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When mentioning Open Source Operating Systems, Linux is often the first to spring to mind. However, the real pioneer in the Open Source revolution was 386BSD, an operating system released as open source on this day 20 years ago.

Open source software is typically created as a collaborative effort where programmers improve upon the code and share the changes within the community.
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386BSD (sometimes called “Jolix”, after the names of its developers) was developed mainly by Berkeley alumni Lynne Jolitz and William Jolitz. While a first version (0.0) was made public in March 1992, the version released on 14 July 1992 (0.1) was the first usable version, and became the basis of further development. The first completely free BSD, it ran on PC compatible computer systems based on the Intel 80386 microprocessor.

After the Jolitzes released 386BSD 0.1, a user group formed, developing and collecting bug fixes and enhancements to the system. However, differences of opinion developed between the Jolitzes and the maintainers of the patchkits. The Jolitzes tried to maintain quality-control by doing most of the development on 386BSD themselves, leading to frustratingly slow release cycles. This eventually lead to the splitting off of two subsequent BSD-based open operating systems, FreeBSD and NetBSD.

While 386BSD ended up being a rather short-lived project in itself, both FreeBSD and NetBSD went on to become critical players in the Open Source revolution, with versions of both these operating systems still being used and developed to this day.

The Jolitzes’ insight that the world needed an open-source Unix-like operating system running on Intel’s x86 microprocessors has been triumphantly borne out by history, with the success of open source operating systems like FreeBSD and Linux playing a key role in many computing developments and innovations over the past two decades.

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