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Richard Stallman

Library: Richard Stallman

1953 -
«MyDoom and You»[Abstract] 3.91Kb 9449 hits

Richard Matthew Stallman (frequently abbreviated to RMS) (born March 16, 1953) is the founder of the free software movement, the GNU Project, the Free Software Foundation, and the League for Programming Freedom. An acclaimed hacker, his major accomplishments include Emacs (and the later GNU Emacs), the GNU C Compiler, and the GNU Debugger. He is also the author of the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or GPL), the most widely-used free software license, which pioneered the concept of the copyleft.

Since the mid-1990s, Stallman has spent most of his time as a political campaigner, advocating free software and campaigning against software idea patents and expansions of copyright law. The time that he still devotes to programming is spent on GNU Emacs. He supports himself by being paid for around half of the speeches he gives.

Stallman was born in Manhattan, New York, to Alice Lippman. His first access to a computer came during his senior year at high school in 1969. Hired by the IBM New York Scientific Center, Stallman used the summer after his high-school graduation writing his first program, a preprocessor for the PL/I programming language on the IBM 360. "I first wrote it in PL/I, then started over in assembly language when the PL/I program was too big to fit in the computer" he later said.

Stallman was simultaneously a volunteer Laboratory Assistant in the biology department at Rockefeller University. Although he was already moving toward a career in mathematics or physics, his analytical mind impressed the lab director such that a few years after Stallman departed for college, his mother received a phone call. "It was the professor at Rockefeller," she recalled. "He wanted to know how Richard was doing. He was surprised to learn that he was working in computers. He'd always thought Richard had a great future as a biologist."

In June 1971, as a first year student at Harvard University, Stallman became a programmer at the MIT AI Laboratory, where he became a regular in the hacker community. During these years, he was perhaps better known by his initials, "RMS." In the first edition of the Hacker's Dictionary, he wrote, "'Richard Stallman' is just my mundane name; you can call me 'rms'." Stallman graduated from Harvard magna cum laude earning a BA in Physics in 1974. He then enrolled at MIT as a graduate student, but abandoned his pursuit of graduate degrees while remaining a programmer at the MIT AI Laboratory. In 1977, Stallman published an AI truth maintenance system called dependency-directed backtracking. The paper was co-authored by Gerald Jay Sussman. He jokes that "This is how the computer can avoid exploding when you ask it a self-contradictory question."

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