Celebrating 20 years of open source

Somewhere in Palo Alto, California on 3 February 1998, the term "open source" came to life. The “open source” term was created at a strategy session 20 years ago when Michael Tiemann (now vice president of open source affairs here at Red Hat), Todd Anderson and Chris Peterson of Foresight Institute, John "Maddog" Hall and Larry Augustin, both with Linux International, Sam Ockman with Silicon Valley Linux User's Group and Eric Raymond were reacting to the announcement by Netscape that it planned to “give away” the Netscape source code by releasing it to the public.

From there, adoption of both the term and concept moved quickly and today, the open source community has tens of millions members and contributors.

“Late 1995 or early 1996, I was out of university and working in my first “real” job. During school, I had discovered UNIX and loved it. At work, our product was UNIX-based, and I was hungry to learn as much as I could about the programming language. Because of that, one thing was missing for me, and that was the ability to play with UNIX at home. UNIX itself was expensive, and even more expensive was the hardware it ran on. A friend of mine worked at an ISP, and he suggested I try Linux as a way to create a UNIX-like environment on a PC I had at home. So I dialed-up, connected to the Internet, and began downloading over 50 floppy disks of Slackware, an early Linux distribution," explained Chris Wright, vice president and Chief Technology Officer at Red Hat, on how he first got started in the open source community.

Today, the open source community is much larger than this and installing and running Linux is a far cry from the days when Wright had to battle with shuffling 50 floppy disks to install it, not to mention getting it to work on your PC and hardware. Linux distributions such as Ubuntu and Red Hat have taken Linux into big corporates and into millions of users' homes given their robustness, reliability, and ease of use.

"The installation was tough, and configuring X for a graphical desktop was truly mysterious. But even this was interesting as I had to learn about Linux and my hardware to make it all work. Linux was still rough around the edges, but to me it was fun," concluded Wright.

Cover image credit: SIA A380 Entertainment System runs Linux. | Mads Bødker/Flickr