Isaac Newton once said:
If I have seen so far, it is not because of my greatness, but because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.
Such has been the case for all great minds and thinkers of recent history. I believe the reason that our modern society is so prosperous is because we share information and ideas. It is because of this that makes us great.
The reason human society has done so well is because we cooperate with one another, and share our knowledge. Great ideas invariably come from one individual being inspired by another's work. This is what makes us great.
It is for these reasons that I believe the current direction the computer industry is going in is the wrong one. Uncontrolled competition is not a good thing. I will take Operating systems as a good example. The reason Microsoft is so successful is that they were in the right place at the right time. Now that they are established, they have a huge knowledge and idea base to build on, and be inspired from. This is not bad in and of itself. What is bad is that these ideas and knowledge are not available to anyone outside of the organization. Yes, source code licenses can be bought and technology can be traded, but these things require a large amount of money, or something of value to trade. This shuts out small companies and individuals from being able to contribute.
There is also the problem what happens when a new idea comes along that the market leaders are not willing to look at. For this new idea to be implemented, a start-up company must build an entire OS from the ground up. If this start-up does take over the market, the new idea gets implemented, but many of the advances and ideas of the former market leaders will be lost forever.
I have a vision of the future, which I believe the founders of the United States of America had. This vision is that any of us with the ability can make a contribution that will benefit society. With the coming of age of the Internet as a viable communication media, I believe it is now possible for people all over the entire world to work together to accomplish a common goal.
I have also seen a glimpse of the beginnings of this vision. The phenomenon of free software, and particularly the Linux operating system, is such an example. It started with Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation. Then Linux Torvolds came up with a UNIX-like kernel, and posted it on the Internet and said "How can I improve this?". This inspired other people to make additions and improvements. Since everything in the Linux project has been kept under a free license which requires that any improvements made be given back to the community, more and more improvements have been made. This is a perfect example of what can be accomplished by sharing knowledge and cooperating. As the project grows, the number of people making improvements will grow. Even if the development splits into several branches going different directions, each branch has access to all the knowledge of all the other branches because of the tradition of sharing information. Should one branch reach a dead end, the knowledge gained in the process is not lost because it is shared with everyone.
I believe the time has come for a revolution in the computer industry. This will be a revolt against proprietary systems, software patents, software copyrights, and monopolies. Like the American Revolution, it will be fought to give us back our freedom. However, it will be fought not with violence, but with ideas and the pocketbook.
So I say, Join the Revolution! Start with the pocketbook, and don't pay for an operating system upgrade that doesn't give you what you want. Take some your own time, and learn how to use a free software system. You will be better off because you will have a better understanding of how computers work. Then fight with your ideas, buy making a contribution to the free software effort! This can be as simple as telling your friends about it, or finding bugs in programs. If you have the ability, write your own free software program. You may not get any tangible returns on your investment, but if other people do the same thing, maybe they will develop something you need. Think about it. Hard. Join us in the new paradigm of the 21st century.
Primary author: Troy Benjegerdes. This document was written and composed in its entirety on a Linux System with free software, running on a Power Macintosh 7100/80.