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30th Anniversary of Gates' Letter to HCC

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the perspective dept.

Microsoft 544

suso writes "30 years ago today, Bill Gates wrote the infamous Open Letter to Hobbyists about licensing of Altair BASIC to the Homebrew Computer Club. Looking back it's interesting to read this emotionally written document as it is probably Gate's first publicly written opinion about licensing software." From the letter: "The fact is, no one besides us has invested a lot of money in hobby software. We have written 6800 BASIC, and are writing 8080 APL and 6800 APL, but there is very little incentive to make this software available to hobbyists. Most directly, the thing you do is theft. What about the guys who re-sell Altair BASIC, aren't they making money on hobby software? Yes, but those who have been reported to us may lose in the end. They are the ones who give hobbyists a bad name, and should be kicked out of any club meeting they show up at."

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544 comments

6th anniversary of... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639458)

Vince McMahon's announcement of the XFL. Sure, these seem to have nothing in common, and that may be true, but WHERE'S MY FOOTBALL?

Attitude hasn't changed much (2, Insightful)

l33t.g33k (903780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639481)

Interesting to see that Bill Gates hasn't changed much in 30 years! He still hates casual software piracy; the only difference is now he has much more influence...

Re:Attitude hasn't changed much (1, Flamebait)

argoff (142580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639531)

.... he still hates casual software piracy ...

No he doesn't. Microsoft has more coppied software than any other commercial company on the planet. Even the very word "piracy" and others like "intellectual property" is loaded and a lie. Yeah... I guess they have no inventive to monopolize things.

See essay: Straight Talk About Copyrights [slashdot.org]

Re:Attitude hasn't changed much (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639572)


MMMMM CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF THAT
DICK !!!!! MMMM I'M A USELESS
WHORE LIKE ALL THE OTHERS !!!!!
MMMMM CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF IT !!!

ONE DAY I WILL MARRY ME A GOOD
HUSBAND AND NEVER HAVE TO WORK
AGAIN !!!! AND BY WORK I MEAN
BE A RECEPTIONIST OR WAITRESS
OR PERHAPS A MEDIOCRE PROSTITUTE

HOLY JESUS IS IT ANY WONDER WE BLEED
ONCE A MONTH !?!?!? HELLO ?!?!? IT'S PUNISHMENT FROM GOD

Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted!
Reason: Please use fewer 'junk' characters.

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Reason: Please use fewer 'junk' characters.

Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted!
Reason: Please use fewer 'junk' characters.

Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted!
Reason: Please use fewer 'junk' characters.

Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted!
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Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted!
Reason: Please use fewer 'junk' characters.

Yep, (-1, Flamebait)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639624)

He was an asshole then, and he's an asshole now!

Re:Attitude hasn't changed much (1)

aliscool (597862) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639745)

Most interesting to me
From this quote, in 30 years ago dollars... Bill Gates, Paul Allen and Monte Davidoff work on a product for a year and Bill Gates values that at 40,000 dollars.
Bill Gates, the richest man the world has ever seen... 30 years ago valued his work year out at 13,333 bucks.
From that to Billionaire. God bless America.

from the article.
Almost a year ago, Paul Allen and myself, expecting the hobby market to expand, hired Monte Davidoff and developed Altair BASIC. Though the initial work took only two months, the three of us have spent most of the last year documenting, improving and adding features to BASIC. Now we have 4K, 8K, EXTENDED, ROM and DISK BASIC. The value of the computer time we have used exceeds $40,000.

Re:Attitude hasn't changed much (5, Insightful)

jb.hl.com (782137) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639763)

He still hates casual software piracy; the only difference is now he has much more influence...

This is a bad thing? I didn't realise software piracy was some kind of fundamental right. Nor did I realise that, you know, not liking software piracy made you some kind of bully.

You didn't explicitly say that, no, but that's the impression I got.

It's true! (5, Funny)

PhineusJWhoopee (926130) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639483)

Since there was no incentive for Micro-Soft to write good software, they haven't since that time.
 
ed
That's a joke, son.

Re:It's true! (3, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639522)

No, it's about as good an analysis of Microsoft's motivations as any.

It is true! (3, Funny)

wo1verin3 (473094) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639488)

One thing you do do is prevent good software from being written.

Well it looks like Gates was right when it comes to MS software. Damn those hobbyists....

Re:It is true! (1)

Joffy (905928) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639648)

Any letter I write publicly will damn sure not have "do do" in it, if I wanted to be taken seriously. Well unless I am quoting someone else.

Re:It is true! (1)

baldass_newbie (136609) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639718)

But did you read the next sentence?
Nothing would please me more than being able to hire ten programmers and deluge the hobby market with good software.

Would hate to suggest some slashdotters don't fill the bill. Er, uh, so to speak.

... says the guy who stole gobs of PDP-10 time ... (5, Insightful)

Big Jojo (50231) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639489)

Odd how Bill Gates doesn't really like to tell the side of the story where he stole PDP-10 time from a Seattle company (which went out of business), one of the Universities in Seattle (which kicked him and Paul Allen out when they found out about it), and even Harvard University.

Yes, the PDP-10 time used to run 8080 simulators. Used to write that initial Basic interpreter ... stolen.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

Re:... says the guy who stole gobs of PDP-10 time (1)

filmmaker (850359) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639536)

That's true. What's more, stealing computer time was arguably much worse than stealing Gates' software since copying costs nobody anything.

