, EAK, ECC, and MOON that had to do with
       | representing macros in “Teco pure string format”
       | All this was going on during 1975-76.
       The posts cited in the threads “teco, rms, gosling, mocklisp” [2] [3] which
       continued as “TECO, RMS, Gosling, Mocklisp” on 10 August 2007,[4] addressed
       former Symbolics employee Kent Pitman's misattribution, to Steele, of
       Stallman's seminal idea to bind keystrokes to TECO macros.[2, Pitman 20 May]
       Pitman conceded that he was factually incorrect after receiving responses
       from both Stallman and Steele.[4, Pitman 12 August]
       The precursor command sets of TMACS, TECMAC and others were the progeny of
       Stallman's idea to transform TECO to a user-programmable WYSIWIG editor
       following his powerful re-implementation of TECO's control R mode originally
       authored by Carl Mikkelson. According to Steele “That was the real
       breakthrough”.[10, at note 6] By giving users the power to redefine their own
       editors command sets, such as TMACS and TECMAC, “[e]verybody and his brother
       [began] writing his own collection of redefined screen-editor commands.[8]
       Beginning with that first night's joint work with Steele (after which Steele
       dropped out),[2, viper-2, 28 July] [8] Stallman's development of the
       precursor command sets, along with other features, realised the original TECO
       – based Emacs. Mark Crispin (IMAP inventor) who in the summer of 1976
       introduced Stallman to XTEC (from which Stallman incorporated features into
       Emacs) described the emergence of the first EMACS:[5]
       | Two major sets of TECO macro packages … developed;
       | TECMAC and TMACS. TECMAC was a more real-time editor,
       | while TMACS had a much richer set of functionality including
       | named commands. Just about everybody had their own
       | customizations on top of these packages.
       | This was the situation when I worked at MIT in the summer of ’76.
       | I had brought with me my own favorite TECO-style editor, which,
       | although it had only the functionality of primitive DEC TECO,
       | had two interesting facilities: (1) it compiled all TECO programs
       | (including commands) prior to execution, and (2) it had multi-
       | character register names, which greatly increased the number of
       | possible TECO registers to virtually infinite.
       | Richard Stallman implemented the latter in TECO as part of the
       | EMACS project, which was originally intended as a replacement
       | for both TECMAC and TMACS. By New Years in 1977 EMACS
       | had made significant inroads against TECMAC/TMACS; and in
       | another year or so the older editors had both succumbed to software rot.
       This was the editor that became established as the standard text editor at
       the AI lab. As Greenberg noted, “The impact of Emacs and Emacs-style editing
       far outweighs that of any TECO”.[6]

       Of course you “caught him” looking at Symbolics code. Stallman concurs;
       footnote (3) of the transcript of his 28 October 2002 speech to the
       International Lisp Conference refers to his statement being “… misconstrued
       as saying that [he] never, ever looked at Symbolics code. Actually it says
       [he] did”. [9, note 3]. As Stallman stated, he was entitled to read the code
       at MIT, but found that reading Symbolics’ code made it more difficult for him
       to write original code to implement equivalent features.
       Every programmer knows that it is much easier to code an independent solution
       to a problem if you don’t first look at someone else's code, and that trying
       to understand someone else's code can be arduous and time-consuming compared
       with the effort to simply write your own. As Stallman said, “After a while, I
       concluded it was better not to even look”.[9, note 3] Sometimes programmers
       working independently of each other will produce code that is almost
       identical (if not identical), [1] but more often than not the solutions will
       be different. It would have been exceptionally difficult for anyone –
       including Stallman – to achieve the duplication of code for two years by
       first reading the Symbolics code (written by over a dozen world-class
       hackers) before writing its equivalent. The making of false accusations
       against the authorship of one's own original code is a particularly sore
       point with me. Proof of Stallman's authorship is found in the originality of
       the duplicated code, which speaks for itself.

