For Fun and Profit
A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution
The free and open source software movement, from its origins in hacker culture, through the development of GNU and Linux, to its commercial use today.
In the 1980s, there was a revolution with far-reaching consequences—a revolution to restore software freedom. In the early 1980s, after decades of making source code available with programs, most programmers ceased sharing code freely. A band of revolutionaries, self-described “hackers,” challenged this new norm by building operating systems with source code that could be freely shared. In For Fun and Profit, Christopher Tozzi offers an account of the free and open source software (FOSS) revolution, from its origins as an obscure, marginal effort by a small group of programmers to the widespread commercial use of open source software today. Tozzi explains FOSS's historical trajectory, shaped by eccentric personalities—including Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds—and driven both by ideology and pragmatism, by fun and profit.
Tozzi examines hacker culture and its influence on the Unix operating system, the reaction to Unix's commercialization, and the history of early Linux development. He describes the commercial boom that followed, when companies invested billions of dollars in products using FOSS operating systems; the subsequent tensions within the FOSS movement; and the battles with closed source software companies (especially Microsoft) that saw FOSS as a threat. Finally, Tozzi describes FOSS's current dominance in embedded computing, mobile devices, and the cloud, as well as its cultural and intellectual influence.
For Fun and Profit is, undoubtedly, a work of courage. Most of the key actors in the history of the multifarious Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement are alive, active, and—to understate—argumentative. Nevertheless, Tozzi offers us a concise, clearly written, and argued account of the movement and its software creations that have become so fundamental to computing today, from the online world to Android smartphones, and from the 'cloud' to proliferating embedded controllers now hailed as the 'Internet of Things.'
David C. Brock
Director, Center for Software History, Computer History Museum; coauthor of Moore's Law and Makers of the Microchip
The history of open-source software is badly needed, given both its ubiquity and the passions engendered in the movements connected to its production and use. This book presents the motivations and activities of open-source leaders, namely Eric S. Raymond, Richard Stallman, and Linus Torvalds, at a depth and with a balance that is unprecedented. Tozzi is to be commended for taking such care to separate the hype surrounding open-source pioneers from the many useful insights their experiences reveal about how software and society shape each other.
Joseph A. November
Associate Professor of History, University of South Carolina; author of Biomedical Computing