Re:... says the guy who stole gobs of PDP-10 time (1)

dasnov (900499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639632)

...since copying costs nobody anything.

argh, again with typical /. excuse for stealing software. It doesn't cost them anything besides the annual salaries, time, office rental, etc (just small things that can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars!), but they are still infact losing potential sales. For example how would you like it if you made your living as an architect and someone stole your blue prints, and then told you "well it isn't costing you anything"?

Re:... says the guy who stole gobs of PDP-10 time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639591)

Odd how Bill Gates doesn't really like to tell the side of the story where he stole PDP-10 time from ... one of the Universities in Seattle (which kicked him and Paul Allen out when they found out about it), and even Harvard University.

Hey this was the 70's man. If the lab instructors hadn't been spending all their time smoking pot, printing out reams of ASCII pr0n, and hitting on coeds (who were just going to shoot them down anyway) they might have been more aware someone was putting the PDP-10 to profitable use.

Re:... says the guy who stole gobs of PDP-10 time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639592)

Two. Wrongs. Make. Neither. Right.

Re:... says the guy who stole gobs of PDP-10 time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639741)

True.. but I like to follow the example of industry leaders like Micro$oft (works for $ony, the RIAssA, MPAssA & others too)

"Only steal from them until you're big enough to bury them in lawsuits"

Your ad hominem argument... (3, Insightful)

xiphoris (839465) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639622)

Your argument is based on a logical fallacy known as ad hominem [wikipedia.org] . Some examples of other such arguments (from Wikipedia that I linked):
  • "You claim that this man is innocent, but you cannot be trusted since you are a criminal as well."
  • "You feel that abortion should be legal, but I disagree because you are uneducated and poor."
  • "He's physically addicted to nicotine. Of course he defends smoking!"
  • "Tobacco company representatives are wrong when they say smoking doesn't seriously affect your health, because they're just defending their own multi-million-dollar financial interests."

In short, there's no reason for you to point out that Bill Gates also stole. It doesn't make his argument less convincing or less applicable. The person making the argument is a completely irrelevant aspect of the argument itself. An argument is true or false no matter who says it, no matter their character or past actions.

The fact that you're attacking his past actions instead of the argument he made is telling. I think he has a point. Would you like to reply to his actual argument instead of just attacking the man?

If you want to discuss all the other, horrible things that Bill Gates may have done ... then that's fine. But it also is completely offtopic and should be moderated as such.

Re:Your ad hominem argument... (5, Insightful)

Zork the Almighty (599344) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639667)

That would be a nice form post (especially on slashdot), except in this case Bill Gates' argument is intimately tied to him. He argues about how his company has made an investment and deserves renumeration. When $40,000 of that investment is in fact stolen from someone else, why does he deserve to be paid ?

Re:Your ad hominem argument... (3, Funny)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639799)

Because successfull thiefs have a tendency to become nobles.. worked in the middleages.. works now.

Re:Your ad hominem argument... (4, Informative)

bunratty (545641) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639676)

If the OP were arguing that the hobbyists were not stealing, yes, that would be an ad hominem argument. His point, however, is that Bill Gates is a hypocrite. The fact that he himself stole, to develop the very product he was pointing out others should not steal, makes him one.

Re:Your ad hominem argument... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639687)

"Your argument is based on a logical fallacy known as ad hominem."

The OP didn't challenge the Gate's argument. He implied that gates is a hypocrite
and his allegory, if true, substantiates and validates that claim.

To redeem yourself, please tell us which logical fallacy did your argument use?
Was it argumentum astroturfus by any chance?

Re:Your ad hominem argument... (1)

kalidasa (577403) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639705)

These are not all argumentum ad hominem. Only your second example is argumentum ad hominem.

Re:Your ad hominem argument... (1)

StopSayingYouSir (907720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639707)

The fact that you're attacking his past actions instead of the argument he made is telling.

Yes, quite. It means it's not an ad hominem argument. From the same link you gave, an ad hominem fallacy has the following form:

  1. A makes claim B;
  2. there is something objectionable about A,
  3. therefore claim B is false.

Please show me which part of the GP post corresponds with #3.

Re:Your ad hominem argument... (4, Insightful)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639715)

Would you like to reply to his actual argument instead of just attacking the man?

His actual argument, like all those wishing to own and trade "intellectual property" disintegrates upon the examination of what it is that they wish to trade and then accuse others of stealing. Information is not, under any possible definition that can withstand even a most cursory test of logic, an object which can be traded. All principles of mercantile trade and also that of capitalism which is built on that trade are constructed upon the premise that the only things valid for trade are either physical (private property) or labour. An attemt to use law to redefine esoterical thought representations and large numbers into physical objects are not only morally repugnant but also a dire warning, a clear demonstration that the legal system is dangerously out of control and no longer subject to rules of decency and logic.

That is also a wholly independent and separate issue of that of how to reward artists and inventors for their creative works. To which a question many answers exist which do not require a totalitarian regime and a wholesale crippling of our freedoms to accomplish. However those who are enemies of those freedoms as they see them in the way of their boundless greed and therefore those who our mortal enemies, enemies of the human kind, enemies like Bill Gates or the so-called "music industry", would stop at nothing in order to use perversions of law to reap "rewards" so out of proportion with their contributions that soon their fortunes exceed that of 99% of their fellow citizens individually and probably good 30% of global population combined. There is no possible justification for that state of affairs, other then out-of control rule of greed and wholesale subjegations of law and the society to it.

Re:Your ad hominem argument... (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639721)

The person making the argument is a completely irrelevant aspect of the argument itself.

