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GNU status

by Matt Lee Contributions Published on Jan 05, 2011 10:53 AM
February 1986
  1. GNU Emacs.

    GNU Emacs is in wide use on several kinds of 4.2 systems. Support for some versions of system V now exists, and VMS support is expected now in a few weeks. There is now an Info-style reference manual also.

    Berkeley is going to include GNU Emacs on the 4.3 distribution, and DEC has also expressed an interest in distributing it with Unix systems.

  2. gsh, the GNU imitation C shell.

    This is being tested at a few sites. Wider distribution is expected soon.

  3. Kernel.

    I am planning to use a remote procedure call kernel called TRIX, developed at MIT, as the GNU kernel. It runs, and supports basic Unix compatibility, but needs a lot of new features. Its authors have decided to distribute it free. It was developed on an obscure, expensive 68000 box designed years ago at MIT.

  4. C compiler

    Although I have a portable C and Pascal compiler, it has a serious drawback: it is a very large program, and intrinsically cannot be made smaller. It is also very hard to bootstrap.

    The problem is that most of the compiler is written in Pastel, a super-hairy extended Pascal, and it is also the sole compiler for that language. To make it smaller, we must eliminate the hair needed to compile Pastel; then we will not be able to compile Pastel, so it must all be rewritten into C.

    Len Tower, the sole full-time GNU staff person, is working on this, with one or two assistants. He can certainly use more, but they must be in Cambridge or else be able to communicate on the Internet.

  5. Documentation system.

    I now have a truly compatible pair of programs which can convert a file of texinfo format documentation into either a printed manual or an Info file.

    Documentation files are needed for many utilities.

  6. Other utilities.

    diff',tar' and find' are being', with full 4.2 and system V features, is finished. make', with full 4.2 features, is also finished.lex' is supposedly finished and to be sent soon.

    A mostly-machine-independent assembler is mostly finished.

    I have started writing a debugger, somewhat along the lines of dbx. It can now read dbx symbol tables and evaluate C expressions with respect to a core dump.

  7. Free Software Foundation.

    This foundation exists for two purposes: to accept gifts to support GNU development, and to carry out distribution. It was incorporated at the beginning of October, and we applied for a tax examption in late December.

    Its address is

    Free Software Foundation, Inc.
    1000 Mass Ave
    Cambridge, MA 02138

    and its phone number is (617) 876-3296.

    According to our incorporation papers:

    "The corporation is formed for literary, educational and charitable purposes with the special purpose of

    i) encouraging, fostering, and promoting the free exchange of computer software and information related to computers and other technology. ii) distributing and disseminating software and information related to computers and other technology; and iii) increasing the public's access to computers and high technology devices.

  8. Service directory.

    The foundation now maintains a Service Directory; a list of people who offer service to individual users of GNU Emacs and, eventually, all parts of the GNU system. Service can be answering questions for new users, customizing programs, porting to new systems, or anything else.

  9. Porting.

    It is too early to inquire about porting GNU (except GNU Emacs). First, we have to finish it.

  10. Possible target machines.

    GNU will require a cpu that uses 32-bit addresses and integers and addresses to the 8-bit byte. 1 meg of core should be enough, though 2 meg would probably make a noticeable improvement in performance. Running much of the system in 1/2 meg may be possible, but certainly not GNU Emacs. I do not expect that virtual memory will be required, but it is VERY desirable in any case.

    GNU Emacs requires at least a meg of memory in the system, either physical or virtual.

    A hard disk will be essential; at least 20 meg will be needed to hold the system plus the source code plus the manual plus swapping space. Plus more space for the user's files, of course. I'd recommend 80meg for a personal GNU system.

    This is not to say that it will be impossible to adapt some or all of GNU for other kinds of machines; but it may be difficult, and I don't consider it part of my job to try to reduce that difficulty.

    I have nothing to say about any specific models of microcomputer, as I do not follow hardware products.

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