       Tom Lord:
       Others might view your contributions to FSF/GNU as constituting an impressive
       part of your resume. It is unfortunate that you claim to have had a false
       belief in Stallman's abilities as a hacker. In light of the cooperation
       needed to build an organization like GNU such an attitude as an employee of
       FSF/GNU would have contributed to, as you put it, “the GNU project piss[ing]
       away one effort after another”.
       The leadership prowess of a hero who can slay 10 Symbolics hackers with a
       single all-nighter is relevant to leadership in technical matters as opposed
       to leadership in matters of management. The hacker mindset and that required
       for management rarely intersect, and the hacker/engineering and management
       functions may even appear to be mutually exclusive in all but the smallest
       organizations. RMS undertook an unprecedented, mammoth task in founding GNU,
       and as a practical matter, with a superhacker at the helm of its technical
       mission the organization would necessarily have required structured
       management as well as additional resources to do more.
       As you know, the complete GNU/Hurd operating system is a reality actively
       under development. The Hurd kernel is an ambitious, novel project aiming to
       achieve powerful functionality well beyond the capabilities of known kernels.
       The GNU operating system in combination with the kernel Linux (a kernel built
       more rapidly by re-implementation of conventional techniques) enjoys
       world-wide acclaim by individuals as well as organizations, various
       governments being in the process of considering similar provisions to Peru’s
       and Venezuela's move to adopt legislation for free software in public
       Richard Stallman's superior abilities are not in question. His impressive
       repertoire of credits include a growing list of honorary awards that now
       number six honorary doctorates and two honorary professorships – global
       recognition for launching the free software movement.
       Dan Weinreb:
       As is clear from this blog, Stallman has his detractors. I observed on 19
       November, that someone rushed to edit the Wikipedia entry for Emacs,
       inserting a footnote in the first paragraph of the section “Other emacsen”
       pointing to your now deleted statement [above, dlweinreb 19 November] in the
       post that included the word “lie” in referring to Stallman's error for which
       he has now apologized [9, note (5)] concerning your editor EINE, the first
       Emacs written in Lisp.
       The Symbolics hackers, collectively, comprise a reservoir of possibly
       unmatched talent. The energy used here in vilifying Stallman is misdirected.
       Perhaps you should ask yourselves just who is attacking, defaming, and
       slandering, whom?[above, dlweinreb, 16 November]
       cc Dr. Guy Steele

1. See for example Pitman's and Bourguignon's code in the comp.lang.lisp
       thread “Catching multiple values” 16 May 2007, at

2. Comp.lang.lisp ‘teco, rms, gosling, mocklisp’, at

3. Comp.emacs ‘teco, rms, gosling, mocklisp’, at

4. Comp.lang.lisp, ‘TECO, RMS, Gosling, Mocklisp’, at

5. Crispin, Mark, email to alt.folklore.computers 19 January 1990, at
       [76]http://www.djmnet.org/lore/emacs-origin.txt; See also

6. Greenberg, Bernard S. ‘Multics Emacs: The History, Design and
       Implementation’, section II, 15 August 1979, at

7. Stallman, Richard ‘EMACS: The Extensible, Customizable Display Editor’
       (1981), at [79]http://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/emacs-paper.html.

8. Stallman, Richard, “Emacs the Full Screen Editor” (1987), at

9. Stallman, Richard, ‘My Lisp Experiences and the Development of GNU Emacs’,
       Transcript of Speech at the International Lisp Conference, 28 Oct 2002, at

10. Williams, Sam, ‘Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free
       Software’ (Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly, 2002), 6, at

38. Humpty-Dumpty Moon Says:
       [83]November 22nd, 2007 at 2:44 am
       A “hacker” is simply a person who has a habit of producing “hacks.” A “hack”
       is a brilliant, surprising, and original piece of (lower-case-a) art, usually
       emphasizing cleverness more than technical skill and experience although
       hacking without any skill is impossible.
       A “computer hacker” is a “hacker” whose “hacks” usually involve computers;
       software or hardware or both. Phone (switch) hackers preceded computer
       hackers by a decade or so.
       All those other definitions you read about are just neologisms.
       Clear now?
       PS: Employing the Big Bang to create an entire universe with zero net energy,
       yet endlessly complex content, was certainly The Greatest Hack of All Time.