That's true only in a very limited sense. Logicians love to quote clear examples of logical and then claim that their examples apply to real arguments (ironically, this is itself an example of fallacious argumentation -- it's a straw man.) In the real world, the relationship between the argument and the person making the argument is a lot more complex. If the person making the argument has a known bias or pattern of behavior which may be affected by the outcome of the debate, it is entirely logical, and not at all fallacious, to take this into account when interpreting his words.

Ahhhh, gotta love Philosophy 101! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639785)

So, how are you enjoying your first year of college? Feels great knowing you're not going to get in trouble for skipping class huh, and no longer having to forge notes from your mom! I loved it all.

Re:... says the guy who stole gobs of PDP-10 time (-1, Troll)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639653)

But Sir, you have failed to take into account the Glorious Logic Of Selfish Greed. Yes, indeedy, in an old-fashioned, non-neo-conservative, quaint, obsolete morality of old, this would indeed be rather embarassing and would expose some devastating flaws of character and a despicable nature of the writer of that "open letter". But that is sooo pre-"intellectual property" era thinking. Those old rules no longer apply. Today, a new paradigm: Selfish Greed Is All You Need (take that John Lennon!). In this new, exciting, profitable way of thinking, nothing is ever your fault! You are a perpetual victim, defenseless, dewy-eyed and cuddly and always deserve, no make it demand, sympathy and protection and help because everybody else is a thieving mofo out to get you! Naturally, since thus you acquired an apex of new-morality heights, everything and anything goes in order to thwart the untoward design of all those vile pretenders, those socialist, thieving, no good hippies around you who would dare in their insolence to share things between themselves without paying you! Or think without paying you! Or for that matter breathe without paying you!

So now you see how it is possible for our shining, towering example of Greed Personified to think that way.

Incidentally, beware of a minor drawback of this new way of thinking: in your old age, when the novelty of vast fortunes you have meticulously conned and abused out of others wears out and when that 340500sq ft. mansion feels cold and univiting despite of 350 maids and 250 buttlers, you might find that nasty affliction, called "conscience", starting to ache you here and there. Like some other illnesses of age the medicine has apparently failed to produce a cure. So you might find it useful and a form of a short-term relief to give away some parts of the loot you hoarded. Just keep telling yourself "I am a Good Man, I am a Good Man" over and over and the pain will soon go away.

Re:... says the guy who stole gobs of PDP-10 time (1)

blincoln (592401) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639737)

Incidentally, beware of a minor drawback of this new way of thinking: in your old age, when the novelty of vast fortunes you have meticulously conned and abused out of others wears out and when that 340500sq ft. mansion feels cold and univiting despite of 350 maids and 250 buttlers, you might find that nasty affliction, called "conscience", starting to ache you here and there.

Dude, whatever. Bill Gates has enough money that he could fill up a swimming pool with money, Scrooge McDuck-style. Obviously I'm not him, but if I were ever feeling down, that would be enough to make me cackle with evil glee right there. If I were having a particularly terrible week, maybe I'd buy an entire country, or build an orbiting space battle platform crewed by hot women with Eastern European accents and use it to vapourize my enemies.

Re:... says the guy who stole gobs of PDP-10 time (1)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639772)

Obviously I'm not him, but if I were ever feeling down, that would be enough to make me cackle with evil glee right there. If I were having a particularly terrible week, maybe I'd buy an entire country, or build an orbiting space battle platform crewed by hot women with Eastern European accents and use it to vapourize my enemies.

Obviously that depends on what amuses you. I suspect Bill was at one time amused by climbing over backs of others to show how "superior" he was to all those around him. And just like swimming in a pool full of money that probably got old quickly. As to buying a country, there still appear to be some barriers present in the form of the local inhabitants, otherwise the Pentagon would have bought Iraq instead of going to all that trouble. And a space station appears to have a problem of feasibilty. A slave harem of Eastern European women might have worked, alas it was apparently incompatible with the image Billy was trying to present of himself. Probably a tactical error.

The White House mentions it actually (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639490)

See the White House page [whitehouse.gov] .

I agree! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639491)

I agree with Bill Gates where he writes:
Hardware must be paid for, but soft-ware is something to share. Who cares if the people who worked on it get paid?

At least he's consistant.... (1)

Naviztirf (856598) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639495)

If he had advocated the spread of free software then I'd be shocked I suppose.....

Opening the Gates (3, Insightful)

dingDaShan (818817) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639496)

He makes a good point. Intellectual property is something that should be defended in order to preserve good order and for the sake of those who do the work. If there is no incentive to make money in a certain field, progress will suffer in a society such as a capitalist one.

Re:Opening the Gates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639525)

And when the field is important, like software, or lets say healthcare, what then? Capitalism can't cure everything. When you get it to cure buggy software or america's high infant mortality rate (compared to places like Canada or Europe with Communist Care (tm) [infoplease.com] ), please let us know.

Re:Opening the Gates (1)

Total_Wimp (564548) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639548)

I don't understand exactly what the point of this is on Slashdot. It's clear that Bill and pals wrote software and expected people to buy it. It's clear that many people pirated that software. It's clear that this made Bill unhappy.

Bill didn't and doesn't want to give his software away. He's well within both his ethical and legal rights to charge for his software. Those who copy and sell his software without his permission are breaking the law and Bill is pointing that out.

I'm missing the "infamous" portion of this entirely.

TW

Re:Opening the Gates (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639561)

Intellectual property has been defended all down the line ... it's in the goddamn Constitution, for chrissakes (admittedly, Thomas Jefferson had doubts about the whole thing.) The problem is that the defense, in recent decades, has become far too vigorous and needs to be put back where it belongs. This idea that we need the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act and the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and all the other myriad bits of legal bullshit that have come down the line in order to eliminate the public domain and use the power of the Federal Government to maintain outdated monopolies is simply wrong. Realistically, the copyright and patent protections we already had were, given the pace of change in modern times, already excessive and in need of reduction not increase.

