Celebrating International Shareware Day

Today is a day to celebrate thousands of computer programmers frantically coding away at their latest killer app, who end up essentially giving it away in the hope that someone will show enough appreciation to pay them for it – today, the second Saturday of December, is International Shareware Day.

Celebrating all the programmers coding away at the next useful app.(© All Rights Reserved)
Celebrating all the programmers coding away at the next useful app.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Unlike open source software, ‘shareware’ is a proprietary software model – the author retains ownership of the programme and the code, and often scaled down versions of commercial software applications are released as shareware. While you can use the software without paying, the idea is that if you find it useful, you should pay, or upgrade to the full, non-free version of the software. Some shareware are also only made available for a limited trial period, after which users are expected to pay to continue using it.

Another concept closely related to shareware is ‘freeware’, where the software is made available for free without an expectation of payment, except perhaps for donations to the author.

The first piece of software called ‘freeware’ was PC-Talk, a telecommunications programme created by Andrew Fleugelman in 1982, while the term ‘shareware’ was first used with the programme PC-Write (a word processing tool), released by Bob Wallace in early 1983. So in a way this year effectively represents the 30th anniversary of freeware/shareware.

Very few shareware and freeware downloads are ever paid for, meaning that the chances of sustaining yourself on shareware income remains fairly slim. This is sad, because this mode of software production has resulted in some wonderful software tools being made available to users around the globe – virus protection software, all kinds of computer utilities, and much more. Lack of financial returns also means that many shareware and freeware projects are abandoned, not updated or not supported.

International Shareware Day was created to remind shareware users about the value they have gained through their use of these programmes. And to perhaps inspire them, in the spirit of the upcoming festive season, to send off a few payments to the authors of their favourite shareware apps.

It may not happen, but it’s worth a try…

Celebrating the start of the Open Source Operating System revolution

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.
(© All Rights Reserved)

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.