This article is my announcement of an experiment to write and publish an ebook documenting the development and adoption of the GNU System -- from its pre-history in the Multics operating system (and perhaps even earlier) to the present.
Although it has "History" in its title, I'm a storyteller not a historian, so it'll be more of a popular tale than a proper history. But, I do hope it will be useful to anyone with an interest in computer history. There are many fascinating strands in the history of computing, the GNU story is just one. I chose it, as my topic, partly because many of the other interesting tales have already been recounted, partly because it is the bit of computer history I'm most familiar with, and finally, because I think it's an important story that deserves a wider audience.
I call this project an experiment because I want to experiment with the idea of following the Free Software development model of writing in the open and making quick, daily releases (like software projects do with nightly builds) of a very rough draft and allowing readers to contribute through comments. The goal is to integrate the feedback into a final manuscript. I'd also like to experiment with the old-fashioned idea of publishing a book in a serial format to see if it is a good way to establish an audience. I know that I'm not the first to do this, but I'm very interested in seeing how it goes.
I call the "history" brief because I'm aiming to keep it between 100-200 pages, but we'll see how it develops. The initial goal is to write a page (300-500 words?), more or less, every day until the draft is completed. Then to incorporate reader feedback and release a finished book under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license. I figure it will take about six months to complete the rough draft and another three to write the final draft and publish it online. Given enough interest, I will also publish it as a hard copy with proceeds going to a worthy cause, perhaps the Free Software Foundation.
If successful, I have several other titles I would like to write in this way. They include (in no particular order):
- An Introduction to Computing: The GNU Way -- A textbook introduction to basic computer usage, featuring GNU.
- GNU Commando: Mastering Bash, the GNU Command-Line -- A complete book on Bash, designed to be a tutorial for learning bash and a complete reference.
- Under the Hide: An Overview of the GNU Development Platform -- A handbook for those who may wish to become GNU developers.
- GNU Text Processing -- A guide to regular expressions, GNU Sed, GAWK, and other text processing tools and techniques.
And possibly a couple of short primers on web design (HTML & CSS), as well.
Please, let me know what you think in the comments section, below.