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Celebrating 30 Years of the X Windows System

The Standards Blog - Andy Updegrove - Where were you when you first learned about open source software? If you’re under, say, the age of 40, your answer will probably be, “Come again? I’ve always known about it!” But if you’re older, you may recall the first time you ever heard the phrase. Maybe it was when Netscape announced it was going to “open source” its Navigator Browser, or perhaps when you heard the name Richard Stallman for the first time. It may also be the case that it was some time before you really got your arms around what open software (or Stallman’s Free and Open Software) really meant in all of its various connotations – license-wise, commercial and community.

Or maybe you got involved before the phrase “open source software” had even been coined (in 1998, by Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond) to describe what it was they were doing.

That’s what happened in my case, when one day I got a call from one of the great unsung heroes of the open source movement – Bob Scheifler, of MIT. Bob is not only a wizard with code, but he did for the X Window System – the code that enabled the GUI for the then dominant non-desktop operating system (UNIX) and is still used in Linux today – what Linus Torvalds did seven years later for Linux itself.