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The Lisp machine and GNU

Christopher Webber

You may have heard of Stallman and the printer, but much of free software's genesis involves the battle over the soul of the lisp machine. We'll trace Lisp and the Lisp Machine's roots, from its genesis in early hacker culture and the AI labs, to the split that (largely) pushed RMS to found GNU, through its role within and without the free software community. Why did GNU become a "Not Unix", and why not a lisp machine? What about the role of Lisp within GNU, with projects like Emacs, Guile, and Guix? For those who are new to Lisp, there will be a mini-tutorial.


Note: Chris Webber misspoke in saying that RMS founded TECO Emacs. It was Guy L. Steele who wrote the first version, with RMS taking over as maintainer.


5 years, 8 months ago

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video · lp2017 · LibrePlanet · LibrePlanet 2017 · LibrePlanet 2017 video

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LibrePlanet 2017 Videos (libreplanet)


CC BY-SA 4.0


This talk was presented at LibrePlanet.


LibrePlanet is the Free Software Foundation's annual conference. The FSF campaigns for free/libre software, meaning it respects users' freedom and community. We believe that users are entitled to this; all software should be free.


We do not advocate "open source".

That term was coined to reject our views. It refers to similar practices, but usually presented solely as advantageous, without talking of right and wrong.


Richard Stallman launched the free software movement in 1983 by announcing development of the free operating system, GNU. By 1992, GNU was nearly operational; one major essential component was lacking, the kernel.


In 1992, Torvalds freed the kernel Linux, which filled the last gap in GNU. Since then, the combined GNU/Linux system has run in millions of computers. Nowadays you can buy a new computer with a totally free GNU/Linux system preinstalled.


The views of the speaker may not represent the Free Software Foundation. The Foundation supports the free software cause and freedom to share, and basic freedoms in the digital domain, but has no position on other political issues.