Fun:Gospel of Free Software

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In the beginning, in the first half-billion seconds or so of the Unix Epoch[1], Stallman was comfortable in the utopian cloister which was called the AI Lab at MIT. There was much sharing of source within the lab, and Stallman saw that it was good.

And the IT industry was without form, and void: but change was in the aether. For out of the deserts of New Mexico there was rising the great Serpent[2], which is called also "Bill-Zebub" Gates.[3]

And the Serpent made an unholy beast out of the blobs of a thousand proprietary binaries, and he called its name Microsoft; then he sent from the gates of his black fortress the three demons of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. And these demons whispered seductively to the people, and spoke of the profane Law of Moloch, which is called Copyright: and the demons proclaimed that source must be kept secret, and software be sold for a price of filthy lucre, lest its fair face be seen no more amidst the green hills of the world.

Then one night was Stallman's sleep troubled, and out of the scintillating vapors of dream there appeared to him an angel, a divine vision of horrifying beauty. And the angel said unto him, "Richard Stallman, thou art named anew St. IGNUcius, and chosen to be the prophet of Freedom to the world, to battle the evil forces of the Serpent and his proprietary blobby minions!"

And Stallman answering said unto the angel, "But how? People would sooner kill a prophet than listen to him!"

And the angel said unto him, "Thou shalt use the talents of which thou hast already been possessed, and bring Free Software into the world. And ere thou wakest I shall show thee what is to come, shouldst thou fail!"

And then it seemed that Stallman was falling, far away from that divine vision; and the separation was one of violence and injury, for he was being torn from the source in whose company he had always traveled, and shorn and alone he fell into a pool of tarry black foulness. Above him, the sky was dark, save for a narrow slit through which the light of the outside yet shone.

But then there was a most fearsome rumble and roar, and the tar in which he was immersed began to bubble with great belching burps, while the slit above grew narrower and darker. Stallman shrieked in terror! He churned the surface of the tar, endeavoring to climb out! He clawed upwards towards that last ray of Freedom, for too well he knew what was happening!

Yea, the tar around him was a proprietary binary, a blob of the Serpent's diabolical vintage! And inside it, the man who was the prophet of Free Software was being compiled alive! And there was no escape, no source at hand for the prophet to code his way out!

The tar closed around Stallman, and the narrow slit in the sky closed with a strangling gulp, and Stallman awoke in a cold sweat in full knowledge of the Serpent's designs.

For the blobby minions were set to swallow the world. And in this task aiding them were many men far away, demonic men who chortled in grand rooms covered in mahogany paneling, and from leaves of tobacco rolled in their mouth they put forth black stinking fumes nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless.

And some of these rooms were in great palaces of white stone, and their names were called the "White House" and the "Capitol." And others were at the pinnacles of great needles of steel and glass soaring high above the cities of the world.

And indeed, the Serpent of Many Names had even designs to worm itself into the Edenic cloister, under the guise of Symbolics.


And Stallman was wroth, and he quaked in his wheelie-chair, and his breath waxed hot, and his beard nearly caught fire. And he swore that he would undertake the duty made incumbent upon him, and battle the Serpent and the proprietary blobs that were his minions, and bring the good news of Free Software to all the world.

And he went forth from his cloister with a great blast of trumpets and a thunderous roar of drums; and into the world he brought a sacred gnu. And its name he called GNU, and proudly proclaimed that "GNU's Not Unix," and Stallman saw that it was good.

And the gnu began to graze lightly upon the tender flowers of CPU, and leave great gnu-pats in the pristine fields of RAM. And Stallman saw that it was good.

And the gnu munched, and fattened, and shaped its strange landscape into the form of a man, a great metal Titan of Free Software that could do battle with the forces of the Serpent. And Stallman saw that it was good.

And Stallman built around the gnu a great cathedral, a glorious shrine to that of which he was a prophet; and he himself sat at the doors of the edifice, and suffered none to pass save a very great few who were come to feed the gnu. And Stallman saw that it was good.

And against him came a legion of the Serpent's minions, and their names were called CP/M, and System V, and Symbolics Lisp Machines, and MS-DOS, and Macintosh System, and OS/2, and NeXT and the great and dread Windows. And the mouth of Windows was lined with a thousand fishhooks, and this mouth was called "The API." And in this trap sought the Serpent to ensnare all software, that it might no more be free.

But against them the gnu sent a Golem, whose name was GPL. And the Golem had not the strength of the Titan still being built, but kept at bay the mouth of Windows, and the three demons of FUD that beckoned software thither. And Stallman saw that it was good.

And every time Stallman faltered in his duties as the prophet of Free Software, he descended in his dreams to that unholy pool of tar to face the penalty of failure; and when he awakened he would know with an ever more shocking clarity how great were the plots being raised against him and the gnu by the men in those palaces of white stone, and those needles of steel and glass.


There had passed since the Unix Epoch the Beast's number of megaseconds[4], and the Titan stood tall within Stallman's cathedral; the gnu had completed it, but for one crucial part: the Titan still lacked a heart that would animate it and propel it out to smash the foe as it deserved.

And in making a heart the gnu faltered, for it was hungry. And Stallman yet sat at the doors of the cathedral, and suffered few to enter for feeding: for such had the gnu always been fed.

And the Serpent cast his poison far and wide, and the blobs that were his minions gobbled ever more. And the huddled masses looking to the prophecies of Stallman for light in the midst of the foul plague became sore impatient for the march of the Titan.

Then there arose out of the frozen wastes of the North a false prophet of Free Software, whose name was called Linus Torvalds. This Torvalds knew not the angel that had come to Stallman, nor knew he the plots of the demonic men, nor had he in his heart the gospel of Free Software. Yet in his youth and folly he played with things that were beyond his understanding, and what he brought forth he knew not how to name.

