Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The OpenSource of yesteryear

The year was 1995: 28.8K modems, 14" screens, Pentium 166's and no Google. Java was only a beverage, and Windows 3.1 ruled the desktop.

I was introduced to the concept of Open Source when I wanted to install Linux. Everyone (who knew) was talking about Slackware, and how great it was. I have fond memories of downloading root and boot disks, reading about the various packages, and doing the installation, only to realize I had picked the wrong packages (there were no dependency checks) or the wrong kernel. I vaguely remember restaring the installation process several times as it was easier to do so than to attempt to install/remove other packages (I was new to this Linux thing, right?). Once I reached a level of satisfaction, I realized my network card wasn't supported by the kernel - so off we go, fetching the latest kernel, compile, install, screw up, repeat.

After a few long nights, I had an NCSA http server up and running, serving web pages on my local 10Mb network. I didn't have to pay a dime for all this, I could look at the source code, and best of all, I was in control. It was great.

Of course, the documentation wasn't so great - neither for Slackware, the Linux kernel, nor for the httpd server. Tutorials were called "How-Tos" back then, and they were often severely out of date. The websites for all those projects were crude and plain at best, and forget about web forums - a bunch of IRCers were just waiting for the right chance to confuse you even more by actually helping you out.

But that was yesteryear's Open Source. Today, Open Source is everywhere, and it's a much different world. Or is it?

Were you introduced to the Open Source world with Eclipse? Tell me your story!


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