39. dlweinreb Says:
       [84]November 22nd, 2007 at 3:50 pm
       Adrienne: (1) No, it doesn’t. By “maintenance” I simply meant development”,
       and I suppose I should have used that word to be clearer (sorry). And there
       is no question that Steele and Moon started Emacs. I was there and watched it
       happen; both Steele and Moon confirm what I said. It is not true that
       Stallman was involved from the first day. While I don’t remember precisely
       how many days after the beginning of the implementation that he got involved,
       I’m sure it was at least a few weeks. I was one of the two original
       beta-testers and I know who was fixing the bugs that I found. Stallman’s
       claim to sole credit, in [7], is not accurate. Steele and Moon don’t really
       care about getting credit. Since Stallman did the vast majority of the total
       work on Emacs, which is quite true, they don’t mind his taking sole credit.
       But it has always bothered me. As to who came up with the idea of binding
       keys to TECO in the first place (control-R mode), I didn’t say anything about
       that. That happened way before Emacs. I only commented on Emacs proper. (2) I
       am correcting the impression created by Steven Levy's book, “Hackers”. Many
       more people have read it than have seen Stallman's footnote. You yourself
       describe Stallman as “a hero who can slay 10 Symbolics hackers with a single
       all-nighter”; as I have explained, that is simply not true. (3) I’m not
       slandering anyone, because everything I said is actually true.

40. Andreas Davour Says:
       [85]November 22nd, 2007 at 7:33 pm
       I think things that happened that far back is very likely to be remembered a
       bit differently. Dan has told his story and let us be thankful for that.
       Richard can probably, if he feel his honor is at stake, say his piece by
       himself. I doubt he feels that strong about it. His legacy is alive as the
       meme that software can be something more than a black box. Emacs is just a
       Who cares who did what anyway? Nobody doubts the abilities of Stallman,
       Steele or Moon and we have one hell of an editor as the fruit of their
       labour. Good work, guys – all of you!
       I still think it would be fun to have more books like “Hacker” written.

41. [86]Thomas Lord Says:
       [87]November 23rd, 2007 at 7:26 am
       Richard can speak for himself. I think most people who are reporting their
       direct and personal experience here did not come here to debate. No public
       space is safe, it would seem, from The Myth.
       I think you partly prove my point, really. Your response to me, in this
       context, borders on the inhumane — you will recognize my perspective only in
       so far as it is an object for you to refute on the basis of the “authority”
       of Stallman's reputation. You aren’t honestly inquistive into just what I
       might be talking about: just eager to be in the League of Friends of the Hero
       and foreclose all debate. You exemplify the problem, here.

42. Adrienne Says:
       [88]November 24th, 2007 at 4:52 pm
       Tom Lord

1. As I said before, RMS has already spoken for himself on these issues. I am
       merely directing your attention to the relevant references. I can see from
       [89]http://www.fsf.org/blogs/rms that he doesn’t have the time to update his
       own travel blog; he seems to be tied up spreading the GNU revolution all over
       the world.

2. If my intent was to foreclose debate, I don’t seem to be doing a good job
       since from your response I have provoked further discussion. Describing my
       response as “inhumane” is unfair. You shouldn’t take my comments personally.
       I’m simply saying that Stallman needed high levels of cooperation to mitigate
       GNU's inadequate resources. Under-resourced projects fail everyday. Resources
       include effective management personnel. It is just not possible for any one
       person to hack while managing projects, people and resources at the same
       time. The failure of some projects should have been predictable.

43. Adrienne Says:
       [90]November 25th, 2007 at 4:13 pm
       Dan Weinreb:
       I contacted Stallman drawing his attention to the comments posted in this
       blog. With regard to your assertions that Guy L. Steele Jr. and David Moon
       were the authors of the original TECO-based Emacs, Stallman has requested
       that I inform you that your claim is false.
       In an email message to me dated Thursday, 22 November 2007, Stallman stated:
       | Weinreb is wrong. Moon was never involved in developing Emacs.
       In a further message dated Saturday, 24 November 2007, Stallman reiterated:
       | Please post that I told you that this claim is false. Steele and I
       | worked together for the first night of writing code for Emacs, and
       | then Steele dropped out. Moon was not involved.
       * Richard M. Stallman
       * Guy L. Steele, Jr.

44. dlweinreb Says:
       [91]November 25th, 2007 at 5:35 pm
       Adrienne: As you can see from his comment above, Dave Moon remembers it the
       same way I do. I asked Steele about it at the OOPSLA, and he also remember it
       the way I do. Stallman's memory is inaccurate regarding this.

45. Douglas Knight Says:
       [92]November 25th, 2007 at 10:22 pm
       Thomas Lord,
       Could you elaborate on your view? You go back and forth between two views
       that seem contradictory to me. On the one hand, you complain that you were
       tricked by legends about Stallman's hacking abilities, and on the other hand,
       you seem to say the problem was other skill sets.
       Maybe you would have made better career decisions if you had had more
       accurate beliefs about hacking abilities, but that seems to me to have been a
       coincidence. Your error was worrying too much about hacking quality and not
       about other issues. You say anyone with a little experience would known
       better; your problem was not having experience.

