AT&T was required under the terms of a 1958 court order in an antitrust case to license its non-telephone-related technology to anyone who asked. And so Unix and C were distributed, mostly to universities, for only a nominal fee. When one considers the ineptness of AT&T’s later attempts to commercialise Unix — after the court order ceased to be applicable because of another antitrust case which broke up AT&T in 1984 — this restriction, an accidental boost to what would later become known as the open-source movement, becomes even more crucial.
So that’s how that happened. Just think — if it wasn’t for that court case, we’d probably all be hacking on VMS. ;)
Also at sourcefrog, mbp points out that the Sulston reverse-engineering story is ‘remarkably similar to that of Richard Stallman several years earlier, when the frustration of closed-source printer software helped motivate him to start the GNU project’.
Patents: yet another sourcefrog link, this time to a CNet story with a hilarious quote regarding software patents and the GIF/PNG debacle:
But Unisys credited its exertion of the LZW patent with the creation of the PNG format, and whatever improvements the newer technology brought to bear.
‘We haven’t evaluated the new recommendation for PNG, and it remains to be seen whether the new version will have an effect on the use of GIF images,’ said Unisys representative Kristine Grow. ‘If so, the patent situation will have achieved its purpose, which is to advance technological innovation. So we applaud that.’
Wow. Presumably by the same logic, they applaud al-Qaeda for improving airline security innovation, too…