A pragmatic view (1)

rewt66 (738525) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639562)

If you want people to create stuff for you to use, you usually have to pay them. You can say that it should be otherwise, but the fact is, most people don't do stuff for free. They just don't. You either pay them, or it doesn't get done.

Fortunately, the GPL has given us a better way to pay people for the work of creating good software: They get paid with everybody else's work.

Re:A pragmatic view (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639663)

Cool.. when I want to put food on the table, I pay for it with everyone elses work.

Revenge of the Non-Nerds (2, Interesting)

TheAncientHacker (222131) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639757)

Fortunately, the GPL has given us a better way to pay people for the work of creating good software: They get paid with everybody else's work.

Really? Tell that to the janitor at Red Hat or the CEO or the sales reps. They seem to want to get paid in cash. And they've actually managed to convince you that somehow you don't deserve any of their money despite you doing the actual creative work. Yeah. Great idea.

Funny thing is, the whole "GPL" thing was originally a way for CASH-RICH geeks to pay something back for all the millions we'd made as part of a theoretical "Gift Economy" that seemed to rely on us geeks giving gifts and the marketing weasels taking them. Odd - that part seems to be skipped a lot in discussion these days.

Re:Opening the Gates (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639652)

Of course noone would pay someone to write software because they have a problem that needs solving and it would be useful to them.

I've written a bit of business code in my time and none of it was for resale. Not one line. Commercial reselling/licensing does not define the market for programmers. In fact, it doesn't even come close.

Bach was employed in much the same manner. He wrote music for hire. He made a living at it. The music was commissioned because his employers wanted the music, not to resell it.

I haven't the slightest fucking clue what "good order" is preserved by intellectual property, since I percieve no abscence of it where it is not an issue. How do ideas get out of social order?

KFG

Re:Opening the Gates (4, Insightful)

Mateito (746185) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639661)

If there is no incentive to make money in a certain field, progress will suffer in a society such as a capitalist one.

Absolutely, but there shouldn't be blanket permission to prevent societies evolution to your gain. This was the original idea of copyright - the holder could make money out of their invention/creation for a "reasonable" period of time, then the content fell back into the public domain.

Also, once something is in the public domain, it should be there for all. Disney has made a fortune by taking out-of-copyright material (Cinderella, Pooh, Snow White), reworking it, then throwing lawyers at everybody who attempts to use the original material.

Finally, people who want to put their creations "conditionally" into the public domain (eg - GPL) should be protected. Although they aren't motivated by money, to see somebody else get rich by using your work (outside the rules) is a different kettle of fish.

Re:Opening the Gates (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639728)

Finally, people who want to put their creations "conditionally" into the public domain (eg - GPL) should be protected. Although they aren't motivated by money, to see somebody else get rich by using your work (outside the rules) is a different kettle of fish.

Why? The original creator hasn't lost anything - their work is still avaiable via the GPL and it doesn't cost them anything if someone else does something with it.

Re:Opening the Gates (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639675)

Intellectual property is something that should be defended in order to preserve good order

Huh? Sounds like you are saying "we should never change because is bad."

and for the sake of those who do the work.

I think you mean - for the sake of the capitalists who pay the hourly wages of those who do the work and expect to sell the results of that work over and over again.

If there is no incentive to make money in a certain field, progress will suffer in a society such as a capitalist one.

You are correct - but it has NOTIHING to do with intellectual property. Nobody pays me more than once for the work I do, why should anyone else be different?

Used to be that artists were paid on comission - their customer put up the money, maybe with an advance, and when the work was completed the customer owned the result and the artist was fully compensated. There is no strong reason why we can't move on to a similar system of comissioned creation today, where the customers put up the money and own the result to do with as they wish, including copy and share with a million and one friends. Creators still get compensated and thus still have incentive to create and improve their creations.

Re:Opening the Gates (1)

Hao Wu (652581) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639768)

If there is no incentive to make money in a certain field, progress will suffer in a society such as a capitalist one.

Progress for progress' sake is communism. Is there no static environment in which you would be happy to live and let live?

Last line of his letter... (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639497)

Nothing would please me more than being able to hire ten programmers and deluge the hobby market with good software.

Instead, he ended up hiring 50,000 of them and deluged the commercial market with crappy software.

Oh well, at least he acheived the deluge part.

Gates actually proposed a scheme... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639505)

...where you would "activate" your software license by locally printing out a punch tape which you mail to him and receive a response punch tape with your BASIC interpreter key. It didn't go over because toggling some front panel switches caused you to have to reactivate and mail a new punch tape to Gates.

Re:Gates actually proposed a scheme... (1)

writermike (57327) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639778)

you would "activate" your software license by locally printing out a punch tape which you mail to him and receive a response punch tape with your BASIC interpreter key

An urban legend reports that this is where Gates got his inspiration for Clippy. The punch tape was clipped to the return letter.

I'm actually going to agree with Gates?!? (5, Insightful)

rewt66 (738525) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639513)

Wow, this sure feels weird. But I'm actually going to agree with Bill Gates.

If somebody is selling software, taking a copy of it and using it without paying for it is not cool. Taking a copy and selling copies of the copies is even less cool.

I mean, look, we get on people for GPL violations if they use GPL code in something and won't let people have the source code. Why is that bad? Because they are using somebody else's stuff without permission. The author has made it available under some terms, and other people want to make money off of it without following the terms. That is rude; it is unethical; and it is illegal.

