October 31, 2011 Richard Stallman's Small World


To Richard Stallman we are all fools. Victims of the “computer as a jail” made cool by Steve Jobs.

As Chicago Mayor Harold Washington said of the corrupt former Mayor Daley, “I’m not glad he’s dead, but I’m glad he’s gone.” Nobody deserves to have to die – not Jobs, not Mr. Bill, not even people guilty of bigger evils than theirs. But we all deserve the end of Jobs’ malign influence on people’s computing.

I expected nothing less from Richard Stallman. His black-and-white thinking is as well known as his staunch advocacy for free software. We need him to remind us of the freedoms we surrender by adopting proprietary software, but he needs to understand we are exercising our rights by choosing the software that works for us.

Not everyone is a programmer. Most people could not compile a program from source code, just like most people could not construct a chair out of a block of wood. The choice of software freedom is inapplicable if people are incapable of exercising their rights. Steve Jobs understood what people want. He packaged a solution normal people could use, and sold it as a proprietary product for a fair price. By using Apple’s products we are surrendering some rights, but we are entering a world we could not make for ourselves.

The adoption of easy to use software inspired the technology we have today. Because people wanted more from their computers than a text editor and a email client new hardware was developed, and new technologies were made possible. By purchasing the proprietary software we wanted, instead of giving it away, people funded the evolution of technology.

Our computers would not have fast processors, multimedia capabilities, or access to the world wide web if proprietary software had not funded their creation. Steve Jobs was instrumental in taking existing technology like the GUI out of Xerox PARC and sharing it with the rest of the world. Making it possible for people to fund the development of further technology. Even Richard Stallman benefits from the advances proprietary software has made. What software do you think inspires GNU+Linux?

To Richard Stallman we may be fools living in a jail because of the freedoms we surrender by adopting proprietary software, but our prison is far more spacious than the limits he imposes on himself by living free. Richard Stallman may be glad Steve Jobs is gone, but I for one am happy to be living in the larger world he helped create.


A great comparison between the the jails of Apple users, and Richard Stallman.