BlogSoftware development as a creative process


Our ancestors had very small differentiation between specialties and were able to design and manufacture things necessary for living from the beginning to the end with their own hands: spoons, forks, knives, plates, cruses, suits, boots, furniture and even houses were being fabricated and built by individuals or a small groups of people.

Such process of manufacturing had been giving very good opportunities for the producing person to express his/her creative qualities.

There is a thought from the history of arts, that mankind couldn't have had Renaissance and such geniuses as Leonardo, Titian and Michelangelo without thousands and dozens of thousands unnamed craftsmen, who were making numerous necessary for them and their relatives and neighbours handiworks (cruses, wineglasses, furniture and dress, etc) during centuries.

All those numerous unknown creators built the basis for the further uprise of art giants.

Individually manufactured masterpieces were the evident and bright expression of fantasy, enthusiasm, motivation and creativity of their authors.

But further centuries of trade growth changed the process of manufacturing. People started to produce parts, instead of complete products, which gave them less and less creative opportunities.

Since those, who manufactured something stopped to expres themselves in their work, they started to lose motivation and enthusiasm.

Finally, as the author of "Cybernomics: Toward a Theory of Information Economy", John Perry Barlow asserted, post-industrial world and Information Economy had borrowed the rules, under which the Life itself had been existing.

Software development, as a massive manufacturing process at the 70s-80s of the 20s century, with starting personal computers (PCs) revolution, has begun to return all those advantages of creative activity to many people.

Thousands, then dozens and hundreds of thousands of software developers all around the world have received creative opportunities, which were maybe unknown for most, working in other industries at that time.

Many, working in IT industry, learned about Linus Torvalds and his Linux operating system (OS). During last 20 years it has made a fantastic progress and became the platform for the most Internet and database management system (DBMS) servers throughout the world (see LAMP) and it was used as a platform for mobile phones, too, serving for hundreds of millions of people all around the world ( Android OS is based on Linux kernel).

But not everybody maybe know why and how the Linux kernel development process started at the early 90s.

Actually Torvalds, author of the first version of Linux kernel for x86 processors in 1991, seems had no possibility to perform further development of it. After all, he was only a second year student at the University of Helsinki. Maybe he had no appropriate for such big-scale project qualification, too.

Fortunately, he was Andy Tanenbaum student and one of several thousands Fidonet forum participants of Andy's Minix OS users.

Minix OS for x86 processors was used as one of the study materials for Tanenbaum students, learning UNIX OS, on their University course. That OS was distributed by author for about $500 apiece, in the form of book and PC diskettes with installation and source code of it.

It seems, Torvalds wasn't be able to develop the Linux kernel without that knowledge, acquired by him during the MINIX course. But more interesting it could be, that he maybe wouldn't had such desire at all, if Andy Tanenbaum had more clear strategy of Minix OS devlopment and if he took those suggested by numerous Minix users patches to his OS ( See Tanenbaum vs Torvalds Debate ).

Since Andy never accepted any patches, Linus decided to develop the UNIX-like POSIX-compatible OS for x86 processors of his own.

Moreover, as far as Torvalds knew about Stallman's FSF GNU UNIX-like software applications, he understood, that to get full-fledged UNIX-like OS, he needed to develop only kernel of it.

So, after he had finished the first version of his Linux kernel, Torvalds put its source code to Fidonet MINIX forum with short letter:

Hello everybody out there using minix - I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready. Linus Torvalds

Many believe that the new era of software development has started at that moment !

Dozens, hundreds, then thousands of UNIX devotees have begun to take part in the Linux kernel and later GNU/Linux OS (kernel and GNU software) development, sending their patches and modifications of the source code to Linus Torvalds, who became a coordinator of the development process.

That process revitalized the GNU Foundation activity too, as far as its bash, sed, awk, C/C++ compiler, libc and other UNIX-like applications became more and more demanded by very fast growing army of GNU/Linux OS users all over the world.

The creative potential of thousands of UNIX world professionals, working in the IT industry and making the same things mostly every day, has exploded in the form of free creative activity of GNU/Linux OS and applications for it development.

Architecture and source codes of GNU/Linux OS were opened to all who needed it. Every participant of that process has got a feeling of a REAL CREATOR, but not dumb IT slave who worked on a small part of something he/she even didn't know what it was exactly !

Unprecedented progress of numerous GNU/Linux distributions all over the world during last 20 years has changed IT industry radically. Now IBM, SUN, HP and other UNIX manufactures have Linux OS distributions of their own, except of their proprietary UNIXs, and are distributing them free of charge under GNU Public License (GPL).

Leading software manufacturers, such as Oracle, Novell, CA and many others have Linux strategies of their own. They develop and distribute their products for Linux OS under GPL, too.

GNU/Linux OS has ports not only for x86, but other processor architectures, including those for SMP and supercomputers. Many companies and government organizations use it as their main platform.

And all that happens thanks to the practically unpaid work of dozens (maybe hundreds) of thousands unknown to the wide public, (virtually unnamed, actually volunteers), but highly qualified, talented and, the most importantly – VERY CREATIVE people !

It is obvious, that free/open source model of software development gradually conquers the IT world.

It becomes evident now, that companies-producers of the proprietary (close) software can not be able to hire so super-qualified and numerous staff, as their free/open source rivals, due to the economic and social reasons.

Though the competition between those two approaches of software development may have only one winner and the future of proprietary model looks very dim.

It proves the statement of John Perry Barlow, that anyone, who wants to receive some information in the modern world will have it sooner or later. You can read Cybernomics book here:

Horizontal net, composing by mutual agreement, gradually begins to dominate as a main management method in the corporate world in the contrast to vertical (hierarchical) one.

Finally, the innate desire to be a creator, has the huge influence on the mind of developer in the software development world in particular and IT world, as a whole.

20 October, 2013