Now, given all the stuff that Microsoft has done over the years, i don't think Bill Gates has a lot of room for the moral outrage. And the world might have been a better place had he shared the spirit of the hobbyists - the idea of freely sharing. But he still has a point.

Re:I'm actually going to agree with Gates?!? (1)

soulhuntre (52742) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639557)

Don't you get it? If YOU have ti and I want it then I get to copy it and tell you that your evil and informaitonw ants to be free,IP property is a fiction and so on.

If >I have it and you want to use it, then you have to do it on my terms (GPL) because its my IP.

In the slashverse, this is perfectly consistent thinking.

Re:I'm actually going to agree with Gates?!? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639571)

If somebody is selling software, taking a copy of it and using it without paying for it is not cool. Taking a copy and selling copies of the copies is even less cool.

Yes, but Microsoft has since learnt how to use casual piracy as a marketing tool. Letting people copy their software is an investment in the future for them.

I tell people not to copy windows because I want them to use free alternatives, not because I care about Bill's next billion.

Reselling? (4, Insightful)

Karma Farmer (595141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639515)

They are the ones who give hobbyists a bad name, and should be kicked out of any club meeting they show up at.

People would show up at club meetings and sell pirated copies of commercial software? And people didn't see anything wrong with this?

Frankly, every time I read this letter, I'm very damned impressed with Bill Gates. He's worked very had to create an environment where commercial software can exist, and I'm very damned grateful to him for it.

Re:Reselling? (1, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639589)

I'm very damned impressed with Bill Gates. He's worked very had to create an environment where commercial software can exist, and I'm very damned grateful to him for it.

Considering the quality of "commercial software", I see nothing for him to be proud of or for anyone to be grateful to him about. He's pretty much done for software what modern recording labels have done to music: made huge profits, partly by illegal means and partly by buying favorable legislation, while gutting the relevant art.

Re:Reselling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639621)

Your eyes are closed, and you refuse to open them, yet you call us blind?

Already a hypocrite 30 years ago! (3, Interesting)

Glomek (853289) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639516)

As I recall, 4k basic for the Altair was written on an Altair emulator running on a PDP-10 running TOPS-10 at Harvard, which the students were not authorized to use for commercial purposes.

Piracy is piracy (2, Insightful)

The Bungi (221687) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639518)

Regardless of the chuckles and oh-so-funny jokes coming from the peanut gallery on this, software sold by Microsoft then and now (and by thousands of other commercial vendors) has a certain licensing agreement associated with it. Whether this is "right", "wrong", "good" or "evil", that's the way it is. The alternative is not to use the software - just as the alternative to dealing with the RIAA is not to listen to their music.

Re:Piracy is piracy (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639607)

software sold by Microsoft then and now (and by thousands of other commercial vendors) has a certain licensing agreement associated with it.

You presuppose that such "licensing agreements" are meaningful.

I can publish a book that says on the cover, "By purchasing this book, you agree to surrender all fair use rights, to never contradict any of the opinions expressed herein, to make underleg noises during the good parts [skepticfiles.org] , and to buy me a beer if we ever meet in person." That doesn't make it a valid contract.

Historical context (5, Insightful)

Tony (765) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639666)

There's a lot to understand about the early days of personal computing. Consider Microsoft: it's biggest accomplishment was porting BASIC (for which they used publicly-available source code) to port to the ALTAIR (for which Mr. Allen wrote the interpreter). So, the BASIC which Mr. Gates so zealously defended was taken from BASIC source code which was publicly available.

His defense of copyright was hypocritical, at best. The one piece of code to which Microsoft had clear copyright (the ALTAIR emulator) was written on a college PDP machine, and wasn't contested. The bit that *was* contested was code *which Gates himself* had taken from public domain.

The historical context is simple. At the time, code was shared freely, to the profit of everyone involved. Everyone stood tall, until Gates and his ilk arrived, standing on the shoulders of giants and proclaiming they were the tallest motherfuckers around.

The whole idea of someone "owning" a chunk of computing is bunk. It always has been. It hurts us all. Do you think Microsoft would be where they are today without freely-available code? If so, take back Altair BASIC, take back the TCP stack in MS-Windows (taken from BSD TCP), take back MS Internet Explorer and MS HTTP. Take it all away, and see where Microsoft stands.

Historically, his rant was nothing but petty hypocritical gutter-sniping from an ultra-rich college punk.

Re:Historical context (1, Insightful)

The Bungi (221687) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639731)

At the time, code was shared freely, to the profit of everyone involved.

Software was given away to sell boxes, because they had not yet become commoditized. It was Gates who saw the possibilities of turning the computer into the equivalent of an appliance and sell the software instead. Today boxes are dirt cheap and software is expensive. You can try to play history revisionism all you want, and since you call him a "gutter-sniping rich punk" I guess we know where you're coming from on this. But regardless of whether the business model he came up with fits your tastebuds, he did come up with it, and it made him and a lot of other people a lot of money.

The whole idea of someone "owning" a chunk of computing is bunk. It always has been. It hurts us all.

A popular POV for sure, but a POV nonetheless. You would deny him his business model as you claim yours is "the right one".

Do you think Microsoft would be where they are today without freely-available code?

By your calculations I suppose nothing good ever came out of any company that does not give its code away for free. I don't think that's quite the case.

Arr, matey! (2, Funny)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639672)

Aye, piracy is piracy -- but copyright infringment ain't piracy, ye lilly-livered bilge rat!

