If you were around for the advent of personal computers in the 1980s, I’m 99 percent sure you’ll agree with the short note on this post, off the Free Like GNU blog. I’ll copy-and-paste it here, just for immediate reference.

I think we are getting back all the fun and sharing community that existed back in the earlier Amiga, C64 and neighborhood BBS days, but with added accessibility for newcomers, an atmosphere of conscientious freedoms, and a neighborhood that transcends not only distance but culture.

I hadn’t ever really put it into those terms, but yes, to me at least it does feel vaguely reminiscent of the early days of home computers. The machines are very very different, but there is a sense of clarity and community and accompanies the free software trend. I don’t recall ever feeling part of a group when I was using Windows; the tenor was much more confrontational in retrospect: Me, as the customer, against the shortcomings of the product and the constraints of the corporation.

Perhaps this is a resurgence, a kind of golden age for Linux and free software, in the last days before the real acceptance takes hold and Linux becomes commonplace. As it is now, everyone from mothers to techies to random guys in parking lots has at least heard of it, if they’re not already using it. Finding someone else who knew Linux, even two years ago, was rare. Nowadays, it seems like everyone I talk to has at least seen it in action, or knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who runs it.

And meeting someone like that is a lot like the old days when you stumbled across someone who had beaten Bruce Lee, or knew the poke and peek codes for screen colors, or what happened when you typed SYS64738 on a display model C64 at the mall. I was only briefly part of the Amiga phenomenon, but I don’t suppose it was much different.

In short, my advice is to enjoy this while it lasts. If things go as we all would like, the next step might eclipse these days, when it’s unusual to find a fellow Linux zealot standing in a crowd. True, it will be better for everyone involved if free software becomes commonplace, but probably the bloom will be off the boom. And those of us who were around for this period will have war stories, like the one above, to tell. 😉


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