Brian Fox drove from Boston to Santa Barbara, with two tapes stashed in his trunk.
These weren’t music tapes or video tapes. They were computer tapes—two massive reels loaded with software code and data, the sort you can see spinning on furniture-sized computers in classic movies like Dr. Strangelove and Three Days of the Condor.
The year was 1987, and as Fox drove cross-country to his new home, the tapes held a software program called Bash, a tool that Fox had built for the UNIX operating system and tagged with a license that let anyone use the code and even redistribute it to others. Fox—a high school dropout who spent his time hanging out with MIT computer geeks such as Richard Stallman—was a foot soldier in an ambitious effort to create software that was free, hackable, and unencumbered by onerous copy restrictions. It was called the Free Software Movement, and the idea was to gradually rebuild all of the components of the UNIX operating system into a free product called GNU and share them with the world at large. It was the dawn of open source software.