You owe me! (3, Informative)

cunamara (937584) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639519)

There you have Bill Gates's basic view of the world: "I've done all this work and you owe me." Maybe he still thinks that way; I've never met him so I dunno. Well, he's been paid back a few times over for his investment. I am always struck by his line "The value of the computer time we have used exceeds $40,000." Note that he doesn't say that it *cost* him $40,000, only that the value of the time exceeded that amount. What's up with that? Where'd he get that computer time and who paid for it?

Re:You owe me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639552)

See previous posts. He stole it.

Re:You owe me! (1)

dasnov (900499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639677)

There you have Bill Gates's basic view of the world: "I've done all this work and you owe me." Maybe he still thinks that way; I've never met him so I dunno.

uhmmm... hello who doesn't think that way? For most people the point of having a job is to make money. Most don't have the resources to spend their time working without compensation. Ofcourse billy g has made millions of times more than his investment, but that is because of him running everyone else out of the market and no regulation from the government. The idea I'm getting to though is that people don't work for free.

Re:You owe me! (2, Informative)

smash (1351) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639691)

I suspect you already know this, but he broke into university and "Stole" it.

:)

smash.

So... (1)

Keyframe2 (940074) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639521)

I guess lots of "users" did get back to pay up in the end :)

Great Shashdot grammar, as usual (2)

rayhigh (912376) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639527)

It isn't *Gate's*, it is Gates'. The guy's name isn't Bill Gate.

Re:Great Shashdot grammar, as usual (1, Troll)

kayditty (641006) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639722)

It's actually Gates's.

Re:Great Shashdot grammar, as usual (2, Informative)

dasnov (900499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639739)

No, it is actually Gates'

In reply to the grand parent post it is actually a spelling mistake not a grammer mistake

;-)

well its the truth... (1)

oxaooo (901433) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639533)

well. what can I say? the truth is the truth.

But in the end. I wouldn't be where I am today ( computer programming skills )
and most hobby computerists at that...

if we didn't "steal" our software.

But now that I am a little older and not a kid anymore I find
it good to pay for my software that I use professionally at least.

But now with the open source community...

things might turn to be a little different. We won't have to call what we

do stealing.

Lesson for the RIAA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639534)

Given MS's success, despite piracy out of the gate...

What is the significance of this letter? (2, Insightful)

defile (1059) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639539)

I don't get it.

Is it significant because it's "the first time" someone argued that software ought to be paid for like a shrinkwrapped product?

Are you supposed to laugh at Gates's shortsightedness because "hobbyists" developed enterprise grade software like Linux, Apache, etc. for free? (a myth)

Did this letter have any effect at all? Didn't Gates & Co. just figure out they should sell to businesses instead of hobbyists?

Re:What is the significance of this letter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639573)

Apache was definitely developed by hobbyists. For free. Indeed, by the fine folks at www.hyperreal.org.

Re:What is the significance of this letter? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639606)

I don't get it.

Around about that time my Dad bought a CP/M system from a backyard operator. We built our own case and ripped apart an old serial terminal as a user interface.

The guy who sold us the hardware gave us heaps of free software. I got C and pascal compilers for free, though I knew they were commercial.

The attitude seemed to be that if you could easily copy it then it was perfectly ok to do so. Nobody thought of all this microcomputer stuff as big business then anyway. Of course now it is.

People still copy stuff but they don't pretend that this is the way the world is. They do it more sneakily.

Re:What is the significance of this letter? (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639700)

People still copy stuff but they don't pretend that this is the way the world is. They do it more sneakily.
No they don't! I, for example, am proud of my copying -- I don't just freely admit to it, I shout it from the rooftops (or, in this case, a Slashdot post):

I COPY SOFTWARE!!! HEAR THAT, GATES?! COME AND GET ME!

'Course, it might make a little difference that it's this software [gnu.org] ...

Re:What is the significance of this letter? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639748)

I should have said People still copy stuff they are not allowed to

And you are right, this is around the time that RMS started thinking about GNU. Its a natural response to increasing commercialism in software.

Re:What is the significance of this letter? (1)

p00ya (579445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639802)

Are you supposed to laugh at Gates's shortsightedness because "hobbyists" developed enterprise grade software like Linux, Apache, etc. for free? (a myth)

While the myth assertion may hold for those examples, c.f. (FTA):

What hobbyist can put 3-man years into programming, finding all bugs, documenting his product and distribute for free?

It's not uncommon, especially if you have an independent paid job. Caveats are that you don't find all bugs, but was Altair really bug-free?

Why was he working on APL? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639543)

The scientific tools of the day would have been fortran and C. If you wanted mass appeal then basic was certainly the way to go, but APL is a strange way to extend your market reach.

with 10 programmers (5, Funny)

evanism (600676) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639546)

So... now that he has his 10 programmers, is he going to write really good software???

In Soviet Russia... (1)

christoofar (451967) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639551)

In Soviet Russia, ALTAIR BASIC kicks you!

Re:In Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639717)

Please stop with these posts

Re:In Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639782)

take the parent's advice and STFU

Described by Reverend Spooner as a "Shining Wit" (0)

ewhac (5844) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639556)

Obviously Bill Gates works very hard, and deserves to be rewarded well for his good work. But, gosh, with all the rampant unsanctioned copying going on, it's a crying shame that he's only managed to become the wealthiest man on the planet.

At least he's a consistent d*ck.

Schwab

His letter is interesting. (3, Insightful)

Zork the Almighty (599344) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639560)

Of course, the exact same argument is being made today, by Microsoft and Adobe, but also by the RIAA and MPAA. It's funny how Gates earlier words on the subject seem to carry so much more force. At the time he had a small company with an honest mission, and it's hard not to feel a little bit bad about how everyone was using his software but hardly anybody was paying him for it.

