> And before the GNU project, there were free tools available (compilers,
> linkers, interpreters, editors, simulation software, etc.) distributed
> by various user groups
Not just for Unix variants either. Here's an article on the history of
the CP/M User's Group Northwest, founded in 1981 to maintain a library of
public domain programs people could swap on floppy disk:
What Stallman had was access to MIT's internet connection. MIT was
really big into providing computers and internet access to students (see
project Athena and the history of X11). Everybody else doing this kind
of thing had to trade physical floppies or use dial-up BBS connections
(ala the WWIV .mod community, which didn't have the "patch" program
either and so their patches tended to be written out in english, ala
(And all the other files in that directory).
Of course Stallman claims none of it would have happened without him,
even though people who had never heard of him were doing it. Heck, the
lingua franca of the 8-bit machines was BASIC. Remember when magazines
came with BASIC source listings, and you could get books of basic games
that you'd type in? This was NORMAL before there even was a proprietary
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