46. Adrienne Says:
       [93]November 26th, 2007 at 1:22 pm
       Dan Weinreb:

1. The evidence in the written record contradicts your claim that Guy Steele
       and David Moon authored the first TECO-based Emacs.

2. Guy Steele Jr. did not rely on his memory but verified that he consulted
       his notes before concurring with Stallman. In his email of 7 August 2007 to
       viper-2, Steele said:[4, viper-2 10 August 2007]
       | Thanks for the message. In fact, Mr. Pitman contacted me
       | as well and we have had an exchange of email concerning
       | this bit of history, and I consulted some of my old notes
       | on EMACS.
       | Except for the trivial fact that RMS seems to have accidentally
       | misspelled my name, I agree with everything in his response
       | as quoted below.
       | Yours,
       | Guy Steele

3. Nowhere in the record does Steele give Moon credit for working on Emacs.
       Steele, referring to the project Emacs, said “[a]s I like to say, I did the
       first 0.001 percent of the implementation, and Stallman did the rest”.[10].
       As noted above, Steele stated that David Moon worked on the pre-Emacs command
       set TMACS.[3, Pitman 8 August]

4. By authorising the publication of his email,[3] [4] Steele made his
       account of his role in Emacs a matter of public record. Steele's written
       testimony, and not unsubstantiated second-hand accounts, is accordingly the
       authority on which the public will draw conclusions. Unless and until Steele
       retracts these published statements – giving unimpeachable reasons for
       reversing his position – these are the only statements from him that are

5. Greenberg concurs with Steele and Stallman:[6]
       | By 1976, several packages of TECO macros [TMACS, TECMAC]
       | had proliferated.
       | … At this time Richard Stallman coalesced most of the ideas in
       | these packages, and created a unified approach to command set,
       | extensibility, documentation, and integration of these facilities, and
       | created a large, unified, set of macros which came to be known as
       | Emacs. The name is derived from “Editor Macros.

6. In the book “Lisp” 3rd edition by Berthold K. P. Horn and Patrick H.
       Winston, David Moon is listed in the Acknowledgments as one of 13 people who
       scrutinised “large parts of an early draft with incredible care”. [Horn, B.
       K. & Winston, P. H. (1989), LISP 3rd Edition, Addison Wesley] The glossary
       included an entry for EMACS: [Id, p. 578]
       | EMACS – A powerful, popular editor, conceived and implemented initially
       | by Richard M. Stallman. Various versions of EMACS were used
       | in preparing the programs and text for this book.
       Horn and Winston, who were professors at MIT during the development of Emacs,
       give Stallman sole credit for the conception and initial implementation of
       Emacs. Moon's failure to protest this attribution – in a book acknowledging
       his contribution – infers agreement.
       We need not rely on Stallman's – or anyone else's – memory.
       * Guy L. Steele Jr.
       * Richard M. Stallman

47. dlweinreb Says:
       [94]November 27th, 2007 at 3:28 am
       Adrienne: Stallman has repeated his story many times and everybody believes
       him. Quoting more and more people who have repeated his story is pointless.
       The fact that Moon didn’t bother to correct Horn and Winston's book is
       completely predictable, since Moon has not bothered to take credit for what
       he did. Except here (see his comment above).
       Horn and Winston were not around when any of this was happening. They were
       down on the eighth floor; this all happened on the ninth floor. Very few
       people were involved.
       I should point out that at the time Moon and Steele started working on
       the new editor, they didn’t have a name for it. It went under the
       name “?” during the period of initial development. When Stallman took
       over, he made up the name “Emacs”. The story behind the name, which
       I’m pretty sure Stallman has written up, is that our friends at the
       Stanford AI Lab used an editor named “E”. When you did a “finger”
       command to see who was logged in at Stanford, it would also show you
       what program each person was running, and many of them would always be
       running “E”. At MIT on ITS, it was conventional that the most
       widely-used applications were given a one-letter nickname, and so
       Emacs would also be known as “E”, and would show up that way when
       people at Stanford did a “finger” on us. Stallman's joke was that
       they’d see us running “E” and be surprised. Anyway, it could be that
       Stallman is thinking only of the period after he changed the name to
       Emacs. This may be why Stallman misremembers what happened.
       I have removed your most recent post. I won’t tolerate insulting
       name-calling. If you want to do that, start your own blog.
       I have explained what's going on, above. No more on this topic.