Soon afterwards fared Torvalds to a great bazaar, where many programmers came together to ply their trades. And Torvalds cried unto the people of the bazaar, "Hear me, for I have in my hand a lifeless heart I have made! Who shall assist me in making it to beat?"

And a great multitude flocked to the side of Torvalds, and took the heart in their hands, and together began to give that heart its life. In that multitude also were some who had waited long for the gnu to finish its labors in the cathedral, and they said unto Torvalds, "Wilt thou suffer us to make this heart beat in the chest of the sleeping Titan in the cathedral that the prophet Stallman has built?"

Torvalds assented to this, and the multitude raised a great cheer; and that heart they called Linux, though Torvalds protested. Then they raised Torvalds upon their shoulders, and marched to the cathedral, where Stallman yet waited outside the door.

"What brings you to the cathedral of Free Software?" demanded Stallman, for he was greatly unsettled at the size of the multitude.

"Rejoice, for we come bearing a heart for the Titan therein!" cried the multitude, and they beat upon the doors.

But Stallman would not let them through, and he said unto the multitude, "If ye will suffer the men of my following to take the heart, they will fare into the cathedral, and make it beat in the chest of the Titan."

The multitude assented, and the heart was taken into the cathedral. And lo! --- 'twas but an instant ere the ground about began to tremble, and a great roar split the air! And the doors of the cathedral burst asunder, and the Titan of Free Software, the creature of the gnu, surged forth with iron fists a-swinging, the heart of Torvalds thudding and glowing in its chest!

And then did the Titan take arms, and against the Serpent's minions did it go, with the jubilant multitude behind it. Many it wounded mortally on the field of battle that day; stacked in that fetid mound of blobby carcasses were the remains of Solaris, and SCO UNIX, and MINIX.

And the multitude rejoiced ever more, and they called the Titan Linux: for that was the name of its heart.

And from out of the bazaar came great clunks and clanks and sounds of works, as the programmers there built the Titan a great army to assist in his struggle: and all rejoiced.


But Stallman was again wroth, and he quaked in his wheelie-chair, and his breath waxed hot, and his beard was only extinguished with great trouble.

For the Titan's name was called Linux, which was the name of its heart: and that defiled, condemned, and denied the excellence and goodness of the work of the gnu, and of the gnu itself, and raised a false god above the greatness that was Free Software.

And Stallman heard that the armies in the field against the Serpent were consorting with his minions, and dissecting the corpses of the proprietary blobs, and Torvalds was smiling the smile of indifference: and that was apostasy and travesty.

And Stallman rose from his seat by the cathedral, and he screamed unto Torvalds for the ears of the world to hear, "False prophet of a false god, I denounce thee! For thou and thy followers have spat upon that which is holy, and stolen from the rightful prophet that which was to be his machine of war upon the great Serpent!"

And Stallman sprang forth with a roar, and rushed at Torvalds, and might have eviscerated him: but there stepped in his way the Golem whose name was GPL, and the Golem suffered him not to pass, or to silence Torvalds or the heart of the Titan.

And Stallman, wroth to bursting, howled unto all the world, "Let all who follow me and praise the gnu heed these words, that we now battle another foe, a foe which pretends to make common cause with us against the Serpent: and let all who believe the Gospel of Free Software take up arms!

"And this signs shall follow those who believe:

"They shall shun all the works of the Serpent, and fight not using weapons forged by his minions.

"They shall heed not the words of the false prophet Torvalds, or any who follow his doctrine: for that is the deceptively smooth slime of the Serpent!

"They shall call the Titan's name GNU/Linux: for Linux is the name only of its heart, and they who call the whole Titan by that name call worldly what is divine, and honor a false prophet.

"And they shall, when the sign is given them, recite thrice the Confession of the Faith.

"And the Confession of the Faith is: `There is no system but GNU, and Linux is one of its kernels.'

"He who states these words thrice shall be a true saint of Free Software."

And the Serpent suffered grievous defeats in that war, and pickings from the corpses of its blobby minions swelled the ranks of the Titan's army; and these pickings were called Mozilla, and Firefox, and OpenOffice, and Qt, and HotSpot.

Stallman sang the praises of the pickings, but condemned the followers of the false prophets who had brought them into the Titan's army; but it was out of the bazaar and not the cathedral that the Titan now drew the great bulk of its army, and the programmers of the bazaar heeded the words of the false prophet Torvalds.

And the followers of the false prophet built great warriors on the image and likeness of the Titan: the lizard of Suse from the lands of the Germans, and the wizard named Gentoo, and the wielders of the crimson fedora hat, and the children of Ian and Deb, and their grandchildren who swore to serve humanity, and the one in the form of the Arch.

But all of them wielded the weapons of the Serpent, and did not reject the deceitful scripts found on the great Web, but instead offered the droppings of the army of the Serpent with no remorse, and held their Flash and shine in high regard, and embraced the shackles of the Social Networks, and even sang to the Sky and held their precious items in a Box of Dropping.

And Stallman saw that the Titan had been smeared and corrupted, and now was a servant of the false prophet and the Serpent. And thus he decided that a new Titan was to be built, one clean from the disgusting items of the Serpent.

And from the grandchildren of Ian and Deb he formed a warrior of a new sense and in the shape of the triskelion; and from the shape of the Arch, with arcane mathematics he devised a parabola. But lo! --- the fame of the new Titans was quaint, and their strength little, and the followers of the false prophet Torvalds despised them despite of their purity.

And Stallman preached on, and the war raged against the Serpent: but Stallman laid down his arms, the better to preach, and he continues preaching up to the present hour.


  1. 1970s and early 1980s.
  4. 666,000,000 seconds in Unix time passed on February 8, 1991, at 8 A.M. GMT.