November 30, 2020

Crash course in Linux history for the computer grumpy!

If you have absolutely nothing to do with IT terms, such as computer, system, program, etc., then you will find a nice story below that will give you a very simple and “fairytale” story of the development of computing up to the Linux age explained.

If you are not a computer grouch, you can of course miss this beautiful display.

Open source – how a part of the people freed themselves!

Once upon a time, people built machines to do the difficult work of calculating for them. They called these machines computers, and the people who mastered these machines called them computer specialists.

It soon happened that the computer specialists no longer gave the computers individual commands to calculate something, but wrote a whole series of commands at once, which the computer should then execute one after the other. Computer specialists called this sequence of commands programs. And every day new programs emerged, bigger and more powerful than the programs before. The topics also became more and more extensive, after all it was hardly about arithmetic, but about making all kinds of tasks easier.

People were enthusiastic about what these programs, which the computer specialists had created, could do. Large companies emerged that sold the new magic calculators to customers with a lot of money. The computer specialists enjoyed a great reputation among the people, because there seemed to be no limit, everything seemed to be possible for these “high priests” of technology. Over time, computers not only became more and more powerful and calculated and worked faster, no, they also got smaller and smaller. Many new names were invented for the various models of computers, but they ended up being called computers. And companies quickly became dependent on computers – a computer failure left companies unable to work.

But then it happened that the computer specialists no longer agreed in which direction they wanted to develop the computers further. Some wanted to build ever faster computers, some others just wanted to improve the programs, some others wanted to do both. And so the group of computer high priests fell into many small groups. The group that only wanted to improve the computer models called themselves hardware specialists. The group that only wanted to improve the programs were called software specialists. Eventually the hardware specialists began to argue about the best way to proceed with the new computer design, and soon the software specialists began to argue about the way in which the programs should be created. And they were all moving in different directions!

In the midst of this disorder, one young man had a dream that one day everyone would have a computer and would do “everyday tasks” such as writing letters with this young man’s programs. So he spoke to a large hardware company and had the programs that controlled the operation of this computer sold for the very smallest model of computer that this company built – because the large company was no longer interested in them. And the young man was very happy, because he was convinced that this company had made a big mistake. He founded a company with numerous software specialists who created their programs exclusively for this small computer model. And just 10 years after it was founded, this young man dominated the entire world of programming.
And people didn’t notice how dependent they were on the young man’s company. New programs came on the market faster and faster and people were buying those programs. But the quality of the software specialists had deteriorated considerably over the years – the programs had got bugs. Suddenly it happened that programs no longer worked or even blocked the entire computer. The people who had become so dependent on these programs suddenly could no longer work, the companies lost a lot of money again and could no longer rely on the results of the programs.

But there was no alternative – at least not a serious one! Some software specialists wanted to change the programs in order to fix the errors themselves and to add their own new functions. But the company, which had become huge, had designed its programs in such a way that you could no longer tell which commands the program was executing. People were shocked! And as much as they tried to get the basic version of the programs that still showed what commands were being executed (people called this version source code), they couldn’t.
And so the people had no choice but to hope that the errors in the programs would be fixed with each new program version.
It was a bad time for people.

At that time, many software specialists allied themselves with other computer specialists and produced new programs that were even faster and better than the young man’s. But they didn’t want to disclose the source code either because they were afraid that other companies would simply copy their programs. But people no longer had faith in programs whose commands could no longer be seen. And they didn’t feel like experimenting either, because they had become so used to the existing and the dependency was so enormous that any change to a different program would have been a great risk.

In addition to the PC world, there was only a small world of old high priests who continued to try to improve the large computers that ruled before the PCs. And there was the so-called Unix world, these were the hardware and software specialists who had come together again in the university environment – worldwide!
They simply called their computers Unix computers, the programs Unix programs. And so that they could communicate better with one another and also send programs from one computer to another, they wanted all of their computers to be connected to one another.

They worked hard for this wish – and it worked. They called this huge structure of connected computers the Internet and were very happy! Soon the word got around about the many advantages of being connected to each other, and so companies began to join the Internet. But they had to have Unix computers for this, because the young man’s huge company only laughed at this Internet and did not program any programs that enabled the customer to participate in this Internet.

On a foggy autumn day, a young student, Linus, decided to write a control program for his PC that made it possible to write programs for a PC that were like Unix programs without the programs from the young man’s company .
He called the new control programs Linux (Linus’ Unix) and made the first version of his program available in source code to all people on the Internet. And he asked that everyone who knew something about creating programs should incorporate their suggestions for improvement into the program or write additional functions for it. And Linus decided that everyone should have the right to view their programs and the new programs that have emerged from the Internet in the source code at any time. And because it was now open to everyone what these programs were doing, he called his approach Open Source!

And so it became possible for people to work on a PC without the young man’s programs. The bigger the internet got, the more software specialists wrote new, “open” programs for Linux! And because people all over the world began to learn how to write programs for 24 hours, they became little software specialists themselves and were able to quickly debug a program and add new functions. A wonderfully fulfilling time began for these people, because they were proud of the joint result.

Most people, however, stuck with the young man’s products, even though Linux appeared to be a much better alternative. But they had got used to handing over responsibility and preferring to avoid any risk. And so they could live and work, but they were always dependent – and remained – voluntarily, on the restrictions of the young man’s programs.

But those who joined the open source movement experienced wonderful freedom and fulfillment. And they saw that the Linux people helped each other with a problem instead of simply waiting resignedly for an answer from somewhere. But the best thing was: the Linux people no longer had to pay any money for the programs! Because everyone was allowed to view and change the programs or just use them! The companies that use an open source product were finally able to adapt the programs exactly to their individual ideas – and everything was so cheap because there were no longer any license fees!

It was wonderful!

And so more and more people and companies have joined the Linux community today and the number is increasing every day!
And the Linux companies survived a severe economic crisis much more frequently than the other companies because they incurred far fewer costs and downtimes overall.

In this way, open source also became a symbol of economic strength and entrepreneurial success.

A little imaginative, maybe, but I was just in the mood for writing.