The History of Open Source

Everything has to have a starting point in history. Some things started long ago, when humans were living in caves and had clubs for weapons, while fire was still a divine concept and not a tool to be wielded.

Others started not too long ago, in the 20th century, when people wanted to fight for the freedom of software, to use and reuse it as they like. The topic is, of course, open source software, or rather, the very open source initiative and how open source started.

Let us unpack this lovely topic.

Open Source Before Open Source

The idea of sharing patents and code was there before the age of computing. During the early days of the automotive industry, capital monopolists owned the patent for the 2-cycle gasoline engine, making huge issues for anyone who wanted to use the said engine.

Henry Ford came along and won a lawsuit against Selden, the lawyer who patented the engine, which led to the formation of the Motor Vehicles Manufacturers Association. They had their own patents, the various car manufacturers within the US, but they shared the ideas between them, allowing the country and the automotive industry to progress without stopping.

Actual Open Source Founding

Given that code sharing and patent sharing ideas existed before the Open Source Initiative was founded in 1998, there were still some mentions of free software and the free software movement, in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The term free had a lot of people up in shambles, mostly because you had to make a living and free wasn’t going to cut it for large companies.

After Netscape published the source code for its flagship product, the Netscape Navigator, the Open Source Initiative was founded, not 7 months later. People really liked the idea and not long after, companies started joining and releasing their code and products under an open license.

Open Source Today

Today, open source is everywhere. There are a plethora of programs that are open source, not to mention that we have GitHub, which is the go-to place for hosting and finding open source projects. These projects are transparent and anyone can contribute to them.

Open source is everywhere, from databases, programming languages, operating systems and even applications.

The history of open source isn’t that long but the idea of sharing patents and files is, so we have had these ideas for a long time, it just took computing to get to the point of being easily accessible for people to start sharing software code for free.

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