Fortunately, what is true for small markets is not true for larger, established markets. Enough companies make money off of OSS to help support its development, and free music will hopefully become viable as the cost of production falls closer and closer to hobbyist levels. That being said, there is a fundamental truth to Gates' words: successful pioneers deserve to be paid.

Re:His letter is interesting. (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639771)

"At the time he had a small company with an honest mission,"

He didn't have an honest mission.
He couldn't or didn't have the skill or opportunity to write software for main/mini systems, so he wrote a basic interpreter and a few programs and tried to sell that to the hobbie market.

He got pissed off because the only people that would use it, didn't want it or if they did, wouldn't pay for it. Why?
In those early days, anyone with the skill of operating a computer (as in computer operator), had enough programming skill to write apps, assembly, learn more than one language etc and didn't have to rely on 'professional programmers' and store bought software cause no professional programmer would ever bother learning and writing BASIC or learn assembly for a particular cpu just to sell it to a handful of hobbyists. There was much more money in Fortran and Cobol.
Gates couldn't cut that and so the only way he was going to make money was to infiltrate the hobby market.
Even VISICALC was a simple program. Doesn't take too many brains to write that.
My last program (written in BASIC) was a hell of a lot more complicated than anything Gates coded.
He's just a loser that made good. He had business savy and got very very lucky with IBM when he bought and sold MSDOS to them.
He stole the idea of Windows and mice from Apple and had the PC platform already given to him with a huge potential marketshare thanks to Big Blue.
The whole EULA saga is just protecting his income stream, nothing more.

Who wrote the letter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639578)

suso can't seem to decide who wrote the letter in question. In the headline, he refers to a fellow named Gate. Then he mentions Bill Gates, but later starts talking about that Gate guy again.

This Whole Stupid Thing (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639580)

What this whole stupid thing forgets is that Gates assumed people were stealing because he wasn't selling.

When in fact he wasn't selling because no one was buying.

And they weren't buying because his products were shit.

Just as they are today.

Shut the fuck up, Bill. Eat shit and die.

Who can afford to do professional work for nothing (1)

rawwa.venoise (881755) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639638)

Who can afford to do professional work for nothing? What hobbyist can put 3-man years into programming, finding all bugs, documenting his product and distribute for free? The fact is, no one besides us has invested a lot of money in hobby software.


Mostly BSD, Linux, Minix, FreeDos and a lot of open-source programs. Perhaps people are now in debt with unkle Bill and develop this for free since they have still BASIC in the 70's. Or perhaps BASIC was (has the name say) just to BASIC for people to perform some thing more complex then "Hello World!!!"

So that lake of money to develop professional software may explain the crappy stuff made by microsoft in the 80's ... We now should expect given these words that OS like XP and Vista should be professional, good-looking and well documented (no hidden API) ...

Maybe one day on 1'st April ...

Right back atcha! (5, Interesting)

sdfad1 (880883) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639682)

Below is a reply in the subsequent issue [digibarn.com] from the "hobbyists". Interesting to see what things was like back then -- same discussions, arguments etc. The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Your software has helped many hobbyists, and you are to be thanked for it! However, you should not blame the hobbyists for your own inadequete marketing of it. You gave it away; none stole it from you. Now you're asking for software welfare so you can give more away. If $2/hr is all you got for your efforts, then $2/hr is what they're worth on the free market. You should either change your product or change your way of selling it, if you feel it'll bring more money. I'm sure that if I were MITS, I'd be chuckling all the way to the bank over the deal I got from you. After all, your marvelous software has allowed them to sell a computer which, without it, none would have touched, except as a frustrating novelty item.

I congratulate you and MITS upon being major influences in the founding of the computer hobby market. It's too bad you didn't get the profit from your efforts that they did from theirs, but that's your fault, not theirs or the hobbyists. You underpriced your product.

If you want monetary reward for your software creations, you had better stop writing code for a minute and think a little harder about your market and how are you going to sell to it. And, by the way, calling all of your potential future customers thieves is perhaps "uncool" marketing strategy!

Man, it feels good to blaze away on the keyboard once in a while. If only I can code this fast! Any errors are solely mine of course. Please check originals for identity of poster, additional context regarding this letter, and to verify any typos.

So it's all the Altair users fault (1)

localroger (258128) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639706)

If only they had KEPT pirating Bill's software he might have gone on to something else, leaving the field to people who give a shit about something OTHER than making money off of it. Just think, we might have CP/M, which was developing in a relatively open direction before Microsoft ripped it off and closed their source so that you couldn't do anything useful without reverse engineering it, and then re-engineering it at every DOS revision. And when computers got powerful enough Linus or someone like him might still have decided to write something like Linux. Only there wouldn't be anything like Windows sucking all the oxygen out of the room. DAMN YOU ALTAIR USERS!!!!!

(localroger quietly hides his paid-for copy of Microsoft 8080 Basic from those days)

Re:So it's all the Altair users fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639747)

And when computers got powerful enough Linus or someone like him might still have decided to write something like Linux.

I'm thinking that if common, commodity-level OS platforms hadn't emerged early on (yes, I'm talking about MS-DOS and Windows), a decent personal computer would still cost $2,000 in 1977 dollars. That would pretty much shut down Linus's dreams of world domination.

There was a reply to the letter in the next issue (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14639729)

http://www.digibarn.com/collections/newsletters/ho mebrew/V2_02/homebrew_V2_02_p2.jpg [digibarn.com]

Very much worth reading - somewhat articulate. Essentially the author blames Gates poor business decisions, then points out that it might not be wise to alienate potential future customers.

