Cover by Diomidis Spinellis, Georgios Gousios

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History and Structure of the KDE Project

KDE, or the K Desktop Environment, was originally conceived out of despair. At a time when FVWM was considered a desktop, Xeyes was a stock inventory item on the screen, and Motif was the toolkit competing with XForms for the higher body count of developer’s brain cells and for lack of sexiness, KDE was founded to achieve a revolutionary goal: to marry the raw power of Unix with a slick, eye-candied user experience. This goal was now considered achievable because the Norwegian startup Trolltech was about to release the first version of its groundbreaking object-oriented GUI toolkit for C++, Qt. Qt set out to allow GUI programming the way it was meant to be: systematic, object-oriented, elegant, easy to learn, well-documented, and efficient. In 1996 Matthias Ettrich, at the time a student at Tuebingen University, first emphasized the potential offered by using Qt to develop a complete desktop environment. The idea quickly attracted a team of about 30 developers, and that group has been growing steadily ever since.

Version 1.0 of KDE was released in 1998. Although nimble in its functionality from today’s point of view, it needs to be measured in relation to the competition: Windows 3.1 did not have memory protection at the time, Apple was struggling to find a new kernel, and Sun swept the sorry remnants of CDE into the gutter. Also, this was before the first Linux hype, and the momentum of Free Software was not yet understood by all in the software ...

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