48. Adrienne Says:
       [95]November 27th, 2007 at 1:07 pm
       “Name calling” Dan?
       As your readers can see, it was Moon who first referred to himself as “Humpty
       I bet you had a laugh anyway.
       Dan Weinreb, I hope that your current project will be very successful. I also
       hope to hear that you and your extraordinarily talented former Symbolics
       colleagues have regrouped and are achieving spectacular things, like maybe
       helping to take us to Mars!!

49. dlweinreb Says:
       [96]November 28th, 2007 at 2:35 am
       Adrienne: Oh, I see what the confusion was here. We were talking past each
       other; sorry. No, David Moon did not write the comment labeled “Humpty Dumpty
       Moon”. I don’t know who that was, but it was definitely not David Moon.
       Please look at the second comment, way at the top, whose author is listed as
       “Moon”; that's David Moon.

50. dlweinreb Says:
       [97]November 28th, 2007 at 2:37 am
       I wasn’t going to keep this origin-of-Emacs topic going, but today,
       Guy Steele today sent a very long piece of mail to me, Richard
       Stallman, and Adrienne Thompson, in reply to mail from Stallman, who
       asked Guy:
       Weinreb says that Moon did something important (though he is vague
       about what) in starting Emacs. If Moon was involved, he must have
       hidden it from me. Do you know what's going on here?
       First some preliminary comments from me:
       - Secret decoder: GLS is Guy Steele, RMS is of course Richard
       Stallman, DLW is Dan Weinreb (me), Moon is David Moon, Ed is Ed
       Schwalenberg who was beta-testing along with me, CBF is Charles
       Frankston, EAK is Earl Killian, ECC is Gene Cicarelli, RMF is Bob
       Frankston, and JLK is John Kulp.
       - I agree that I’m somewhat vague on precisely which things Moon
       did. I remember that there was a part of “?” called the “loader” that
       was part of the underlying infrastructure, and I recall that Moon
       developed this initially. Evidently Stallman improved upon it later
       (see first email below), as he surely improved upon everything as time
       went by. Moon also worked on the “MM macros”, which meant “commands
       that had descriptive English names instead of being one or two
       keystrokes”, corresponding to today's Meta-X commands. The MM macros
       feature was brought into “?” from one of the Emacs predecessors,
       sometimes called TMACS, that was developed and used by Moon,
       CBF, EAK, and ECC. RMF had already figured out how to extract the MM commands
       from TMACS and insert them into TECMAC, one of the other Emacs
       predecessors, and I borrowed (copied) that code from him. It soon
       became clear that what we had here was a mess, and the right thing to
       do was to all join forces and come up with a single code base that had
       the best of all the ideas in it. Thus was the project born that
       turned into Emacs.
       - The reason the mail looks funny is that it predates the Internet;
       some of what you see is Arpanet mail, and some (like the first one) is
       internal ITS mail.
       - Guy sent PDF files of scans, which I have no way of posting here,
       but he quotes all the important stuff below.
       - It would be even better had there been email from the previous
       week, but, gee, you can’t have everything.
       And now, here's the mail from Guy Steele. I think this is the
       best information we are ever going to get, and that this is
       the last word on the topic.
       I think all of us have been relying on our memories, which can
       fail in various ways. Last time around I checked my file folder
       of notes about Emacs, which has some useful information, but
       not a lot about who did what. Now I have some more information
       to offer. I’m going to quote email I received during the last
       part of 1976. The attached PDF files are scans I made today from
       my paper archives of that email. I may have committed typographical
       errors in quoting the email below; if in doubt, consult the scans.
       On October 23, 1976, RMS sent this email to GLS:
       RMS@MIT-AI 10/23/76 02:11:39
       To: GLS at MIT-AI
       Comments: (a) At this point the new proposed consolidated set of
       TECO macros for real-time editing was called “?”. I had chosen this
       name as a kind of stubborn joke, because a non-alphabetical character
       as the name of a program was just a little harder to invoke from DDT;
       also, it followed the example of the @ program, which had just recently
       taken over from the @ command in TECO for creating program listings
       —another project that I started and then RMS markedly improved over
       the years. However, the @ program was useless without command-line
       arguments, so no one ever wanted to type @^K to start it, whereas
       it was desirable to start a frequently-used editor by typing a
       name and then ^K, and I knew it, and I was being a bit mulish about it.
