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Acceptance of the 2001 USENIX Lifetime Achievement Award

Prepared text for remarks by Robert J. Chassell, June 28, 2001

On behalf of everyone involved in GNU let me give you our thanks. It has been a long time. 17 years.

First came an editor that developers could use, then came a compiler, a debugger, a shell. We saw utilities and libraries. These and other tools worked portably and efficiently on many architectures. GNU Make helped development. Auto-configuration advanced the art. These were important programs.

The first GNU kernel, TRIX, died for lack of development. Work on the second kernel, the Hurd, crept on so slowly you might think it froze. Finally, and fortunately, the third kernel, Linux, took off, even in spite of some complaints that the free software BSD projects were better, or that the Hurd has a cool design.

Indeed, Linux has taken off so well, that people sometimes forget that a complete system is a GNU Linux system, and that there is good reason to remember GNU.

Just as the name of the Unix operating system inspired the name of this organization, `USENIX', Unix also inspired the name `GNU': GNU is `Not Unix'.

GNU is `Not Unix' because it does not restrict freedom.

The goal of GNU is freedom:

First, the freedom to study. Not like Unix, where bookstores were forbidden to sell Lyon's commentary on the code.

You have the freedom to study GNU software.

Second, the freedom to modify. Not like a proprietary, binary-only distribution, which blocks a programmer from fixing an irritating bug.

You have the freedom to modify GNU software.

And, third, the freedom to redistribute. Not like AT&T Unix, and other proprietary companies, that ask institutions to police programmers, through `license compliance managers', to try to prevent anyone from making copies for friends and clients.

You have the freedom to redistribute GNU software.

Free software is becoming widespread. It is also under attack.

For example, under current law, private groups can use government power to forbid you to use programming techniques you already know. This is what software patents are about.

I hope that our next speaker will tell us how a large company with many patents will create a defense, both for themselves, and also for our whole community, of which they are a part.

Many organizations and many companies have helped make GNU/Linux systems possible today. We thank them for their contribution.

But this award is for every GNU contributor -- everyone who sent in a patch, a bug report, a document, or a program.

Thank you.

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Last changed: 25 Oct. 2001 jr