Stallman and Free Software

These days I remember joining a presentation that Richard Stallman gave at my university (Freie Universität Berlin, which means “Free University of Berlin”), about ten years ago. At the beginning of the talk he promised to “show us some slides” – and then took his shoes off to slide on his socks in front of the audience.

He then continued to explain to us his ideas about why software should be free. I was in my first or second year and at that time, I was more struggling to understand the computer science material, so I was too green to understand him.

I come from the university where the JacORB project was born, I have worked with the original author of DOC++ and knew the enthusiast, who has maintained vim.org for many years, so I have a natural affinity to Free Software. Free Software is a way for the small team that I currently work in to realize our projects economically.

When Stallman gave his presentation, I thought “yeah, that’s the guy who wrote emacs and the gcc”, which proves that besides being a political activist, Stallman is also an incredible hacker.

Probably it needs the experience and skill of such a person to come to the conclusion that software should be free and to fight for it in the ways he does. This reminds me of martial arts, where practicians who have mastered the art are not tied to form any longer.

Recently I often think about his presentation, because I feel that ten years later, with becoming a better programmer, I start to understand him better. Still I know I have not “arrived” yet.

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