Chris Tozzi Explains the ‘Fun & Profit’ of FOSS in New Book
A quarter of a century ago, a 22-year-old student in Finland named Linus Torvalds, as part of an effort to use a PC with an 80386 processor, created and released the Linux kernel into the programming world. Despite competing against bigger and better-funded kernels like GNUs and BSDs, Linux evolved to be arguably the most important open source software project in history.
Today, Linux is used by hundreds of millions of people, and it isn’t hard to see why. It’s feature-rich, enjoys widespread corporate backing, and has been able to tap into and leverage the entire open source community. Today, we live in a world that runs on free and open source software, but how did we get here?
What propelled Linux’s meteoric rise from Torvalds’ lab to the popularity it enjoys today? Why did Torvalds give his code away for free, and how did that contribute to its success? How did the competing philosophies and practices of the free and open source movement evolve over time into what they are today?
These are the questions that longtime Channel Futures contributor Christopher Tozzi, Assistant Professor of History at Howard University and a prolific writer on free and open source software, set out to answer when he wrote his new book For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution. Published by MIT Press, the book examines the conception, development, and evolution of FOSS set against the backdrop of world history, the software development movement from its inception in the 1980s to today, and the eccentric personalities that helped shape it.
The book is a fascinating read about the largely unexplored history of hacker culture and its role in shaping open source as we know it today, filled with rich anecdotes about FOSS luminaries Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds and explorations of the current ideological tensions within the movement. But Tozzi goes beyond history to explain FOSS’s current dominance in modern computing and the intellectual and cultural influence it has today.
Channel Futures caught up with Tozzi to talk about the book and what prompted him to write it. Look for a video interview between Channel Futures editor Kris Blackmon and Tozzi, as well as a podcast hosted by Penton Technology Senior Director TC Doyle, next week.