A knotty puzzle may hold a scientist up for a century, when it may be that a colleague has the solution already and is not even aware of the puzzle that it might solve.
Isaac Asimov, The Robots of Dawn
I didn’t quite “get” open source software the first time I came across it knowingly. I was a young technology-focused teacher, just scraping by, and my interest in technology exceeded my expendable income. This meant that at first, open source software was, in my eyes, a stopgap to support my interests while avoiding both buying expensive software or illegally pirating it. Gradually, a funny thing happened: I stopped seeing open source tools as lesser options and came to embrace both the software and the surrounding community. This grew into a feeling of awe as I came to greatly respect the amount of volunteer, long-distance, asynchronous collaboration that went into building fully fledged software.
By the time I discovered open source, it was far from new. Source code has been freely distributed with some software since the days of early computing. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the culture of free software grew alongside the early internet. Linus Torvalds’s open development of Linux, Richard Stallman’s Free Software Foundation, the transition of Netscape to Mozilla, and the Java programming language were all foundational elements in the development of open source. Today, open source is bigger than ever. The prevalence of Git and the popularity of GitHub ...