       (b) This email was sent just to GLS. From the fact that he was
       reporting progress to me, I infer from this that RMS did not yet regard
       himself as the “owner” or “principal hacker” of this project. (While the
       AI Lab culture did support the notion that in principle anyone could hack
       on any program, in practice it was also well-understood that certain
       people had superior knowledge about certain programs, and that superior
       knowledge was consulted and paid due respect. I wouldn’t have dreamed
       of hacking on TECO without consulting RMS, and he would not have hacked
       on LISP without consulting JONL or me.)
       On October 29, 1976, GLS sent this email to RMS:
       GLS@MIT-AI 10/29/76 15:20:31
       To: RMS at MIT-AI
       CC: GLS at MIT-AI
       See .TECO.;?VARS > for a ? variables macro.
       It has some hair for pushing and popping
       variables as well as getting and setting them.
       Suggestions appreciated for reducing hair.
       Comment: Six days later, I am still working on the implementation.
       I think that explodes the pretty myth that the project was handed over
       to RMS literally overnight. (However, as we will see, it did occur fairly
       quickly, as such things go.)
       On October 31, 1976, RMS sent this email to GLS:
       RMS@MIT-AI 10/31/76 01:15:37
       To: GLS at MIT-AI
       TO GET A ?, DO :XT ?;
       Comment: I believe that by this point I thought of RMS as principal
       hacker on the project, or at least the most active contributor; I’m feeding
       him little chunks of code as I am able, and he does the integration.
       The next day:
       RMS@MIT-AI 11/01/76 03:53:45
       To: GLS at MIT-AI
       m.v now works completely.
       List commands implemented.
       lisp indentation command works (meta-I).
       MIDAS, TECO and LISP editing modes defined.
       Comments: RMS still sends me reports on his progress. (The Lisp indentation
       macro was the “big one” that he and I worked on together in a single ten-hour
       hack session.)
       On November 10:
       RMS@MIT-AI 11/10/76 21:46:03
       To: EAK at MIT-AI, CBF at MIT-AI, GLS at MIT-AI, ED at MIT-AI
       To: DLW at MIT-AI, MOON at MIT-AI
       Unless anyone can think of a better idea, I think we should
       rename ? to E.
       DLW@MIT-AI 11/10/76 21:49:07
       To: MOON ay MIT-AI, DLW at MIT-AI, ED at MIT-AI, GLS at MIT-AI
       To: CBF at MIT-AI, EAK at MIT-AI, RMS at MIT-AI
       Another idea is to call it formally “QMARK” with a link
       existing for “QM” .
       Comment: Note that MOON is among the interested parties. Most of
       these addressees were implementors of macro packages that were
       predecessors of ?MACS and had user constituencies.
       GLS@MIT-AI 11/11/76 14:43:03
       To: MOON ay MIT-AI, DLW at MIT-AI, ED at MIT-AI, GLS at MIT-AI
       To: CBF at MIT-AI, EAK at MIT-AI, RMS at MIT-AI
       Well, for hack value TS ? ought to exist (yes, you CAN
       get DDT to load it under that name!), but E is a good
       Comment: Finally, I capitulate on the name (thank goodness).
       Later that day:
       GLS@MIT-AI 11/11/76 16:39:50
       To: CBF at MIT-AI, EAK at MIT-AI, ED at MIT-AI, MOON ay MIT-AI
       To: DLW at MIT-AI, RMS at MIT-AI
       CC: GLS at MIT-AI
       My current tentative suggestions for ? command placement
       are in TGQ;?CHARS > on AI. (They aren’t even completely
       what I want, now that I have talked with RMS, but at
       least some desirable features are listed even if they aren’t
       where we want them to be.)
       Comment: The key bindings are still in flux, and I’m still
       involved in determining those key bindings.
       MOON@MIT-AI 11/11/76 21:28:51
       To: INFO-E at MIT-AI
       You are now on the INFO-E @ AI mailing list. (Used to be called INFO-?).
       Comment: Moon creates the INFO-E mailing list. Looks like the name
       change has been agreed upon.
       RMS@MIT-AI 11/12/76 03:53:31
       To: INFO-E at MIT-AI
       DLW sends several messages to (BUG EMACS) and (BUG E); he and
       Moon are the principal testers of the new editor, shaking out many
       MOON@MIT-AI 11/14/76 04:40:49 Re: Changes
       To: INFO-E at MIT-AI
       [1] RMS's many bug fixes and changes of this afternoon compiled and
       [2] MM LIST FILES renamed to MM LIST LOADED FILES
       [3] New MM macros:
       LIST FILES compact directory listing
       LIST DIRECTORIES compact, sorted listing of M.F.D.
       LIST TECO FS FLAGS compact, sorted listing of Teco FS flags
       DUMP RMAIL don’t try it!
       RMAIL temporary access to rmail – seems to have
       a few bugs. In particular, don’t try
       to get the minibuffer inside rmail's ^R
       command – you’ll be sorry!
       EDIT ..D edit the delimiter table
       VIEW Q-REGISTER try to view any type of Q-register
       [4] Note that MM LIST should be an acceptable
       abbreviation for most such commands. Note that RMAIL needs
       to be rewritten.
       [5] For those who don’t know MM DIRED has worked for a few days.
