historical clarification

Richard Stallman rms@gnu.org
Mon, 15 Jan 2001 00:38:11 -0700 (MST)

    As documented in Steven Levy's "Hackers" (darn, only the first part of it
    is available online, without the appendix where it is discussed,
    and I haven't got a copy home, so I can't verify what exactly is said there),
    while you were still at MIT, you spent your time reverse-engineering
    Symbolics' proprietary code from its published documented interface,

No reverse engineering was involved.  I wrote simply code to implement
these specifications.  Reading a spec is NOT reverse engineering.

    and porting it in a way such that it could notably be used by competitors
    from LMI.

No porting was involved.  The code I wrote was part of the MIT Lisp
Machine system.

    What dialect of LISP and/or assembler was your code written in?

Lisp Machine Lisp.

    What systems could it run on?

Only on Lisp machines.

				  Did you write it on MACLISP? On CADR machines?

The CADR is the name of the model of Lisp machine that was in use at
the time.  All the Lisp Machines which existed at the time were CADRs.

    As I understand it, the MIT owned that code, and let LMI use it;
    did LMI eventually buy it and turn it into proprietary software?

I don't think so, but I am not sure what happened later.

    Does this code still exist for peruse, somewhere?

I don't know.

    When exactly did these events happen, and for how long?

Symbolics issued its ultimatum on March 16, 1982, which is known as
Microwave Day because my first reaction was to disconnect their
microwave link.  (By coincidence, it was my birthday.)  The war began
when Greenblatt and I decided to resist the occupation of the AI Lab
by Symbolics.

    How did they impact the eventual birth of GNU, both politically
    (free software vs proprietary software)

Symbolics's destruction of my community created the situation in which
GNU was necessary.  My success in fighting Symbolics gave me the
technical confidence that I could eventually develop GNU, and the
determination necessary to launch the project.

					    and technically (C vs LISP)?

There was very little influence.  GNU is Unix-compatible.

    PS: did the FSF make an official stance against the new tax on blank media
    that was recently voted in France?

This is the first I hard of it.  It's too bad nobody talked with me
BEFORE the decision.