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Do you guys and gals remember when Richard did a short stint in a video for Sun following the announcement that Sun had decided to GPL Java ?

I can only imagine how happy Richard was on that day. He had every reason to be so. Not simply because Sun had chosen to use his license for Java-but rather because of a little bit of historical trivia that most Free Software users are too young to remember.

Now surely you know the name James Gosling. He was the one who created Java. But did you know that there is a rather interesting relationship between him and Richard ?

One of the single biggest reasons that Richard wrote the GPL and created what we now know as Free Software has everything to do with James Gosling.

In the early years (1984 to 1988), the GNU Project did not have a single license to cover all its software.  What led Stallman to the creation of this copyleft license was his experience with James Gosling, creator of NeWs and the Java programming language, and UniPress, over Emacs. While Stallman created the first Emacs in 1975, Gosling wrote the first C-based Emacs (Gosling Emacs) running on Unix in 1982. Gosling initally allowed free distribution of the Gosling Emacs source code, which Stallman used in early 1985 in the first version (15.34) of GNU Emacs.  Gosling later sold rights to Gosling Emacs to UniPress, and Gosling Emacs became UniPress Emacs.   UniPress threatened Stallman to stop distributing the Gosling source code, and Stallman was forced to comply. He later replace these parts with his own code. (Emacs version 16.56).  (See the Emacs Timeline) To prevent free code from being proprietarized in this manner in the future, Stallman invented the GPL.

Many people who are ignorant of this history have always been affronted by Stallman’s use of the phrase “Java Trap”. But is it really any wonder that Richard chose to use that expression-given what personally had transpired between him and James Gosling.

Bill Joy was the cofounder of Sun Microsystems. He is also the guy who originally wrote Vi. Bill Joy was also friends with James Gosling- and made Gosling’s baby practically synonymous with the name Sun.

This little bit of trivia adds a whole lot to all of the flamefests over the years about Emacs vs. Vi. SunOS, which we now know as OpenSolaris, was the first heavily commercialized version of what we now know as BSD. Bill Joy used the code written at Berkley to create the original SunOS.

That Java is now GPL is nothing less than Sun saying to Richard-“Richard, you were right”. And if one day OpenSolaris embraces the GPL Richard’s victory will be complete.

You may think this is nothing but propaganda-but I encourage you to actually *learn* about the history of these giants of the computer world.

Now that the OpenJDK is %100 Free, %100 GPL, Richard has received the kind of vindication that hardly *anyone* in life ever gets. Cheers to you Richard and Cheers to Sun for seeing the light.


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