The history of GNU, Linux, and the open source and free software movements has been mapped out in the interesting documentary, Revolution OS. Interviews with prominent hackers and entrepreneurs, including Richard Stallman, Michael Tiemann, Linus Torvalds, Larry Augustin, Eric S. Raymond, Bruce Perens, Frank Hecker and Brian Behlendorf are featured here.
The film begins with an IPO, and then the historical stage is set by showing the beginnings of software development back to the time when software was shared on paper tape for the price of the paper itself. It then moves to Bill Gates’ Open Letter to Hobbyists in which he asked Computer Hobbyists to not share, but to buy software.
Richard Stallman then follows up by explaining his reasons for leaving the MIT Lab for Artificial Intelligence in order to devote his life to developing free software, and also how he came about the GNU project. Linus Torvalds is interviewed on his development of the Linux kernel as well as on the GNU/Linux naming controversy and Linux’s further evolution, including its commercialization. Richard Stallman comments on some of the ideological aspects of open source vis-á-vis Communism and capitalism and makes his observation on several aspects of the development of GNU/Linux.
Michael Tiemann tells about his meeting with Stallman and how it led to the making of an early version of Stallman’s GCC thereby founding Cygnus Solutions. Larry Augustin tells how he created a UNIX-like Workstation by combining the resulting GNU software and a normal PC, which cost one third the price of a workstation by Sun Microsystems despite of it being three times as powerful.
His early dealings with venture capitalists, the eventual capitalization and commodification of Linux for his own company, VA Linux, and ending with its IPO is included in his narrative. Frank Hecker of Netscape tells how Netscape executives released the source code for Netscape’s browser, one of the signal events which made Open Source a force to be reckoned with by business executives, the mainstream media, and the public at large.