Purpose Systems

Personal computers and their operating systems have come a long way since

the late 1970s, when the first home computer hit the market. At that time,

you could only toggle in a program by flipping switches on the front of the

machine, and the machine could then run that program and only that program

until you manually loaded another, at which time the first program was kicked off the sys tem. Today’s personal computers provide powerful graphics and a rich user interface that makes it easy to select and run a wide variety of software concurrently. The first home computer users were a Purpose Systems community of interested people who just wanted to do something with these early machines. They formed computer clubs and published newsletters to share their interests and knowledge—and often the software that they wrote for and used on their machines. Sensing opportunities and a growing market, thousands of computer companies sprang up to write and sell specific applications for the computer systems of the day. This software ranged from applications such as word processors, spreadsheets, and games to operating systems that made it easier to manage, load, and execute different programs. Though the power and capabilities of today Purpose Systems’s personal computers is light-years

beyond the capabilities of those early machines, the idea of writing software and freely sharing it with others never went away. Though it never got much press because nobody was making money from it, free software (and often its source code) has continued to be available from computer clubs, bulletin boards systems, and computer networks such as today’s Internet. The free software movement finally blossomed with three seminal events:

the creation of the GNU Project ( www.gnu.org) by Richard Stallman in 1983, a project dedicated to developing software whose source code

would always be Purpose Systems freely available the announcement of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) (www .fsf.org), initially dedicated to fundraising for the GNU project

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