Patrick Mueller – IBM’s first open-source contributor?

I got an interesting post yesterday from Patrick Mueller:


Hey David; just started reading your blog. Interesting reading, please keep writing :-)

I work at IBM (Patrick_Mueller@us.ibm.com). I like to pretend I was the first open source guy at IBM.

If you follow the trail at: http://sourceforge.net/projects/cpost all the way to download the current release of cPost (cpost-1.6-win32.zip) you’ll find a file doc/legal.txt, with the following contents:

=====
You are hereby granted a royalty-free license to use, modify,
distribute, copy and create derivative works of cPost, subject to the
following terms and conditions. cPost is provided AS IS with no warranty
of any kind. No support of any kind will be provided by the author or
IBM Corporation. The use of this code is at your own risk and the risk
of your licensees. You are not granted any right to use any trademark
or trade name of IBM in connection with the use or distribution of cPost
or any version or modification thereof. The author and IBM do not
warrant that this code does not infringe the intellectual property
rights of any third party.
=====

This was drafted by Mr. X, my area’s IPL rep at the time, on or before Feb 7, 1994 (according to the help text, this ‘license’ was added in a version I released on that date). cPost was a program I wrote for the OS2EWS program (Employee Written Software), where IBM allowed OS/2 hackers to distribute programs we had written on our own time to customers. cPost was distributed internally with the source (in C), and ran on OS/2, AIX, and CMS (later, Windows 95 and beyond). Some IBMers who had used cPost on AIX wanted it for HP-UX (from dim memory) for a customer, and I told them “sorry”; no problem to get it to run, but I didn’t have any way to give them the source. But decided to press it a bit further with my IPL rep.

That poor guy. Around the same time I was asking him for permission to download binaries for OS/2 gnu utilities, so I’d have a common set of tools (well, relatively common) across OS/2 and AIX. GNU. GPL. Already the lawyers had stories about Stallman, that continue to this day. Amazing.

Anyway, I pressed, and he delivered. Pretty cool. Of course, should be obvious since I was asking about GNU stuff from then that I’ve been an open source commie all along. Although cPost was in no way significant to anything, I like to think I managed to take a little chink out of the wall.

Patrick Mueller

http://www.muellerware.org/


Patrick gave the name of an IBM attorney. I have modified his post only to refer to the attorney as “Mr. X.” This has been my policy since the Jikes days, in that I try to avoid naming any IBMer unless I am confident they would have no objection to my doing so.

As it happens I know Mr. X quite well. He once mentioned he spent some time back in 1998 vetting the Apache code when IBM first engaged with Apache. (I spend a lot of time in my IBM job talking with IBM attorneys, and can recognize many of them just by the sound of their voice.)

In any event, let’s give credit where credit is due. Patrick’s post suggests he is the first IBMer to release code in open-source form.

Well-done, Patrick! Keep up the good work, especially on your blog.

2 Comments

  1. Posted December 6, 2006 at 18:09 | Permalink

    Thanks, Patrick.

    Here’s a hint about Mr. X to those who work inside the IBM firewall and know some of IBM’s legal folks.

    Mr. X’s name rhymes with that of the web site we all use to order our hardware. I’m not talking about Fry’s — Dan Frye is not an attorney.


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