       Comment: From the fact that Moon first cites RMS's work in item [1]
       and then goes on to cite other changes to EMACS, this seems to imply
       that these other items are things Moon was working on (and they strike
       me as his style of things to work on).
       MOON@MIT-AI 11/14/76 19:14:06
       To: (BUG E) at MIT-AI
       M.I lossage – if you are using a multicharacter command, e.g. ^XB..Z,
       and type part of it fast, you end up seeing at the bottom of the screen
       something like “.:z” – it seems the right thing would be to save up all
       non-echoed chars in a string in ..0 (which q-r gets reset at the right times)
       and echo them all when echoing starts. And flush the colon. This would
       also allow hairy commands to use long prompts by putting a string in ..0
       before calling .I the first time.
       Comment: This message testifies to Moon's intimate knowledge of the inner
       workings of TECO and the fledgling EMACS.
       RMS@MIT-AI 11/16/76 22:05:41
       To: INFO-E at MIT-AI
       EMACS^K and E^K now exist, and run links to EMACS;TS >.
       :NT EMACS; will still load up from scratch.
       Note that the file [PRFY] is no longer loaded by default.
       Comment: the birth of EMACS as a stand-alone program
       under that name (and the name E)! (Though note that the
       (BUG EMACS) mailing list had already existed for a couple
       of days, and that the previous way to start the macros was
       to say “:NT EMACS”.)
       gls@MIT-AI (Sent by BRS@MIT-AI) 11/17/76 12:44:06
       To: (BUG E) at MIT-AI
       Grumble! If CTRL-META-[ is gobbled, then I can’t use it to insert Q!
       Comment: This was a reference to the Crunchly cartoon of 5/19/1973.
       (You can see it in _The New Hacker's Dictionary_.)
       MOON@MIT-AI 11/17/76 23:32:45 Re: Featurama EMACS
       To: INFO-EMACS at MIT-AI
       MM TECORD $ teco command $
       ^R puts current line at top of screen, ^U^R at bottom,
       ^U^U^R puts top of current defun, paragraph, etc. at top of screen.
       Warning- this may get moved to another character.
       Multiple consecutive deletes act like one as far as the ..K ring
       is concerned; thus one ^Y will get it all back.
       ^K accepts negative arguments just like meta and control-meta versions.
       A few bugs fixed.
       Comment: Moon is still involved.
       RMS@MIT-AI 11/19/76 04:49:41
       To: GLS at MIT-AI, MOON at MIT-AI, DLW at MIT-AI, ED at MIT-AI
       I have just written some winning Meta, Control, and Control-Meta
       prefix characters, and I am desperately in need of a good idea
       of where to put them. The Meta and Control-Meta prefixes should
       be easy to type on ordinary terminals. One idea is to put them
       on ^W and ^L, but then 1) where to put ^R Kill Region, and
       2) does ^L^L clear the screen or move left?
       A possible place for the Control-Meta prefix is ^C,
       which has the advantace of being easy to remember for
       an ex-TECMAC user.
       Comment: RMS confers with me, DLW, Ed, and Moon on design.
       On 11/27/76, RMS sends out a long message to INFO-E reporting
       mane changes he has made. By this point RMS appears to be doing
       most of the work, and I think Moon is doing much less implementation
       On 11/30/76, RMS send a message to INFO-E, and two more on 12/05/76,
       and three more on 12/11/76.
       On 12/10/76, JLK sent a message to INFO-E announcing 18 or 19
       new features. Comment: John Kulp (an implementor of one of
       the predecessor macro packages) was actively involved in EMACS
       development as late as December 10.
       My conclusions: (1) Clearly, by the end of 1976 and thereafter, RMS was
       doing the bulk of EMACS development work, but it was not an “overnight”
       takeover. For a period of seven weeks, anyway, he had some implementation
       help from others (at least GLS, MOON, and JLK), and certainly had help
       with design and debugging from these and others (DLW, EAK, ED).
       He may have become the “principal hacker” more quickly than that,
       however, perhaps in the space of a week or less; but remember that
       in the AI lab culture, what I here call “principal hacker” (not a term used
       at the time) was a “first among equals”, not an exclusive owner.
       (2) Moon's involvement was not “hidden”.
       (3) RMS is responsible for the names “E” and “EMACS”.
       RMS still deserves 99% or 99.9% or 99.99% or 99.999% of the credit
       for taking a package of TECO macros and turning it into the most
       powerful editor on the planet, twice (first in TECO and then with ELISP),
       pouring in enormous amounts of effort and creativity over many years.
       He also deserves credit for working with the early user community to
       work out the initial set of key bindings and command names. I don’t
       think RMS has any reason to deny the people who helped him out during
       the first few months their due share of credit. They gave of their time
       and creativity freely, in the best spirit of contributing to the community.

