January 29, 2013 / IST / Tech News.

Open-source programs refers to the programs whose source code made available and licensed so that anyone has rights to study, change and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose.

The concept of the open source programs came way before the terminology “open-source” was accepted in its meaning and form on February 3, 1998. As Richard M. Stallman, popular as rms, the software freedom activist and computer programmer noted, “When I started working at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab in 1971, I became part of a software-sharing community that had existed for many years. Sharing of software was not limited to our particular community; it is as old as computers, just as sharing of recipes is as old as cooking.”

1) First Berkeley Software Distribution (1BSD) Unix

Came into existence: March 9, 1978

bsd open source softwareIt was not Linux which that was the first open-source operating system; the honor goes to Bill Joy’s first version of BDS Unix. When Unix first showed up in 1969, it was open source, it was closed later, but it kept the free software flag flying. Though Linux enjoyed the lime light, Unix was important too.

BSD is a Unix operating system derivative developed and distributed by the Computer Systems Research Group (CSRG) of the University of California, Berkeley. Today the term “BSD” is often used non-specifically to refer to any of the BSD descendants which together form a branch of the family of Unix-like operating systems. Operating systems derived from the original BSD code remain actively developed and widely used.

2) VistA

Came into existence: 1975

The oldest open-source program which is still commonly used is VistA. The Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) is an enterprise-wide information system built around an Electronic Health Record (EHR), used throughout the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical system, known as the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).


Came into existence: Dec 16, 1983

BRL-CAD, Ballistic Research Laboratory-computer-aided design, is a constructive solid geometry (CSG) solid modeling computer-aided design (CAD) system. It includes an interactive geometry editor, ray tracing support for graphics rendering and geometric analysis, computer network distributed framebuffer support, scripting, image-processing and signal-processing tools. This program, which is still being worked on today, is used by the U.S. military to model ballistic attacks on vehicles.

4) X Window System

Came into existence: 1983

At the same time that Emacs and gcc started to roll, others at MIT were working on the X Window System. The X Window System is a computer software system and network protocol that provides a basis for graphical user interfaces (GUIs) and rich input device capability for networked computers.  No one knew it at the time that X Window would eventually become the basis for all important Linux and Unix interfaces, and the foundation for the Mac OS X interface.

5) GNU Emacs

Came into existence: 1984

Emacs and its derivatives are a family of text editors that are characterized by their extensibility. GNU Emacs is an extensible, customizable text editor—and more. At its core is an interpreter for Emacs Lisp, a dialect of the Lisp programming language with extensions to support text editing.

6)  GNU C compiler (gcc)

Came into existence: March 22, 1987

The GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) is a compiler system produced by the GNU Project supporting various programming languages. GCC has been adopted as the standard compiler by most other modern Unix-like computer operating systems, including Linux, and the BSD family. GCC is also available for most embedded platforms, including Symbian (called gcce), AMCC and Freescale Power Architecture-based chips. The compiler can target a wide variety of platforms, including videogame consoles such as the PlayStation 2 and Dreamcast.

Stallman was listed as the author but cited others for their contributions, including Jack Davidson and Christopher Fraser for the idea of using RTL as an intermediate language, Paul Rubin for writing most of the preprocessor and Leonard Tower for “parts of the parser, RTL generator, RTL definitions, and of the Vax machine description.”

7)  Perl

Came into existence: December 18, 1987

Perl is a high-level, general-purpose, interpreted, dynamic programming language. Though Perl is not officially an acronym, it is considered to stand for “Practical Extraction and Reporting Language.” Perl was originally developed by Larry Wall in 1987 as a general-purpose Unix scripting language to make report processing easier. Since then, it has undergone many changes and revisions.

Perl borrows features from other programming languages including C, shell scripting (sh), AWK, and sed. The language provides powerful text processing facilities without the arbitrary data-length limits of many contemporary Unix tools, facilitating easy manipulation of text files.

Perl gained widespread popularity in the late 1990s as a CGI scripting language, in part due to its parsing abilities. In addition to CGI, Perl is used for graphics programming, system administration, network programming, finance, bioinformatics, and other applications.

8)  GNU C Library (glibc)

Came into existence: February 1988

C programming language remains a vital language in open-source circles and to do much with C you need a good, general purpose library. The GNU C Library, commonly known as glibc, is the GNU Project’s (The GNU Project is a free software, mass collaboration project, announced on 27 September 1983, by Richard Stallman at MIT) implementation of the C standard library. glibc was written by Roland McGrath, working for the Free Software Foundation (FSF) in the 1980s. By early 1988, McGrath had given what would become glibc, “a nearly complete set of ANSI C library functions.” From this work would spring innumerable programs including Linux.

9) Python

Came in to existence: February 20, 1991

Guido van Rossum, Python’s creator, began work on this important programming language in December 1989. It wasn’t until February 1991, that it saw the light. Python is a general-purpose, interpreted high-level programming language whose design philosophy emphasizes code readability. Its syntax is said to be clear and expressive. Python has a large and comprehensive standard library.

Python supports multiple programming paradigms, including object-oriented, imperative and functional programming styles. It features a fully dynamic type system and automatic memory management, similar to that of Scheme, Ruby, Perl, and Tcl. Like other dynamic languages, Python is often used as a scripting language, but is also used in a wide range of non-scripting contexts.

According to Black Duck Software’s Ohloh programming statistics, “Python is the fastest growing language in the open source world as measured by number of contributors.”

10) Linux

Came into existence: August 25, 1991

Linux is a Unix-like computer operating system. The defining component of Linux is the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released in 5 October 1991 by Linus Torvalds. Torvalds wrote “I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones” to the Minix Usenet group, and unknowingly, started the operating system juggernaut. This OS later became the most successful of open-source programs.

It is a leading operating system on servers and other big iron systems such as mainframe computers and supercomputers. Linux also runs on embedded systems such as mobile phones, tablet computers, network routers, televisions and video game consoles; the Android system in wide use on mobile devices is built on the Linux kernel.