Not so terrible. (1)

micrometer2003 (715068) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639740)

$2 per hour is pitiful. $25 would be more like it, but people are often too cheap and self-centered. Even geeks. It is rather amazing to look at that document and compare it to the Word(tm) docs we take for granted today.

30 Years Later, Bill Has His Answer (4, Informative)

humphrm (18130) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639751)

"What hobbyist can put 3-man years into programming, finding all bugs, documenting his product and distribute for free?"
- Linus Torvalds and another couple hundred
- Andrew Tridgell and another couple dozen
- Larry Wall and another couple thousand
- Marc Andreessen and who knows how many
- Repeat for several thousand other projects...

"The fact is, no one besides us has invested a lot of money in hobby software"
Until 1991.

Guess that's why he hates Linux so much, they blew his whole argument.

Re:30 Years Later, Bill Has His Answer (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639789)

I am willing to bet that most of the money for the people you listed came from their employers, with or without their knowledge.

Gates and Allen were self employed at the time, which explains their reaction. OTH its nice to be self employed. You get to keep the profits at the end of the day.

MS current policies re. hobbyists (1)

Shaddup (615685) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639756)

Gates' current attitude toward hobbyists is somewhat ironic, given his origins in the industry. I'm not just talking about Linux; this article [slashdot.org] concerns Windows-using hobbyists.

compare with stallman... (5, Informative)

johnrpenner (40054) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639758)


From: RMS@MIT-OZ@mit-eddie.UUCP (Richard Stallman)
Newsgroups: net.unix-wizards,net.usoft
Subject: new UNIX implementation
Date: Tue, 27-Sep-83 13:35:59 EDT
Organization: MIT AI Lab, Cambridge, MA

Free Unix! Starting this Thanksgiving I am going to write a complete Unix-compatible software system called GNU (for Gnu's Not Unix), and give it away free to everyone who can use it. Contributions of time, money, programs and equipment are greatly needed.

To begin with, GNU will be a kernel plus all the utilities needed to write and run C programs: editor, shell, C compiler, linker, assembler, and a few other things. After this we will add a text formatter, a YACC, an Empire game, a spreadsheet, and hundreds of other things. We hope to supply, eventually, everything useful that normally comes with a Unix system, and anything else useful, including on-line and hardcopy documentation.

GNU will be able to run Unix programs, but will not be identical to Unix. We will make all improvements that are convenient, based on our experience with other operating systems. In particular, we plan to have longer filenames, file version numbers, a crashproof file system, filename completion perhaps, terminal-independent display support, and eventually a Lisp-based window system through which several Lisp programs and ordinary Unix programs can share a screen. Both C and Lisp will be available as system programming languages. We will have network software based on MIT's chaosnet protocol, far superior to UUCP. We may also have something compatible with UUCP.

Who Am I? I am Richard Stallman, inventor of the original much-imitated EMACS editor, now at the Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT. I have worked extensively on compilers, editors, debuggers, command interpreters, the Incompatible Timesharing System and the Lisp Machine operating system. I pioneered terminal-independent display support in ITS. In addition I have implemented one crashproof file system and two window systems for Lisp machines.

Why I Must Write GNU I consider that the golden rule requires that if I like a program I must share it with other people who like it. I cannot in good conscience sign a nondisclosure agreement or a software license agreement.

So that I can continue to use computers without violating my principles, I have decided to put together a sufficient body of free software so that I will be able to get along without any software that is not free.

How You Can Contribute I am asking computer manufacturers for donations of machines and money. I'm asking individuals for donations of programs and work.

One computer manufacturer has already offered to provide a machine. But we could use more. One consequence you can expect if you donate machines is that GNU will run on them at an early date. The machine had better be able to operate in a residential area, and not require sophisticated cooling or power.

Individual programmers can contribute by writing a compatible duplicate of some Unix utility and giving it to me. For most projects, such part-time distributed work would be very hard to coordinate; the independently-written parts would not work together. But for the particular task of replacing Unix, this problem is absent. Most interface specifications are fixed by Unix compatibility. If each contribution works with the rest of Unix, it will probably work with the rest of GNU.

If I get donations of money, I may be able to hire a few people full or part time. The salary won't be high, but I'm looking for people for whom knowing they are helping humanity is as important as money. I view this as a way of enabling dedicated people to devote their full energies to working on GNU by sparing them the need to make a living in another way.

For more information, contact me.
Arpanet mail: RMS@MIT-MC.ARPA

US Snail: Richard Stallman
166 Prospect St, Cambridge, MA 02139

Gates is a visionary after all... (2)

fbg111 (529550) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639792)

"Hardware must be paid for, but software is something to share." - Gates

Well, Gates may have totally missed the Internet, but he can sure claim to have predicted Open Source! (at least, if you take his words out of context)

Just let time pass... (0, Redundant)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639798)

And have Microsoft realize their empire on software development is no more. Right now we have enough development tools available or in progress:
MONO [mono-project.com] (alternative for .NET),
Gambas [sourceforge.net] (alternative for Visual Basic - linux only tho),
KDevelop [kdevelop.org] (for C++ under Linux),
Code::Blocks [codeblocks.org] (for C++ under Windows),
wxPython [wxpython.org] , DABO [dabodev.com] (Foxpro alternative, uses wxPython)...

Soon Bill Gates won't have to worry about people stealing his development tools... because NOBODY WILL USE THEM! X-D

one thing i think for sure (1)

digitallysick (922589) | more than 8 years ago | (#14639804)

if windows would have been free open source, he probably wouldnt be as rich as he is now. And in the end, thats all that matters!
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