What do you think of when you read that Open Source is 20 years old?

Yesterday I read that Open Source is offically 20 years old. This doesn’t mean free software or GNU or anything like that, just the definition and initiative itself. It made me think about all of open source (lower case) and free software that’s had an impact on me since I was a teenager. Here’s that as a quick brain-dump. I’m sure I’ve missed tons and will update as they pop into my head.


Some of these aren’t free or FOSS, but were critical enablers for getting to there. I’ve also mentioned some of the roadkill left behind by OSS - Sun, mSQL, IIS etc.

  • ZX Spectrum 1982-1986 - Programming in Z80 Assembly for free
  • Usenet - In UCD Electronic Engineering 1990-1992. This internet thing looks pretty good.
  • ftp.funet.fi - The discovery of Shareware
  • ftpmail - Do FTP downloads by sending emails with “URLs”. Get back uuencoded software.
  • Mosaic - Oh it’s like better Gopher. I like it.
  • Trumpet Winsock - The Windows internet-enabler
  • RTEMS - Using the Real-Time Executive for Missile Systems (renamed Missile to Multiprocessor) for a Digital TV box
  • Cross-compiling GCC - For custom Phillips 68000 MCUs on Sun workstations
  • RCS/SCCS - Single-file version control
  • FreeAgent Newsreader - Learning via even more Usenet
  • Linux vs MINIX - Community and free beats “Better”.
  • Slackware Linux - An an Am5x86 in 1996 in Sunnyvale. My first proper installation
  • XEmacs - The answer to how do I edit code on a SUN? And read email/usenet/web and and and and.
  • CVS - Ahh better version control
  • The whole GNU ecosystem on SUN - That’s better.
  • Cygwin and growth of OSS on Windows - Cross-compiled XEmacs on Windows!
  • Linux vs Solaris - It was already over by 1999, SUN just didn’t know it yet.
  • Linux on VMware - I can run an OS in my OS? OMG.
  • MySQL vs mSQL - Totally open and free beat kind-of open and not-free
  • eCos and ┬ÁC/OS - The growth of Open Source Realtime Operating Systems
  • Apache vs IIS - Easy vs torture. Open vs Closed.
  • Perl - Cross-platform scripting for free
  • Python - Ditto. And readable code even more important
  • Git - Better better version control. No need for a “Clearcase Administrator”
  • WordPress - This sounds a lot easier than everything else. Oh it is.
  • Turbogears vs Django - All about the community not the tech. Django won.
  • NGINX - Fast and light. Still is.
  • Android AOSP - Almost Open Source Platform.
  • Node.js - Stupid idea. Maybe not so stupid. Wow this is awesome.
  • Arduino - I made an LED blink and it didn’t require any of my MEngSc to do it.
  • Raspberry Pi - How much? Holy cow.
  • Cordova/PhoneGap - You mean I don’t have to learn yet another platform to do mobile?
  • Go - Another winner because of fast and light.
  • PWAs - Yes please. Uninstalls Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
  • Hugo - Static site generators, the old becomes new again. No more WordPress exploits.
  • Raspberry Pi Zero - How much? Sorry repeat that? Linux for $5? Mind blown.
  • Espruino - JavaScript on a tiny MCU. Now that’s cool.
  • What’s Next? - More Open Source hardware. Open Source Silicon. Open Source scripting/automation for normal people on Mobile. Bluetooth Mesh.

Conor O'Neill

Tech guy who likes running slowly

Bandon, Cork, Ireland https://conoroneill.net