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GNU-Friends: Mike Haertel Interview

May 10, 2002, 03:00 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jonas Öberg)

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"It's been almost ten years since your last involvement in the GNU Project, so many people don't remember you, but you once worked with the project to create the first free implementations of grep, diff and some other programs like that. Could you tell us how you first found out about the GNU Project?

"It was at the end of my freshman year at St. Olaf. I worked as a student system administrator on the Unix systems there, and I stumbled across a tape from the "Unix Users of Minnesota" that contained GNU emacs. I'd heard of Emacs before, I think from a friend who went to MIT, and I wanted to see what it was like. I was hooked when I discovered it was partly written in Lisp, because I'd been fascinated by Lisp ever since I'd read Douglas Hofstader's columns about it in Scientific American, in the early 1980's.

"Then, reading through the distribution, I discovered the GNU Manifesto, and found myself wholeheartedly in agreement with it. This was partly motivated by my own recent experience: St. Olaf had a Unix source license, but normal users were not allowed to look at the code. Since I had been hired by the computer center, I had access to the source code, but the frustration of wanting to find out how things worked and not being allowed was still fresh in my mind. So it was a big deal to me to find out that other people felt the same way..."

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