The GNU Manifesto Turns Thirty page tells that it was March, 1985 when Richard M. Stallman published the GNU Manifesto in Dr. Dobb’s Journal of Software Tools. The GNU Manifesto is characteristic of its author—deceptively simple, lucid, explicitly left-leaning, and entirely uncompromising. Perhaps the most significant innovation in the GNU Manifesto is a method of rights protection known as “copyleft,” which gave rise to GNU GPL software licenses, the first of which was issued in 1989.
Stallman was one of the first to grasp that, if commercial entities were going to own the methods and technologies that controlled computers, then computer users would inevitably become beholden to those entities – and this has quite much happened as most computer users have become dependent on proprietary code provided by companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google. Maybe for this reason Stallman does not own a cell phone, nor does he use Facebook, Twitter, or many of the programs most of us take for granted.
Thirty years on, The New Yorker has an article The GNU Manifesto Turns Thirty commemorating its creation and looking at how it has shaped software in the meantime: Stallman’s influence with developers remains immense. Now, as a direct result of Richard M. Stallman‘s work, you can have a home system running exclusively free software today might include, in addition to a GNU/Linux operating system, LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office, GIMP rather than Photoshop, and the IceCat browser in place of Chrome or Internet Explorer. Free software is a matter of freedom, not price; broadly speaking, it means that users are free to use the software and to copy and redistribute the software, with or without changes.
Nowadays Richard M. Stallman sees that in addition to free software we need also free open hardware designs. Wired magazine just published article Why We Need Free Digital Hardware Designs written by Richard M. Stallman. Some 3D printers are made from free hardware designs, and Free Software Foundation endorses such printers.There is also other hardware built using the same principles available. The “Respects Your Freedom” computer hardware product certification program encourages the creation and sale of hardware that will do as much as possible to respect your freedom and your privacy, and will ensure that you have control over your device.