Closed vs. open source timeline.

Rich Alderson RichA at
Thu Aug 21 12:44:56 CDT 2008

From: Paul Koning
Sent: Thursday, August 21, 2008 7:57 AM

> >>>>> "Andrew" == Andrew Back <andy at> writes:

> Andrew> So whilst the GNU project was announced in 1983 I've
> Andrew> heard many examples being cited of the source to
> Andrew> software being shared prior to this, E.g.  IBM's VM up
> Andrew> to vN.N. And indeed recall reading somewhere that up
> Andrew> until a certain point in time the source to most if not
> Andrew> all software was available. As vendors made their money
> Andrew> from hardware sales and you were unlikely to be able to
> Andrew> buy a clone or build a machine yourself, and so
> Andrew> safe-guarding source code was not a major concern.

> I'm not sure if that's really accurate.

> To take some examples I know:

> DEC distributed its PDP-11 software in binary form when
> possible.  Some had to be in source form -- BASIC-PLUS
> components of RSTS, for example, or source modules that had to
> be assembled on site to customize things for a particular
> installation.  ("Sysgen") But apart from those, a listing
> license would cost you extra, and a source license would cost
> you a whole lot extra (like 5-10x the binary license price).
> And in any case, no matter what the form of distribution,
> everything was subject to restrictive licenses and copyrights.

The PDP-11 is rather a late example in DEC's history.

DECSYS-7 was distributed with source, for example, as were the
PDP-6 and PDP-10 monitors (which eventually became Tops-10, and
was a source distribution through v7.04--in 1988).  I believe
that TSS-8 and PS/8 were distributed as source, though OS/8 may
have had an extra license fee.  (I could easily be wrong about
the PDP-8 software.)

Rich Alderson                                               
Server Engineer, PDPplanet Project                          
Vulcan, Inc.
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