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Stallman to Receive $830K

Takeda Award Promotes Open Computing

By Eric Berry


Software pioneer and MIT research affiliate Richard M. Stallman has been named as a co-winner of the 2001 Takeda Award for Techno-Entrepreneurial Achievement for Social/Economic Well-Being.

Stallman shares this award with Linux inventor Linus Torvalds and TRON open architecture developer Ken Sakamura. Each of the winners will be awarded 100 million yen, currently about $830,000, at a ceremony in Tokyo on December 4.

According to the Takeda Foundation’s web site, this year’s award serves to honor “The origination and the advancement of open development models for system software -- open architecture, free software and open source software.”

Prize allows time for other goals

Stallman said he plans to keep the prize money and “invest it one way or another.” He said his primary goal is to live off the prize money so that he can devote his time to continue his not-for-profit work leading the Free Software Foundation, developing the GNU operating system, and campaigning for social change in the way software is written and distributed.

The award is sponsored by the Takeda Foundation, a Japanese group dedicated to promoting engineering as a tool for improving society. The Foundation is run by leading Japanese academics and business leaders, and it counts MIT Dean of Engineering Thomas L. Magnanti as an advisor.

In 1990, Stallman was awarded a $240,000 fellowship by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, often known as a “genius grant.”

Stallman known for free software

Stallman has been recognized for his work leading the GNU operating system development project, and for starting the free software movement. GNU is an acronym for “GNU’s Not Unix,” a reference to the fact that the popular Linux operating systems actually operate off of GNU.

The GNU project began in 1984 when Stallman resigned his position at MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to develop a free Unix-like operating system by piecing together freely available software programs, and writing those components that were needed.

He later founded the Free Software Foundation, and Stallman said he firmly believes that people “deserve the freedom to use and modify software” for any purpose and to “make software do what they want.” Commercial software, he believes, “undermines democracy” while free software provides people with the choices needed for a true democracy.

Stallman hopes that software companies will eventually shift their source of income to custom software, support, and custom installations rather than proprietary software. “It is not impossible to make money from free software,” Stallman said.

While advocating free software, Stallman has been actively contributing to the free software community. His invaluable contributions include Emacs, the omnipresent text editor, and the C programming language compiler for GNU.

Stallman critical of MIT policies

Stallman also expressed his negative views on MIT’s compliance with the ideals of the Free Software Foundation. “MIT never made a commitment to release free software,” Stallman said. “MIT gets software patents that prohibit free software.”