Accusations, accusations, always accusations

Richard Stallman rms at
Tue Oct 26 17:16:54 UTC 1999

    Okay, then what is an operating system?  The Gospel of Tux defines it as
    the Kernel, the Libraries, and the Utilities, 

The term "utilities" implies, to me, small programs that do certain
kinds of jobs--for example, cp and grep.  I would not think of GCC or
Emacs, or the shell, or ftpd, as "utilities".  So I think it is
misleading to use that word to mean "any executable you could run in a

						  but it seems hard to tell
    which are part of GNU and which are merely free software distributed by
    the FSF and capable of executing on a GNU system.

Whether you call the system "Linux" or "GNU/Linux", it is not clear
just what is part of it.  Over the years, many useful packages that
are not essential (and therefore did not need to be present initially)
have been added, and some are included in certain versions of
GNU/Linux and excluded from others.  So this fuzziness is not a matter
of our uncertainty about the system.  It is part of the nature of the

Another kind of uncertainty applis to the GNU system in 1991.  Since
it was not yet operational (it had no kernel), we could not start
to make an actual distribution which you could point at and say
"Here's what is in the GNU system."

But a number of things were definitely part of the GNU system at the
time when Linux was written.  They included the compilation tools,
GDB, Bash, the C library, Emacs and some free version of vi, X11, TeX
and Texinfo, Ghostscript, lots of GNU utilities, the BSD network
utilities and demons, Sendmail and potentially Smail, and Ispell.
That is what I can remember now; there were many others.

More information about the License-discuss mailing list