51. [98]Thomas Lord Says:
       [99]December 17th, 2007 at 9:08 am
       Somebody up above in the threads, after my last bitter comment about RMS,
       gave me an excuse to elaborate. I won’t bother quoting the thread: I’m
       posting this late — after the heat of the thread has died down.
       As project leader of the GNU project, in my opinion, RMS has behaved
       idiotically, obnoxiously, self-servingly, and to ill-effect. The GNU project
       is an embarrassing rubble, in spite of many good efforts by volunteers. I
       hate RMS for this.
       I also love RMS, for two simple reasons:
       First, when you deal with him one-on-one, it's OK. I find myself just
       reflexively respectful and not because of what he's done (much of which bugs
       me) but, because, he's reasonably sane at a human level (reputation
       notwithstanding). He's a mensch.
       Second, GNU project per se being the train wreck it is — that aside — there’s
       a simple fact:
       Around the world — really, stop and think: the whole world — there's a
       stunning number of programmers who feel some sense of entitlement that, when
       they work, they can just grab the source of stuff they use, and study it, and
       extend it, adapt it, repurpose it, etc. And they have no problem with people
       doing that with what they themselves produce. There are (by official count) a
       gazillion little dweebs like me, all around the world, who just presume “code
       is just code, after all” and who expect and/or increasingly insist on open
       systems and personal freedom.
       The existence of a lot of those people in such a beautiful state (at least re
       software freedom) is probably appropriately blamed on RMS more than anyone
       else. The GNU project per se is a disaster — but one can kind of see what he
       threw it overboard for.

52. [100]Thomas Lord Says:
       [101]December 18th, 2007 at 3:05 am
       One more thing.
       It's a crap shoot that it’ll stick — probably it won’t. But if we stop after
       this one, two things follow:

1. There will be 52 comments: a deck of cards.

2. The bottom line, typographically at least, is a love letter.
       F.U. RMS. And you deserve “every inch of [that] love.” [zep]
       Love, and thank you,

53. Fromer BBDOer Says:
       [102]April 14th, 2008 at 7:10 pm
       Anyone know whatever happened to the young genius, Howard Cannon?

54. Harold Ancell Says:
       [103]August 19th, 2009 at 5:14 am
       Here's Howard's [104]Linked In account.

55. [105]Ernesto Pérez Estévez (nuestroserver) 's status on Tuesday, 01-Sep-09
       12:11:19 UTC - Identi.ca Says:
       [106]September 1st, 2009 at 6:41 am
       on-of-symbolics-and-lmi a few seconds ago from xmpp [...]

56. [108]…Only become less | Penguin Day Says:
       [109]August 10th, 2010 at 11:20 am
       on-of-symbolics-and-lmi [...]

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Emacs Controversy

The Emacs Cult

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